NBA parity is reaching levels not seen in more than four decades

NBA parity is reaching levels not seen in more than four decades originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

There will be a new champion in the NBA in 2024.

The Denver Nuggets gave a strong defense of their 2023 title, but it fell a little short Sunday night when they lost at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

When you look at the four major North American pro sports leagues -- NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB -- the NBA has been the one league with a bunch of repeat champions in recent decades.

The NHL has had two repeat Stanley Cup winners since 1998. The MLB hasn't had a repeat champion since the New York Yankees in 1998-00. The Kansas City Chiefs just won back-to-back Super Bowl titles, which hadn't happened since the New England Patriots did it in 2003-04.

Since 1995, the NBA has seen five instances of a team winning consecutive championships. These examples don't include the San Antonio Spurs winning five titles from 1999 through 2013.

The Lakers or San Antonio Spurs won the Western Conference in 12 of the 15 seasons between 1999 and 2013, including seven consecutive years from 1999 through 2005. The Miami Heat went to the NBA Finals in four straight years from 2011 through 2014. The Golden State Warriors reached the NBA Finals five consecutive years from 2015 through 2019, and then again in 2022. The Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers squared off in the NBA Finals in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Parity is finally returning to the NBA, and it's great for the sport.

The Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, with Game 1 scheduled for Tuesday at TD Garden. The C's have won a record 17 titles but only one (2008) since 1986. The Pacers have two ABA championships (1972 and 1973), but zero as an NBA franchise.

The Timberwolves are in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2004. They have zero NBA Finals appearances. Minnesota will play the Dallas Mavericks, who have two NBA Finals appearances, including a 2011 title.

One of these four teams will be the sixth different champion in as many years. Only one other time in league history has there been six different champs in a six-year span (1975-80).

  • 2024: Celtics/Pacers/Timberwolves/Mavericks

  • 2023: Nuggets

  • 2022: Warriors

  • 2021: Bucks

  • 2020: Lakers

  • 2019: Raptors

Not only have there been five different champions in the last five years, none of these teams made it past the second round of the playoffs during their title defense.

!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(a){if(void 0!["datawrapper-height"]){var e=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var t in["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<e.length;r++)if(e[r].contentWindow===a.source){var["datawrapper-height"][t]+"px";e[r].style.height=i}}}))}();

Sure, it's great for the league when the marquee franchises are relevant and in the championship mix. Many of these teams are rivals, and adding chapters to that history is awesome. A whole new generation of Celtics and Lakers fans got to experience that rivalry for the first time in 2008 and 2010.

But it's also cool to see franchises in the mix for their first title. The Nuggets reached the NBA Finals for the first time in their history last season and beat the Heat in five games. The Raptors claimed their first title in 2019 after making the NBA Finals for the first time. The Bucks won in 2021 after not having appeared in an NBA Finals since 1976.

This year, we will have a team win a championship for the first time, or for the first time in more than a decade. That's pretty cool.