Biggest Preseason Betting Underdogs to Ever Win an NBA Championship

Updated: 2786 Basketball

OLBG ranked the biggest preseason underdogs to win the NBA championship since the 1984-85 season using a combination of data that included the team odds both in the preseason and the regular season, all sourced from Basketball-Reference.com.

Biggest Preseason Betting Underdogs to Ever Win an NBA Championship

Anadolu Agency // Getty Images

Michael Calabrese US Content Manager

Experienced sports journalist, College sports expert and broadcaster, hailing from Pennsylvania

Written by: Justin Byers - Edited by Michael Calabrese

When it comes to the game of basketball, all 30 NBA teams start the season with one goal—hoisting the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy high above their heads, as the color-coordinated confetti rains over them. Since the 1984-85 season, just eight teams have won the NBA title after receiving preseason odds of 10-1 or greater. The other 30 champions all posted preseason odds of 9-1 or better, and 16 of those 30 had odds of 3-1 or better.

Three times the NBA champion won the crown after receiving even odds in the preseason. The Chicago Bulls did so in Michael Jordan's penultimate season with the franchise, while the Golden State Warriors did so back-to-back from 2016-18, in what many long-suffering Bay Area basketball fans remember as the #WeBelieve run.

In each instance, these teams defied the odds and walked away with the trophy lifted above their heads. How did they get there? Who had the best squad? OLBG ranked the eight biggest preseason underdogs to win the NBA championship since the 1984-85 season using data from Basketball-Reference.com. Besides title odds, the data on this list includes each team's win/loss over-under as posted preseason and their actual regular season record.


Boston CelticsJim Rogash // Getty Images

#8. 2007-08 Boston Celtics

- Championship odds: 10-1
- Win/loss over-under: 49.5
- Regular season record: 66-16

Led by head coach Doc Rivers, the 2007-08 Celtics roster featured three future Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductees—Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. The construction of the team's roster that season resulted in general manager Danny Ainge being named NBA Executive of the Year after the Celtics won 24 games during the 2006-07 season.

The Celtics, who led the NBA in wins for the 2007-08 campaign, would face their long-time rival the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals. In a hard-fought battle, Boston would defeat a Los Angeles team that included Pau Gasol and the late Kobe Bryant, 4-2 in the series, to capture what would be the Celtics' first championship since 1986. The victory marked the Celtics' 17th NBA title in franchise history.


San Antonio SpursRonald Martinez // Getty Images

#7. 2002-03 San Antonio Spurs

- Championship odds: 11-1
- Win/loss over-under: 55.5
- Regular season record: 60-22

The 2002-03 Spurs navigated an arduous playoff path to win the NBA Finals with series wins over the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, and Lakers—the previous season's champion. The Spurs, led by the 2002-03 MVP Tim Duncan, would eventually defeat the New Jersey Nets with a 4-2 series win in the Finals. The 2002-03 Spurs roster also included Tony Parker, current Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, and Hall of Famers David Robinson and Manu Ginóbili.

The 2003 Finals win for the Spurs would mark Gregg Popovich's second title as a head coach. The team's performance that season would make Popovich the 2003 NBA Coach of the Year.


San Antonio Spurs NBA recordAndy Lyons // Getty Images

#6. 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs (tie)

- Championship odds: 12-1
- Win/loss over-under: 55.5
- Regular season record: 62-20

The Spurs continued to exceed expectations during the 2013-14 campaign with a roster that had an NBA-record 10 international players on opening night. The Spurs would once again lead the league in wins thanks to a 19-game winning streak between February and April of that season.

The Spurs' veteran leadership helped propel the team to an NBA championship with a roster that still included Duncan, Ginóbili, and Parker. It also featured younger talent in Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, who averaged 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds. Popovich would once again run away with the NBA's Coach of the Year award for that season.


