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Lobo basketball player Donovan Dent takes a shot during the game against Air Force on February 24.

OPINION: The three most memorable NBA finals runs of all time

Throughout the years in the NBA, 21 franchises have won one or multiple NBA championships. Along with that, there have been numerous memorable championship runs over time — some more memorable than others. This year’s finals matchup is the Dallas Mavericks vs. the Boston Celtics.

Not all championship runs are built the same. Inspired by the Celtics’ path of not facing a team at full strength, I wanted to look back at some of the most impressive runs in NBA history. Three of these are the 2011 Dallas Mavericks, the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers.

2011 Dallas Mavericks

In 2011, the Dallas Mavericks were a stacked team led by Dirk Nowitzki, but the players were still considered underdogs going into the later rounds of the playoffs.

In the first round, they took care of business against the Portland Trailblazers, beating them 4-2 in the series; then, they ran into Kobe Bryant’s defending champion Lakers.

The Mavericks didn’t only win the series, but they made it look easy, getting the series sweep. Next up for the Mavericks was the Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden-led Oklahoma City Thunder who they beat in only five games.

In the finals, the Mavericks were counted out the most as they ran into the “Big Three'' of the Miami Heat — consisting of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Heat took a commanding 2-1 lead in the series, but the underdog Mavericks won three straight, capping the series off and finishing a historic finals run — completing an upset of nearly every round of the playoffs.

2016 Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off something special in their 2016 championship run. In LeBron James' second year back with the Cavaliers, they played against the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the playoffs — sweeping them both with ease.

DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors came knocking in the conference finals; the Cavaliers defeated them in six games. This then led the Cavaliers to a finals rematch against “Splash Bros” Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson's Golden State Warriors. In the previous season, the Warriors beat the Cavaliers in the finals 4-2.

This series rematch started in the worst way possible for the Cavaliers, as after four games they were down 3-1 and all signs pointed to the Warriors repeating. However, the Cavaliers had different plans and came back as they forced a game seven and won the series 4-3.

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James also had a clutch block on Andre Iguodala which led to Kyrie Irving hitting one of the greatest shots in NBA history. The Cavaliers were able to bring Cleveland its first championship and completed one of the greatest series comebacks in NBA history.

2001 Los Angeles Lakers

The 2001 Los Angeles Lakers run was completely different from the previous two and is memorable for one reason: while the other teams mentioned were either underdogs or had close finals series, the 2001 Lakers were dominant, going 15-1 in their run.

The Lakers were led by the greatest duo of all time: Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Together, they swept the Portland Trailblazers, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs in each series. That’s no small feat, as all those teams had future hall-of-famers like Tim Duncan, Chris Webber and Scottie Pippen.

In the finals, the Lakers faced Allen Iverson's Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers were able to steal game one, but the Lakers showed them why they were the most dominant team. The Lakers won the next four games, capping the series off 4-1 and repeating as NBA champions.

O’ Neal averaged 30 points per game, 15 rebounds per game and three assists per game. Bryant averaged 29 points per game, seven rebounds per game and six assists per game.

Despite there being other great finals runs, these three are still discussed today because of how incredible each team was. Only time will tell how different playoff runs will be viewed. Teams can only play the team in front of them, but different titles will mean more based on the battles they win along the way.

Rodney Prunty is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @Rprunty05

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