In the NBA, getting to the Finals is the ultimate prize. After every season, the best basketball players in the world clash on the court for the year’s grandest prize. If you want to find the best of the best, you need to look at how many times a player has found themselves in a Finals lineup.
Today we’re doing just that, checking out the five NBA players who have made it to the Finals the most. If you’re interested in the next year of basketball action, you should consider checking out NBA betting odds.
1. Bill Russell – 12 NBA Finals
It’s no surprise that the man who led the Boston Celtics during their ‘60s glory days is at the top of our list. He’s the only player with 12 appearances at the Super Bowl, with 8 consecutive title wins from 1959 to 1966. Overall, he won 11 of the 12 Finals games, getting beat just once by the St. Louis Hawks in 1958 before the Celtics found their stride. With 29.5 rebounds per game, his record still hasn’t been broken yet.
What other records he had were passed by Wilt Chamberlain, so he’s in great company. Russell also has the single best Game 7 in the history of the Finals. That would be his 1960 game, where he made 35 rebounds and 22 points. It may be impossible to make so many Finals appearances in the modern NBA, where competition is much stiffer.
2. Sam Jones – 11 NBA Finals
Next, we have Sam Jones, though his teammates preferred to call him Mr. Clutch instead. He’s one of the oldest basketball players here and he passed at the end of 2021. Like Russell, he formed the Celtics dynasty dream team during the ‘50s and ‘60s, which is why he has so many Finals appearances under his belt. He was present for 10 of their championship wins across 12 years.
He averaged 17.7 points per game and made 5 All-Star nominations. One of Jones’ iconic moments also came during the 1960 Finals, where he had his namesake clutch moment against Wilt Chamberlain. He made the game-winning shot over Chamberlain with just two seconds left, for which Chamberlain sang his praises. He also made 5 of 10 overtime points in Game 7, too.
3. LeBron James – 10 NBA Finals
It surprises many that LeBron James hasn’t seen more championships. He is, after all, one of the most enduring names in modern basketball. Still, LeBron fans can settle for him being one of four players to see the NBA Finals 10+ times. Of those, he won 4. His latest appearance was in 2017, where he also became the first player to make a triple-double average in a Finals game at 33.6 points.
LeBron averaged 28.4 points with 10.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists. That assist stat puts him third for All-Time records alongside Bob Cousy and Magic Johnson, who you may see more of later in this list. He has impressive stats for somebody who isn’t even a point guard.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 10 NBA Finals
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is another of those names that are associated with NBA greats and always will be. So, it’s no surprise that he’s here, with 10 NBA Finals appearances and 6 wins out of them. The first came earlier in his career, in 1971 with the Milwaukee Bucks. The rest came from his time with the L.A. Lakers during the ‘80s.
Of his achievements, the 1985 Series stands out. This is where a 38-year-old Kareem, “washed up” as some said, recording 30 points in Game 2 to beat the Celtics. This led the Lakers to beat the Celtics on their own turf at Boston Garden.
5. Magic Johnson – 9 NBA Finals
With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leading the Lakers through the ‘80s, we saw the rise of Magic Johnson. Having appeared in 9 NBA Finals, he won 5 of them and secured his legacy as one of the NBA’s greatest point guards in the meantime. He also has a lot of star power, becoming a household name all over the world.
Johnson first shined in the 1980s Finals after Abdul-Jabbar suffered a sprained ankle. Despite it being his rookie season, he captivated the world at Game 6 by stepping into Kareem’s place and scoring an eye-watering 42 points, alongside 15 rebounds and 7 assists. He would continue to hone his skills further into the ‘80s and ‘90s until he became one of the best NBA players ever.
Honorable mentions to Jerry West and Tom Heinsohn, who both also made the NBA Finals 9 times. They just didn’t match the caliber of Magic Johnson when writing this.
Those are the five NBA players who have witnessed the most Finals. Just getting there is an accomplishment but, as you’d expect, these great players also won many championships alongside their teams.
The list is a who’s who of the most influential NBA players in the game, from the 1960s to the modern-day. Without their Finals performances, these guys have set records as some of the best players ever.