How does one even go about defining who is the greatest franchise in NBA history? Championships? Remember, if you will, that when Bill Russell was winning his unprecedented 11 championships, there were only 8 teams in the league. With almost everyone of the players on those 8 teams having to work a second job just to make rent. Now while it may not be Bill Russell’s fault, the quality of play has improved dramatically over the years. Ok, let’s get to it.
How does an athlete, team or franchise become the greatest of all time? Is it put to a vote? Who is qualified to vote on this question? What is the criteria? Muhammed Ali used to call himself “The Greatest”, and so did professional wrestler Ric Flair. Some rely on analytics and statistics to form their opinions, others simply use their eyeballs when evaluating their version of who the greatest is. In the NBA, many teams have been designated as the greatest team of all time, but there can only be ONE greatest, so who is it? This article will examine a few of the NBA’s greatest teams to determine which team is the NBA’s Greatest Team in history based on championships, offensive, and defensive statistical categories, and the level of competition in each team’s era.
#1 Boston Celtics
Fooled you with that opening lead in, didn’t we? OK. Let us start with the obvious, the NBA’s most storied franchise, the Boston Celtics. Founded in 1946, the Celts have amassed 17 NBA Championships (the latest coming in 2008 against their hated rivals the Lakers), one more than their rivals the Los Angeles Lakers, since their inception. The argument over which team is the greatest of all time usually involves one or more of the teams that have lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The Celtics account for the most amount of wins in NBA history. Boston has won 21 Conference titles, 22 division titles, and has 23 retired jerseys in the rafters. There is not enough time in the day to list all of the Hall Of Fame players over the years that put on the green and white. Names such as Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havilicek, Larry Bird, Robert Parrish, and Kevin McHale, all have been crowned champion on numerous occasions.
Always with a cast of characters who could form their own All-Star team, each era the Celtics have produced some of the greatest talent in the world ever. Strong coaching and seemingly drafting or acquiring the right pieces to keep the team in contention almost every season, is a trademark of the Boston Celtics franchise, making them The Greatest Team In NBA History.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are the 2nd most winningest team of NBA championships (16), to the Boston Celtics. Los Angeles has faced the Celtics in 10 of those championship appearances. Perhaps if they did not have to face their rivals so often in the Finals, the Lakers franchise would own the NBA record for the most titles.
Born as the Minneapolis Lakers in 1947, the team won 5 titles before their big move to the city of Los Angeles in 1960.
Since their entry into the league, the Lakers have won multiple championships in every decade.
The numbers are staggering; 16 NBA Finals Championships, 31 Conference titles, 23 division titles, and 11 numbers that have been retired.
Names like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and the late Kobe Bryant, are the players that are associated most with the purple and gold.
By sheer numbers of titles, and the level of talent that the Hall of Fame players on those championship teams had, the Lakers franchise is the 2nd Greatest Team in NBA history.
#3 Chicago Bulls
Fans of Michael Jordan say that he was the greatest player of all time, and many of those people believe Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the 1990’s is the greatest team of all time.
Jordan led the Bulls to 6 NBA championships, 2 separate 3-peats, with Jordan retiring after the 3rd. Chicago has won 6 conference titles, and 9 division titles, but compared to the other teams on the list, 6 is a fairly low number.
What made the Bulls a necessary part of the conversation about the greatest teams of all time, was Jordan. With MJ leading the charge, one of the greatest single-season records of all time was held by the Bulls (72-10), which has since been bested by the Golden State Warriors in 2015.
Chicago never lost in the 6 NBA Finals that Jordan was the main attraction, and he won Finals MVP in each of those championship series wins.
#4 San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs came into existence in 1967. The Spurs franchise has won 5 NBA Finals championships, 6 Conference titles, 22 division titles, and 10 jersey numbers that hang in the rafters.
It was under the tutelage of Head Coach Gregg Popovich, that the Spurs won all of their rings. It was “Pop’s” way or the highway. Popovich had a system that worked with any of the pieces that he himself assembled and placed around his stars, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli.
Pop and ownership year after year seemed to either be in the Finals or in contention any time they were in the playoffs.
Strong coaching and disciplined stars who stick to the plan everytime on the court is the signature of the Spurs organization, placing them among the elite teams of all time in NBA history.
No “greatest of all time” list will satisfy the taste buds of every NBA fan, however, the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, and Spurs, have to be mentioned in the top 5. The Boston Celtics are the Greatest Team In NBA History, statistically, factually, and after using the eye-test. 17 titles, including having a player on their roster in Bill Russell, who had won 11 NBA championships easily settles the argument. Who knows, the direction of the NBA currently has the Lakers on pace to pass the Celtics for most championships, and perhaps in another decade, we will be talking about the Lakers as the greatest team of all time.