Raptors Are Second-Biggest Underdogs to Win NBA Championship Since 1985

Raptors Are Second-Biggest Underdogs to Win NBA Championship Since 1985 article feature image

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Toronto Raptors small forward Kawhi Leonard (2).

  • The Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors in six games to win the 2019 NBA Championship.
  • The Raptors were +230 series underdogs prior to the NBA Finals, becoming the second-largest underdogs to win a title since 1985.

For the first time in franchise history, the Toronto Raptors are NBA champions.

The Raptors took out the reigning two-time champ Golden State Warriors in six games to give the city of Toronto its first title in a major sport since the Blue Jays won consecutive World Series in 1992 and 1993.

The Raptors entered the series as +230 underdogs against the Warriors, who were four wins away from a three-peat to really cement their legacy after five trips to the Finals. Where does Toronto rank among Finals underdogs to take home the Larry O'Brien trophy? Let's take a look.

Biggest Underdogs to Win NBA Finals

You don't have to go far back to find the last time a decently-sized underdog won the NBA Finals.

The Cleveland Cavaliers came all the way back from a 3-1 series deficit to win the 2016 NBA Finals in seven games. Before that series started, the Cavaliers were listed as +180 underdogs to dethrone Golden State, becoming the second-biggest underdogs to win an NBA title since 1985.

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Detroit Pistons

The biggest underdogs to win the NBA championship since 1985 were the Detroit Pistons, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004 as +500 series dogs.

The comparisons between the Raptors and Pistons are pretty fun.

  • They both won the NBA Finals as underdogs in a series in less than seven games.
  • They both eliminated teams going for four titles in five seasons.
  • They both had head coaches in their first season with the team.
  • They were the two highest-priced underdogs to win the Finals since 1985.

Since 1985, only five teams have won an NBA title with a pre-series price of +150 or higher, and all five have come in the past 15 years.

Prior to week one of the NBA regular season, the Raptors were +1850 to win the NBA Championship.

Since 1985, only three teams have won the NBA Finals as an underdog in the series and opened the regular season higher than 10-1.

2004 Detroit Pistons (+1500 preseason)

The Lakers were going for their fourth title in five seasons, but looked vulnerable entering the Finals beating both the Spurs and Timberwolves in six games.

Detroit pretty much wiped the floor with L.A., beating them in five games, holding Kobe Bryant to just 38.1% shooting in the Finals.

Since 1985, the Pistons are the biggest series underdog to win it all, beating the Lakers as a +500 underdog.

2011 Dallas Mavericks (+2000 preseason)

The Miami Heat basically walked into the NBA Finals in their first season with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, winning in five games in their previous three series.

They faced a Mavericks team who lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2010 as a 2-seed and made it all the way to the Finals in 2011.

With home court advantage in the Finals, the Heat opened as -175 series favorites and even won Game 1 at home in South Beach. After leading 2-1 entering Game 4, the Heat lost three straight, losing the series in six games at home to the Dallas Mavericks.

2019 Toronto Raptors (+1850 preseason)

Finally, we have the Raptors, who beat Golden State in six games to capture their first title in franchise history and become the second team to win an NBA Finals series at higher than 2-1 odds.

Here's the full list of teams with the longest odds to win the NBA Championship since 1985:

  • 1995 Houston Rockets: The Rockets were going for consecutive titles, but were the No. 6 seed facing the No. 1 seed Magic. Houston swept Orlando in four games.
  • 2004 Detroit Pistons: The Pistons were trying to prevent the Lakers from winning four titles in five years. As 5-1 series underdogs, the Pistons stomped on the Lakers in five games to become the biggest underdog to win a title since 1985.
  • 2006 Miami Heat: The Heat became the third team to overcome a 0-2 deficit to win the title. They won four straight games, including three by six total points, to win their first championship in franchise history.
  • 2008 Boston Celtics: Let's just say it had been a while. The Celtics had last won a title in 1986. But in 2008, behind the "Big Three," the Celtics beat the Lakers in six games after winning Game 6 by 39 points.
  • 2011 Dallas Mavericks: Five years after the Mavs blew a 2-0 series lead in the Finals to Miami, they turned the table by winning Games 4, 5 and 6 after trailing 2-1 in this series.
2011-Miami Heat
Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE. Pictured: LeBron James
  • 2012 Miami Heat: Just a year after the Mavs pulled the upset as +155 series underdogs, the Heat were facing the Thunder behind Durant. The Heat dominated the series, winning in five games.
  • 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers: The first time the Warriors lost in the Finals, it came down 3-1 to LeBron James and the Cavaliers. The Cavs won Games 5, 6 and 7 to win their first title in franchise history.
  • 2019 Toronto Raptors: In 2016, the Cavaliers won their first title in franchise history after defeating the Warriors. In 2019, the Raptors repeated that same exact storyline … but as bigger underdogs. In fact, the Raptors are the second-biggest series underdogs to win the NBA Finals since 1985.

Note: All series price data via Sports Odds History

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Nick Sterling
Apr 23, 2024 UTC