In honor of the Los Angeles Clippers blowing a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 series advantage against the Denver Nuggets in the second round, we’ve decided to relive some of the most embarrassing choke jobs in the history of the NBA.
So where does L.A.’s most recent fail fall in our list here today? Read on below to find out.
3. Los Angeles Clippers, 2020 Playoffs
What makes the Los Angeles Clippers’ 2020 fiasco is how this was arguably the best team this franchise had ever fielded in all its history.
The Clippers did not only bring in reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in the summer, but they also paired him with six-time NBA All-Star Paul George. They also added a number of key pieces such as Marcus Morris Sr. and Reggie Jackson, to their already formidable lineup. Montrezl Harrell won the season’s Sixth Man of the Year award, while Lou Williams came in a close second.
Depth was clearly not an issue for this team. Leadership, cohesiveness, and the ability to thrive under pressure — among other things — clearly were.
The narrative could not have been more appealing. Finally, the Clippers were now well equipped to face off against their long-time cross-town rivals in the Los Angeles Lakers. “The Battle of L.A.” was upon us, and with these two teams earning the top two spots in the West, an epic Western Conference Finals between the two L.A. teams was well underway.
The Lakers already did their bit, reaching the West Finals after making quick work of their opponents in the first and second rounds of the playoffs. The Clippers, on the other hand, could not even make it out of the semis.
The worst part here is that they already had a 3-1 advantage over a young and relatively inexperienced Denver Nuggets squad. For reasons unknown, the Clippers collapsed, as they allowed the Nuggets to score three straight wins to take the series in seven games.
Needless to say, no Battle of L.A. was had that season.
2. Dallas Mavericks, 2007 Playoffs
Even before the Golden State Warriors emerged as a legitimate dynasty in the 2010s, this team was already making its mark in the NBA a decade earlier. This came in the form of the “We Believe” Warriors, and unfortunately for the Dallas Mavericks, they were Golden State’s first victims in what turned out to be a memorable playoffs run for the Dubs.
The Mavs were coming off a historic NBA regular season, logging 67 wins in what was nothing less than an amazing run. Dallas was led by a prime Dirk Nowitzki, who earned MVP honors for a tremendous campaign. The Mavs secured the top seed in the West and were pitted against a Warriors side that went on a furious run in the final weeks of the regular season to secure the eighth seed in the conference.
The Dubs shocked the Mavs to win Game 1 in a very impressive fashion. Dallas was able to win two more games in the series, but ultimately, they fell to the Warriors in six games. This was not the first time an eighth seed was able to upset a top seed in the playoffs, but somehow, this felt like one of the biggest disappointments in postseason history.
1. Golden State Warriors, 2016 Finals
The Warriors’ horrendous defeat in the NBA Finals has got to be — without a shadow of a doubt — the worst choke job in NBA history, if not in all of the competitive sports.
Entering the 2015-16 season, the Dubs were coming off their first championship in four decades, and the first in their modern-day dynasty. This powerhouse team was led by Stephen Curry, who eventually won back-to-back MVP awards that season — being the first player in history to be elected by a unanimous vote.
That wasn’t the only history they made that season. The Warriors set the regular-season record by amassing 73 wins throughout the campaign, beating the long-time 72-10 record set by Michael Jordan the Chicago Bulls decades earlier.
The Warriors lost only two games in the first two rounds of the playoffs but had to go all the way to seven games in the Western Conference Finals against a Kevin Durant-led Oklahoma City Warriors.
In the NBA Finals, the Dubs faced off against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Golden State was the favorites, especially after going 3-1 up in the series. Up until that point, no team in NBA history had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals. Well, the Cavs did just that.
Golden State inexplicably lost three close-out straight games, as Cleveland took the series after seven games. That cemented LeBron’s legacy as one of the greatest of all time, and unfortunately for the Warriors, this earned them the top spot in the worst choke jobs in NBA history.