6 Most Tainted Titles in NBA History

Serge Ibaka, Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard celebrating his 2019 NBA Finals MVP | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

When trying to ascend the mountain and win an NBA title, the combination of a talented roster, a bit of luck, and perfect timing can go a long way. Whether it comes in the form of injuries to another team, suspensions, or a favorable draw that bypasses your foes entirely, there are plenty of ways that a champion can be knocked down a peg by their rivals.

All factors considered, here are what haters might call some of the most tainted titles in league history.

6. 2006-07 Spurs

Steve Nash, Robert Horry
Steve Nash being bumped into the scorer's table by Robert Horry | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The 2006-07 Spurs were great, but didn't escape without luck on their side. The No. 1 team in the West, the Dallas Mavericks, were eliminated by the “We Believe” Warriors, leaving only the Phoenix Suns in their. After Spurs sharpshooter Robert Horry hip-checked Steve Nash in Game 4 the semifinals, Suns standouts Boris Diaw and Amar'e Stoudemire took a step off the bench, and were suspended for the critical Game 5. The enforcement of that rule by the letter of the law giftwrapped a Spurs series win.

5. 1993-94 Rockets

Orlando Magic's Shaquille O'Neal(L) and Houston Ro
Hakeem Olajuwon (R) going up for a rebound against Shaquille O'Neal (L) | JEFF HAYNES/Getty Images

With Michael Jordan out of the picture to pursue his baseball career, the league was as open as it had been since the turn of the decade. Led by Hakeem Olajuwon and a great combination of role players, Houston won a title against the Knicks. But would the Rockets have won if Jordan were still in their way? Highly unlikely. The next year, Houston took advantage of an MJ return without legs and went back-to-back, again avoiding the league's premier star in the process.

4. 2014-15 Warriors

Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodald celebrating 2015 NBA Finals | TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

The birth of the modern-day dynasty could not have started without some luck. In each playoff series the Dubs played, an important player for their opponent was injured and had to miss time. The team most affected by this was the Cleveland Cavaliers. Without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, LeBron James and company were not even given a fair shot at Golden State after Game 1. If all parties were healthy (and Delly hadn't been involved), imagine how different the series would have been?

3. 1998-99 Spurs

David Robinson, Tim Duncan
David Robinson (L) and Tim Duncan (R) celebrating their NBA championship | TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

The 1998-99 NBA season was a weird time. The league was fresh off of a lockout, and it took teams a long time to find their footing throughout the 50-game season. For the ’99 Spurs, they only had to win 37 regular season games and 15 postseason games en route to being named the best team in the league. With a shortened season and the unfulfilled potential of teams like the Lakers ahead of them, the Spurs had an easier path to the Finals, only toppling an eight-seed in the Knicks to take the hardware.

2. 2018-19 Raptors

Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard with his 2019 Finals MVP trophy | Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Kawhi Leonard led Toronto on a magical run last season, but not without some help in the Finals against the Warriors. With a hobbled Kevin Durant tearing his Achilles, Toronto took advantage in Game 5. In a close Game 6 that sealed the series for Toronto, Klay Thompson tore his ACL going up for a dunk. If those two had been healthy, or if Klay could've at least finished the game (the Warriors were up three with limited time remaining), NBA history could've changed forever.

1. 2001-02 Lakers

Lakers PF Robert Horry after his game-winning shot against the Kings in Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference semifinals | ROBERT SULLIVAN/Getty Images

There is no disputing that the Lakers were one of the best teams in the league at the turn of the century. What can be disputed, though, is the result of the infamous 2002 Western Conference semifinals series against the Sacramento Kings. Sacramento was up 3-2 in the series, and then all hell broke loose. Referee Tim Donaghy alleged that Game 6 was manipulated in order for LA to win (confirmed by the naked eye!), leading to a controversial third championship for Shaq and Kobe.