Houston RocketsBOB STRONG // Getty Images

#5. 1993-94 Houston Rockets (tie)

- Championship odds: 12-1
- Win/loss over-under: 47
- Regular season record: 58-24

Led by Rudy Tomjanovich, the Rockets started the 1993-94 season with 15 consecutive wins, including a thrilling 95-93 overtime win against the Utah Jazz in November.

The team was destined for greatness that season with a roster that included NBA legends Kenny Smith, Sam Cassell, and Hakeem Olajuwon—the 1994 NBA MVP. The 7-foot center averaged 27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 3.7 blocks. Olajuwon's efforts that year also resulted in the University of Houston product being named Defensive Player of the Year.

The Rockets had the second-best regular season record for the campaign behind the Seattle SuperSonics' 63-19 finish.


The Pistons captured the franchise's third NBA championshipElsa // Getty Images

#4. 2003-04 Detroit Pistons

- Championship odds: 15-1
- Win/loss over-under: 49.5
- Regular season record: 54-28

The Pistons captured the franchise's third NBA championship with a focus on defense behind the presence of Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace—a pickup the squad acquired via trade halfway through the season. The 2003-04 Pistons were also bolstered by strong guard play from Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton. The roster also included small forward Tayshaun Prince.

Larry Brown coached the Pistons through a playoff journey that saw the team defeat the Nets in seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Pistons would then need six games to top the Indiana Pacers in the conference finals before a 4-1 series win over the Lakers in the Finals.

Billups would be named Finals MVP for his performances over the heavily-favored Lakers.


Toronto RaptorsSteve Russell // Getty Images

#3. 2018-19 Toronto Raptors

- Championship odds: 37-2
- Win/loss over-under: 55.5
- Regular season record: 58-24

The first NBA championship for the Raptors came after the team acquired Leonard and Green during the offseason following a trade with the Spurs. Toronto's 2018-19 roster also included guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. Big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol also contributed.

The Raptors were led by first-year head coach Nick Nurse, who had previously served as an assistant and was promoted after the firing of Dwane Casey in May 2018. The Raptors, which did not have a selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, beat the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs before a showdown with the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Toronto would complete its playoff run with a 4-2 series win over the Milwaukee Bucks before closing out the NBA Finals in six games against the Warriors.


The Mavericks finished as the NBA's top teamRonald Martinez // Getty Images

#2. 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks

- Championship odds: 20-1
- Win/loss over-under: 49.5
- Regular season record: 57-25

The Mavericks finished as the NBA's top team in 2011 with a star-studded roster that included Hall of Famers Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd. The team also had Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Caron Butler, and Tyson Chandler—who received second-team All-Defensive honors that year.

Dallas won its first NBA title in franchise history under the leadership of Rick Carlisle, who coached the Mavericks to the third-best record in the league behind the 58-24 Miami Heat and the 61-21 San Antonio Spurs. The Mavericks would beat the LeBron James-led Heat in the Finals in six games. Nowitzki would be named Finals MVP after averaging 26 points.

Dallas won the Finals after defeating the Portland Trail Blazers, Lakers, and Oklahoma City Thunder.


Golden State swept the New Orleans Pelicans in the first roundTIMOTHY A. CLARY // Getty Images

#1. 2014-15 Golden State Warriors

- Championship odds: 28-1
- Win/loss over-under: 52.5
- Regular season record: 67-15

The beginning of what would be a dynasty began with another first-year head coach in Kerr, who started his tenure in Northern California with a 10-2 record—the best start in franchise history. The Warriors would later have a stint during the season in which it won 16 straight.

The Warriors' ability to string together strong performances was the result of a dynamic offense led by Stephen Curry—the 2015 NBA MVP. The Warriors also benefited from a roster that included Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Klay Thompson. Veterans Andrew Bogut, Leandro Barbosa, and Shaun Livingston also rounded out the team.

Golden State swept the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the playoffs before defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in six games. The Warriors would need five games to topple the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals before a 4-2 series win in the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Golden State's title came after the team didn't have a 2014 draft pick.

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