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Which teams have lost the most NBA Finals?

As the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukie Bucks do battle in the 2021 NBA Finals, we take a look back on which teams have the poorest record in the finals.

Which teams have lost the most NBA Finals?
Rick Osentoski USA Today Sports

Last year the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals following a 4-2 series win.

The victory saw the Lakers draw level with first-placed Boston Celtics in number of NBA Championships, with both teams boasting 17 titles each.

It was the Lakers first final appearance since 2010 when they beat the Celtics 4-3. The Celtics last Championship win came two years earlier in 2008.

LeBron James celebrated during game 4 of the NBA Finals between LA Lakers and Miami Heat.
Full screen
LeBron James celebrated during game 4 of the NBA Finals between LA Lakers and Miami Heat.Getty Images

Lakers have lost most NBA finals

Considering the Lakers have appeared in 32 NBA finals -- significantly more than any other team -- it comes as no huge surprise that the LA franchise is also the team that has suffered the most final defeats and by a long margin.

Those 15 losses came in 1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1983, 1984, 1989, 1991, 2004 and 2008. This century, the Lakers have appeared in eight finals, winning six and losing two. Overall, with 17 wins and 15 losses in 32 appearances, that puts the Lakers win ratio at 53.1%

In comparison, the Boston Celtics, the team with the second highest number of final appearances in history with 21, has recorded 17 wins and 4 losses, putting its win ratio at a significantly higher 80.9%.

Chicago Bulls have never lost a final

Of the 11 teams that have played in five finals or more, the Celtics have the third best win ratio behind the San Antonio Spurs on 83% (five wins and one defeat from six appearances) and Chicago Bulls on 100% (six wins from six final appearances, all of which came in the 1990s). In fact, out of all 21 teams that have made two NBA final appearances or more, the Bulls are the only side to have never lost a final.

Behind the Lakers, two teams share second spot in terms of number of final losses with six each: the Philadelphia 76ers (nine total appearances) and the New York Knicks (eight total appearances). In third place is the Golden States Warriors with five defeats (11 total appearances) and in joint fourth with four defeats each are the Celtics, the Detroit Pistons (seven total appearences) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (five total appearences).

Teams with most NBA final losses

TeamLossesTotal Appearances
LA Lakers1532 (17 wins)
Philadelphia 76ers69 (3 wins)
New York Knicks68 (2 wins)
Golden State Warriors511 (6 wins)
Boston Celtics421 (17 wins)
Detroit Pistons47 (3 wins)
Cleveland Cavaliers45 (1 win)
Miami Heat36 (3 wins)
Atlanta Hawks34 (1 win)
Washington Wizards34 (1 win)
Oklahoma City Thunder34 (1 win)

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