Who Has Lost The Most NBA Finals? (Teams/Players)

The NBA has been around since 1946 and has grown to the 30-team professional basketball league we have today. It currently has 30 teams with 1 in Canada.

All these historic franchises appeared at least six times in the history of the NBA Finals, except for the Sacramento Kings. The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers boast the most championships, with 17 titles each.

But if the Celtics and the Lakers lead the NBA with the most titles, then which team has the most losses in the NBA Finals?

The Los Angeles Lakers currently hold the record for most NBA Finals Losses in league history with 15 losses while also leading the league with the most NBA Finals Appearances with 32. In terms of players, Jerry West leads the list with 8 finals series losses.

Who Has Lost the Most NBA Finals?

The Los Angeles Lakers were originally the Minneapolis Lakers when they entered the National Basketball League (NBL).

Then the NBL was absorbed by the Basketball Association of America (BAA), which formed the current National Basketball Association (NBA). They soon relocated to their present home, Los Angeles, California, in 1960.

Since forming the NBA, the Lakers have appeared 32 times in the NBA Finals. They won 17 titles while also losing 15 times.

They have currently tied with the Boston Celtics with 17 championships apiece. However, they are also the frontrunners of NBA Finals losses with 15.

During their brief stint in Minneapolis, the Lakers won five championships while losing only once.

On the other hand, they are currently 12-14 in Los Angeles, losing more than they won.

Los Angeles Lakers NBA Finals Appearances Losses

OpponentNBA SeasonFinals MVP
1. Boston Celtics1958–59
2. Boston Celtics (2)1961–62
3. Boston Celtics (3)1962–63
4. Boston Celtics (4)1964–65
5. Boston Celtics (5)1965–66
6. Boston Celtics (6)1967–68
7. Boston Celtics (7)1968–69Jerry West*
8. New York Knicks (1)1969–70Willis Reed
9. New York Knicks (2)1972–73Willis Reed
10. Philadelphia 76ers1982–83Moses Malone
11. Boston Celtics (8)1983–84Larry Bird
12. Detroit Pistons (1)1988–89Joe Dumars
13. Chicago Bulls1990–91Michael Jordan
14. Detroit Pistons (2)2003–04Chauncey Billups
15. Boston Celtics (9)2007–08Paul Pierce

* – In the 1968-69 NBA Finals, the NBA started awarding Finals MVP.

Despite playing for the losing team, Jerry West is the award’s inaugural winner. This is the first and only time the Finals MVP went to the losing team.

The Los Angeles Lakers lost 15 times in the NBA Finals, nine of whom were from the Boston Celtics. At the same time, seven of the nine losses were handed by the ’60s Celtics Dynasty of NBA Legends Bill Russell and John Havlicek, with their legendary coach, Red Aurbach.

The other two Celtics losses were from the ’80s against Larry Bird, and the last is from the 2008 Celtics Big 3 of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen.

They also lost twice to the New York Knicks in the ’70s against Willis Reed and Walt Frazier. Two more losses are from the Detroit Pistons.

Which Players Have Lost the Most NBA Finals Games?

LeBron James (30727520234)
LeBron James by Erik Drost

Now that we know the Los Angeles Lakers lead the stats for the most lost NBA finals, you may be curious about the players.

Here are the stats for the most losses for NBA finals games and series.

PlayerFinals Games LossesFinals Series Losses
LeBron James336
Jerry West298
Elgin Baylor207

Los Angeles Lakers NBA Finals Rivalries

The Los Angeles Lakers have been around for a long time, so it is only natural for them to meet other old teams in the NBA Finals to create a rivalry between the teams, including their fans.

1. Los Angeles Lakers – Boston Celtics Rivalry

The Lakers – Celtics Rivalry is the best rivalry in the NBA and one of the most recognizable rivalries in all of the sports.

The two teams met in the NBA Finals on 12 separate occasions, where the Boston Celtics came up on top nine times. In their 12 meetings, they met six times in the 1960s and thrice in the 1980s.

The peak of the rivalry happened in the 1980s between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson when the two teams met three times, winning two chips. The Bird – Magic Rivalry has greatly defined the NBA that they were honored by the league by naming the newly created Conference Finals MVP with their name.

The conference MVP in the East will get a Larry Bird Trophy, while the West winner will get a Magic Johnson Trophy

The last time that the Lakers and the Celtics met in the Finals was in 2008 and 2010 between Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol’s Lakers and the Pierce – Garnett – Allen Big 3 of the Celtics. Celtics emerged victorious during the 2008 Finals, while the Lakers got their revenge in 2010.

2. Los Angeles Lakers – Detroit Pistons Rivalry

The rivalry between another two historic franchises, the Lakers and Pistons, heated up during the late 1980s between Magic Johnson’s Showtime Lakers and the Piston’s Bad Boys when they met in the 1988 and 1989 Finals, with both teams winning a piece.

The Lakers won after seven games in 1988, while the Pistons swept the Lakers in 1989.

The rivalry was later renewed in the mid-2000s as the star-studded Lakers met the defensive-minded Pistons in 2004. The Pistons won the series after just five games.

What Does Losing in the Finals Mean in the NBA?

Losing in the NBA Finals hurts the fans and the whole organization.

Aside from the frustration of falling short of the ultimate goal of a championship, it can also hurt a player’s legacy even if they accomplished a lot of individual awards.

The teams appearing in the Finals usually have pre-printed goods and apparel that will go unused and unsold after they lose.

Most NBA Finals appearances:

TeamNumber of Finals AppearancesWin-Loss Record
1. Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers3217-15
2. Boston Celtics2217-5
3. Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors127-5
4. Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers93-6
5. New York Knicks82-6
6. Fort Wayne/Detroit Pistons73-4
T-7. Chicago Bulls66-0
T-7. Miami Heat63-3
T-7. San Antonio Spurs65-1
10. Cleveland Cavaliers51-4

The Los Angeles Lakers lead the league in Finals Appearances with 32, winning more than half while also losing just as many.

They are tied with the Boston Celtics in terms of championships, but the Celtics are way ahead in terms of the head-to-head match-up.

For the teams that made the NBA Finals more than five times, only the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s, with Michael Jordan at the helm, never lost a single series.


The NBA Finals is where legends and legacies are born. The winner will be glorified, while the loser will be overlooked. But that’s sports.

Not everyone will win. However, even though the team that lost in the Finals is not celebrated, their grit and fight to reach the Finals is something no one can take away.

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