Game one of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors tips off tonight. With that in mind, let’s take a look into the historical rareness of the same two teams meeting for a fourth consecutive season to play each other for a championship.
This is the 14th time in NBA history that the same two teams have met in the Finals for at least two consecutive seasons. The Cavaliers and Warriors are the first to ever meet three (and four) times in a row for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
|Minneapolis Lakers v. New York Knicks||(2) 1952-53||Lakers 2-0|
|Boston Celtics v. St. Louis Hawks||(2) 1957-58||Split 1-1|
|Boston Celtics v. St. Louis Hawks||(2) 1960-61||Celtics 2-0|
|Boston Celtics v. Los Angeles Lakers||(2) 1962-63||Celtics 2-0|
|Boston Celtics v. Los Angeles Lakers||(2) 1965-66||Celtics 2-0|
|Boston Celtics v. Los Angeles Lakers||(2) 1968-69||Celtics 2-0|
|Los Angeles Lakers v. New York Knicks||(2) 1972-73||Split 1-1|
|Seattle Supersonics v. Washington Bullets||(2) 1978-79||Split 1-1|
|Los Angeles Lakers v. Philadelphia 76ers||(2) 1982-83||Split 1-1|
|Boston Celtics v. Los Angeles Lakers||(2) 1984-85||Split 1-1|
|Detroit Pistons v. Los Angeles Lakers||(2) 1988-89||Split 1-1|
|Chicago Bulls v. Utah Jazz||(2) 1997-98||Bulls 2-0|
|Miami Heat v. San Antonio Spurs||(2) 2013-14||Split 1-1|
|Cleveland Cavaliers v. Golden State Warriors||(4) 2015-18||Warriors 2-1|
In the NFL, there have only been eight times where the same two teams met in the Championship Game consecutive times. Since the Super Bowl era started in 1967, it has only happened once.
|Chicago Bears v. New York Giants||(2) 1933-34||Split 1-1|
|Green Bay Packers v. New York Giants||(2) 1938-39||Split 1-1|
|Chicago Bears v. Washington Redskins||(2) 1942-43||Split 1-1|
|Cleveland Browns v. Los Angeles Rams||(2) 1950-51||Split 1-1|
|Cleveland Browns v. Detroit Lions||(3) 1952-54||Lions 2-1|
|Baltimore Colts v. New York Giants||(2) 1958-59||Colts 2-0|
|Green Bay Packers v. New York Giants||(2) 1961-62||Packers 2-0|
|Buffalo Bills v. Dallas Cowboys||(2) 1993-94||Cowboys 2-0|
There have been nine times in baseball history that two teams played each other consecutive years in the World Series. However, it has only happened only since 1960 and last took place four decades ago.
|Chicago Cubs v. Detroit Tigers||(2) 1907-08||Cubs 2-0|
|New York Giants v. New York Yankees||(3) 1921-23||Giants 2-1|
|Philadelphia Athletics v. St. Louis Cardinals||(2) 1930-31||Split 1-1|
|New York Giants v. New York Yankees||(2) 1936-37||Yankees 2-0|
|New York Yankees v. St. Louis Cardinals||(2) 1942-43||Split 1-1|
|Brooklyn Dodgers v. New York Yankees||(2) 1952-53||Yankees 2-0|
|Brooklyn Dodgers v. New York Yankees||(2) 1955-56||Split 1-1|
|Milwaukee Braves v. New York Yankees||(2) 1957-58||Split 1-1|
|Los Angeles Dodgers v. New York Yankees||(2) 1977-78||Yankees 2-0|
The NHL has seen eight teams meet at least back-to-back times to play for the Stanley Cup. However, it has only happened once in the last four decades.
|New York Rangers v. Toronto Maple Leafs||(2) 1932-33||Split 1-1|
|Detroit Red Wings v. Toronto Maple Leafs||(2) 1948-49||Leafs 2-0|
|Detroit Red Wings v. Montreal Canadiens||(3) 1954-56||Red Wings 2-1|
|Montreal Canadiens v. Toronto Maple Leafs||(2) 1959-60||Canadiens 2-0|
|Detroit Red Wings v. Toronto Maple Leafs||(2) 1963-64||Leafs 2-0|
|Montreal Canadiens v. St. Louis Blues||(2) 1968-69||Canadiens 2-0|
|Boston Bruins v. Montreal Canadiens||(2) 1977-78||Canadiens 2-0|
|Detroit Red Wings v. Pittsburgh Penguins||(2) 2008-09||Split 1-1|
Three-peat matchups in the big four
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors meeting for a fourth straight time is truly historical among the combined histories of the four major North American sports.
It is not a surprise that the NBA was the first league to do so. Since 1980 there have been six times in the NBA two teams played each other back-to-back years for the championship. In the MLB, NFL and NHL combined it has happened twice in that same span.
|New York Giants v. New York Yankees||MLB||(3) 1921-23||Giants 2-1|
|Cleveland Browns v. Detroit Lions||NFL||(3) 1952-54||Lions 2-1|
|Detroit Red Wings v. Montreal Canadiens||NHL||(3) 1954-56||Red Wings 2-1|
|Cleveland Cavaliers v. Golden State Warriors||NBA||(4) 2015-18||Warriors 2-1|
Four-peat matchups in other sports
While the Cavaliers and Warriors meeting for a four straight time is historical among the four major North American sports, how often has it happened in sports in general? I took a look at championship matchups in various other professional, Olympic and college sports to see if anything like this had occurred before.
|USA v. Canada||Hockey World Championships||Met in 4 straight gold medal games||1931-34 Championships*||3-1 Canada|
|USA v. Soviet Union||Olympic Men’s Basketball||Met in 4 straight gold medal games||1952, 56, 60 and 64 Olympics||4-0 USA|
|S.Williams v. V.Williams||Women’s Singles Tennis||Met in 4 straight majors||2002 French Open to 2003 Aus Open||4-0 S. Williams|
|Mount Union v. Wisconsin-Whitewater||Division III College Football||Met in 7 straight championship games||2005-2011||4-3 Wisconsin|
|Djokovic v. Nadal||Men’s Singles Tennis||Met in 4 straight majors||2011 Wimbledon to 2012 French Open||3-1 Djokovic|
|Cavaliers v. Warriors||NBA||Met in 4 straight NBA Finals||2014-15 to 2017-18||2-1 Warriors|
*The 1932 Winter Olympic’s Ice Hockey Tournament also counted as the World Championship
List of all sports/leagues checked:
Tennis: Men & Women’s Singles in majors
Lacrosse: National Lacrosse League
Cricket: ICC Champions Trophy