The 2023 NBA Finals marks the 19th time of his career that Pat Riley has made an appearance in the season-ending series.
If Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Erik Spoelstra can lead the Heat to a victory over the Nuggets, it would mark a historic victory not only for the franchise, but for Riley. His last ring came in the 2013 NBA Finals, and a victory vs. Denver would mark a 10-year difference in between championships.
Riley is arguably one of the most impactful and successful names involved in the NBA, having won his first NBA Finals ring as a player in 1972 — 51 years ago. Another ring would simply add to what is already one of the most decorated careers in the history of the league.
Here's everything you need to know about Pat Riley's NBA Finals career timeline, including rings won, all-time appearances and more:
How many NBA Finals rings does Pat Riley have?
Riley has nine NBA Finals rings. He is the only person in NBA history to have one at least one championship as a player, assistant coach, head coach and executive.
Here are the number of rings Riley has won in each of those roles:
- Player: One
- Assistant: One
- Head coach: Five
- Executive: Two
Pat Riley timeline of NBA Finals appearances, championships
Riley is tied for second all-time in NBA Finals appearances with former Celtics coach and general manager Red Auerbach (who has 16 NBA Finals rings). Jerry West ranks first all-time with 30 NBA Finals appearances as a player and executive with the Lakers and Warriors.
Here's a rundown of Riley's appearances in the NBA Finals:
Riley earned his first NBA Finals ring as a reserve player on the legendary 1971-72 Lakers team that went 69-13. Los Angeles beat Phoenix in five games in the 1972 Finals, with Riley appearing in every game. He averaged 16.2 minutes, five points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game.
The Lakers and Riley attempted to defend their title in 1973 but lost in five games to the Knicks. Riley logged only one minute in the series.
Following his retirement as a player in 1976, Riley returned to the Lakers as a broadcaster from 1977-79. He returned to the court in 1979-80 as an assistant under Paul Westhead, who was elevated to head coach after first-year coach Jack McKinney suffered a biking accident. That season, Riley helped coach a Lakers team that went 60-22 with rookie Magic Johnson and veteran Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Lakers beat the 76ers in six games.
Riley was elevated to head coach after Johnson got into a verbal altercation with Westhead. Riley helped guide the Lakers to 50 wins in their last 71 games, then presided as Los Angeles went 12-2 in the postseason, including 4-2 against Philadelphia in the Finals.
Riley's second attempt at winning back-to-back NBA Finals again fell flat as the 76ers finally got the best of the Lakers in the Finals, sweeping Los Angeles.
Riley made the NBA Finals for a third straight season, this time against Larry Bird and the Celtics. The Lakers squandered a 2-1 lead, losing to Boston in seven games.
Riley won his second ring as a head coach in his fourth straight Finals appearance, overcoming the “Memorial Day Massacre” to beat the Celtics in six games.
The 1987 Finals marked the third and final meeting between the Lakers and Celtics, resulting in a rubber-batch victory for Magic over Bird. Riley's L.A. team went 11-1 prior to the Finals before beating Boston in six games.
The year prior, Riley guaranteed a repeat title for the Lakers, which would have marked the first time that happened in the NBA since the Celtics won in 1968 and '69. He delivered on his promise as they beat the Pistons in seven.
The Lakers made a third straight Finals appearance in 1989, this time falling to the Pistons in seven games. It was the last time Riley made the Finals as L.A.'s coach.
Riley was traded to Phoenix two games into the 1975-76 season, but was not a significant contributor in their Finals appearance that season: He played one minute in the six-game loss to the Celtics.
Riley, entering his third season as the Knicks' coach, finally got New York to appear in the NBA Finals in 1994. The Knicks lost in seven games to the Rockets.
Riley, who had coached Miami since the start of the 1995-96 season, finally led the Heat to their first Finals appearance in 2006 (after briefly retiring following the 2002-03 season). In his first season back, he helped Miami overcome a 2-0 deficit to sweep the next four games vs. the favored Mavericks.
Riley's first Finals appearance solely as an executive came in 2011: the first of four straight with the Dwyane Wade-LeBron James-Chris Bosh superteam in Miami. The Heat lost in six games to the Mavericks, but it was a harbinger of things to come.
In their second straight appearance in the Finals, Riley's Heat upended the Thunder in five games, giving coach Spoelstra his second ring and first as a head coach.
The Heat made their third straight Finals appearance in 2013, but nearly lost in six to the Spurs before Ray Allen hit a corner 3 to force overtime. Miami won in OT, then again in Game 7 to give Riley his ninth — and most recent — NBA Finals ring.
The Heat's last Finals appearance as a superteam came in 2014, though James and Co. didn't ride off into the sunset: They lost in five to Gregg Popovich and the Spurs.
The 2020 Finals — indeed, the entire 2020 postseason — was played out in the Orlando, Fla. bubble. Despite a tremendous effort from Jimmy Butler, injuries to Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic helped pave the way for LeBron, Anthony Davis and the Lakers to win in six.
Once again, Riley's team is on the precipice of an NBA Finals championship. A win over the Nuggets, the top seed of the Western Conference, would give Riley a 10th ring. Regardless, this Heat team is historic in that it's just the second 8 seed to make the Finals following the 1998-99 Knicks. Should Miami win, it would become the first 8 seed to win the NBA Finals.