Everybody loves a long shot. It doesn’t matter what the sport is, the world loves a good sports surprise. The Kentucky Derby is always more popular when a long shot wins. Just look at Rich Strike’s hype after this year’s massive longshot (80-to-1 odds) win.
Coming into the NBA season, the Boston Celtics were a pretty big longshot. They had a new coach, and there was further uncertainty surrounding whether the duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown could work.
The Celtics also had to adapt to first-time head coach Ime Udoka. Many preseason championship odds had them around 40-to-1. Not only that, the Celtics had 13 teams in front of them with better odds to win it all. The Celtics beat three of those 13 in the first three rounds of the playoffs and now have a chance to beat another one. The Warriors had preseason odds of 11-to-1.
3rd straight year a Finals team was 30-1 or higher in the preseason to win the NBA Championship (2019-20 Miami 60-1, 2020-21 Phoenix 40-1, 2021-22 Boston 40-1)
From 1984 to 2018 this only happened 3 times (1989-90 Portland 35-1, 2001-02 New Jersey 60-1, 2007-08 LA Lakers 30-1)
— SportsOddsHistory.com (@SOHistory) May 30, 2022
Boston and Golden State begin the 2022 NBA Finals Thursday night in San Francisco. As the Celtics try to make history as the latest longshot to win it all, here is a look at other teams that fit that category.
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Other Longshot NBA Champions
2014-15 Golden State Warriors
The start of the Warriors’ dynasty caught everyone off guard when the Splash Brothers shot their way to their first NBA championship. With 28-to-1 preseason odds, the Warriors are the longest shot based on preseason odds to ever win an NBA title. The Celtics will look to beat the Warriors, who have several of the same players from this team, to take the top spot of longest odd NBA champions.
2010-11 Dallas Mavericks
Who could forget the Dirk Nowitzki championship team that, at 20-to-1 preseason odds at the time, was the longest shot to ever win a championship. They defeated the new big three of Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade, who in their first season together just didn’t have the chemistry of the Mavericks.
2003-04 Detroit Pistons
A team similar to this year’s Celtics, the Pistons were the best defensive team in the NBA and had a star in his prime that hit countless clutch shots in Chauncey Billups. The Celtics, while similar defensively, may have more firepower than this Pistons team that won the championship starting the season at 15-to-1 odds.
Celtics’ 2022 Playoff Run
The Celtics made quick work of the preseason NBA championship favorites, the Brooklyn Nets (2.3-to-1), in just four games. This was the announcement to the rest of the NBA that the Celtics were ready to make a deep run and proved a point with a dominating series sweep.
The Celtics were taken to the wire, by the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, who were a popular pick to repeat in preseason odds (8.5-to-1). Down in the series 3-2, Tatum exploded for 46 points to will the Celtics to Game 7. In Game 7, the Celtics took care of business, capping off the series in a blowout win.
Eastern Conference Finals
Facing off with the always strong Miami Heat, who were slightly ahead of the Celtics in the preseason odds (35-to-1), Boston had another tough seven-game series. The scoring power of Tatum and Brown combined for 50 points in Game 7 to clinch another NBA finals appearance for Boston.
NBA Finals Preview
The key to this series is likely to be who the mismatches favor. The Celtics’ wing duo of Tatum and Brown, will be a tough cover for the Warriors. Klay Thompson’s miracle return to All-Star form offensively has been notable in this year’s playoffs, but his defense is not what it used to be. Also, with Robert Williams and Al Horford dominating the glass, can the Warriors, who love to go small, compete with Boston’s size?
On the flip side, can Boston’s defense stand up to the test of the NBA’s best shooting offense? Even if they can limit Steph Curry and Thompson, the emergence of a guy like Jordan Poole, who adds another offensive piece to the puzzle, will be the toughest test this Celtics defense has seen yet.
The Celtics win in seven games. It seems the Celtics have had a knack in this year’s playoffs, coming up with wins whenever their backs are against the wall. Expect Tatum to go off and win the Finals MVP announcing his candidacy for a top-five player in the NBA. With the championship, the Celtics would also take the spot of longest odds preseason NBA champions ever.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire