There are four teams left in the NBA Playoffs. And no matter who wins the title, a city’s long-suffering fans will finally get a trophy.
In the Western Conference Finals, the Los Angeles Clippers are facing off against the Phoenix Suns, while the Milwaukee Bucks battle the Atlanta Hawks in the East.
The winner of each series will play in the NBA Finals. And for whichever team ultimately comes out on top, it’ll be the franchise’s first championship in at least 50 years.
The Clippers, founded as the Buffalo Braves before relocating to California, had never even been to a conference finals in their 51-year history — let alone the NBA Finals.
They’re one of only six NBA franchises to never appear in the finals.
For most of their 37 years in LA the team has been upstaged by the far more successful Lakers. Only in recent years, with such stars as Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, have the Clippers been playoff contenders.
But Paul now plays for the Suns.
Despite being around since 1968, the Suns have never won an NBA title.
They last won a conference final in 1993, when Charles Barkley led the team. Those Suns lost in the NBA Finals to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Despite some strong seasons, they haven’t been back to the finals since.
Since moving to Atlanta in 1968, the Hawks have never been to the NBA Finals. The franchise last won a title in 1958, when they were in St. Louis.
“It’s been a tough journey. It took a lot of losses to get here,” said star Trae Young when asked Sunday about being just four wins away from the finals.
The Hawks have had a particularly difficult last few years, finishing in the bottom five of the Eastern Conference standings in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The team last made the conference finals in 2015 but were swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“For us, I think the guys who have been here since the rebuild, this feeling is a lot better than what it’s been,” Young said. “We know it’s our first year in the playoffs together and it’s only the beginning.”
Milwaukee won the league title in 1971, when the Bucks had future Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor (who soon after changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
They have been in a drought ever since.
But the team finally made the conference finals in 2019, losing 4-2 to the eventual champions Toronto Raptors.
In an interview Saturday after the Bucks’ Game 7 win against the Brooklyn Nets, star Giannis Antetokounmpo vowed the team’s job isn’t done.
“It’s a great step for our organization; it’s a great step for us,” he said. “No matter the pressure, no matter what’s going on, we are built for this. We believe in who we are.”
The NBA Finals tip off in early July. Fans won’t know for at least a few weeks which team will come out on top — but the winner is already guaranteed to make history.