No prior champions in NBA Finals for first time in 50 years

Chris Paul and Jae Crowder at 2021 NBA Finals - Practice and Media Availability
Barry Gossaage/NBAE via Getty Images
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Chris Paul is one of the greatest players of all time. He has developed an incredible basketball intelligence, even earning the nickname “Point God,” by thoroughly studying how other teams play. For 15 years, he has had the opportunity to watch the NBA Finals on television, seeing the game on its highest level.

This year is different.

For the first time, Paul is playing in the NBA Finals.

“It’s weird no games being on,” Paul said. “I usually watch games every day. So that’s probably the part that sucks. That’s probably the part that sucks the most.

“But I would rather be playing than not.”

Other Suns and Bucks probably aren’t as conflicted. But this will be a new experience for nearly all of them and will culminate in a new achievement for half of them.

For the first time since 1971, no players in the NBA Finals have previously won a championship. This has happened just four time since the first Finals:

  • 2021: Phoenix Suns-Milwaukee Bucks
  • 1971: Milwaukee Bucks over Baltimore Bullets
  • 1956: Philadelphia Warriors over Fort Wayne Pistons
  • 1955: Syracuse Nationals over Fort Wayne Pistons

(Counting only players who played in playoffs.)

Suns forward Jae Crowder is the only player in the 2021 NBA Finals who has even played in the Finals before. He made it with the Heat last year, losing to the Lakers.

This is just the second time since the first Finals fewer than two players in the NBA Finals had no prior Finals experience. In 1977, nobody on the Portland Trail Blazers or Philadelphia 76ers had previously played in the Finals.*

*76ers guard Henry Bibby won a title with the 1973 Knicks, but he didn’t play in the 1973 Finals.

So, Crowder is in an unprecedented position as the only player in a Finals to have reached that round before.

“That’s all fine that I’ve been here before,” Crowder said. “But I haven’t won anything. So, it really doesn’t mean anything to me personally. But I use my last stint as motivation to get back here to have a chance to play for it all again.

“It’s great to be here again and be a part of a special team, but I want to get the job done this time.”