The Water Cooler

Warriors among the Greatest Teams Ever?

With two more wins over the Cavs, the Golden State Warriors would become the 9th team since the merger to win back-to-back NBA titles. Back-to-Back Championships are not something to be taken lightly. Only the greatest teams ever do it. The Spurs, though widely regarded for the last 15 years as the gold standard of what an NBA franchise should be, have never won back-to-back titles. Bird’s Celtics are regarded as one of the greatest teams ever and they never won back-to-back titles. Three teams since the merger have gone back-to-back-to-back. Obviously, I put three-timers at the top of my rankings. Should the Warriors finish off the Cavs this year and come back to win a third straight title next year, I have every expectation that based on their wins record, they would vault themselves to #1 or #2 on my list. Until then, they have some work to do. Here is a list of repeat champions since the merger and where the greatest teams rank.

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

#9 2009-2010 The Kobe Los Angeles Lakers

Key Players: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum

Regular Season Records: 57-25, 65-17

Playoff Records: 16-7, 16-7

Notable wins on the way to titles:

  • Game 7 Finals win over the 50-win Garnett-Pierce-Allen-Rondo Celtics
  • Win over 54-win Suns team led by Nash and Stoudemire
  • Two series wins over 53 and 48-win Jazz teams led by Williams and Boozer
  • 4-1 Finals win over 59-win Magic team led by Dwight Howard
  • West Finals win over 54-win Nuggets team led by Iverson and Melo
  • Game 7 win over the McGrady and Ming 53-win Rockets

Summary: The least impressive resume of all of the repeat winners, but back-to-back is always impressive. When you are beating a 54-win team in the West Finals and a 50-win team in the Finals, it may be a sign that the competition in those years was not great.

Heat Big 5#8 2012-2013 The “Big 3” Miami Heat

Key Players: Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis

Regular Season Records: 66-16, 46-20 (Lockout-shortened season)

Playoff Records: 16-7, 16-7

Notable wins on the way to titles:

  • Game 7 win over a 58-win Duncan-Parker-Ginobili-led Spurs team
  • Game 7 win over the 49-win Pacers team led by Paul George and David West
  • 4-1 Finals win over a 47-19 Durant and Westbrook-led Thunder team
  • Game 7 win over a 39-27 “Big 3” Celtics team.

Summary: Beating only 50+ win team in a two year stretch isn’t all that impressive. In the lock-out shortened year, that was some ugly basketball and the Cavs beat a 47-19 Thunder team that had a winning percentage that would have put them just under 50 wins in an 82 game season. That means the Finals in that lock-out year was played by two teams on pace to win less than 50 games. To put that in perspective the NBA had 6 50-win team this year and 10 last year.

Clutch City Rockets#7 1994-1995 The “Clutch-City” Houston Rockets

Key Players: Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Kenny Smith, Robert Horry

Regular Season Records: 58-24, 47-35

Playoff Records: 15-7, 15-8

Notable wins on the way to titles:

  • Finals sweep over 57-win Magic team led by Shaq and Hardaway
  • 4-2 West Finals win over a 62-20 Spurs team led by MVP David Robinson
  • Two Game 7 wins over 59-win and 56-win Suns teams led by Charles Barkley
  • 4-1 West Finals win over Stockton-and-Malone-led 53-win Jazz team
  • Game 7 Finals win over 57-win Knicks team led by Patrick Ewing.

Summary: These Rockets were the first team I remember that didn’t seem to care about Playoff seeding and rested their players to make sure they were ready for the Playoffs. As a 6th seed in their second title run, they had a tough road through Barkley, Malone and Stockton, Robinson, and Shaq. Very impressive.

badboys
#6 1989-1990 The “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons

Key Players: Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, John Sally, Bill Laimbeer

Regular Season Records: 63-19, 59-23

Playoff Records: 15-2, 15-5

Notable wins on way to titles:

  • Finals sweep over 57-win Magic-led Lakers team
  • 4-2 East Finals win over a 47-win hungry Jordan’s Bulls team
  • Game 7 East Finals win over a 55-win Bulls team
  • 4-1 Finals win over a 59-win Blazers team led by Clyde Drexler

Summary: The Pistons dominated with defense and physical play and had to beat Magic’s Lakers, Drexler’s Blazers, and Michael’s Bulls to do it. Their 7 combined Playoff losses in two title runs gives the Pistons the highest Playoff winning percentage of all repeat winners. Not bad.

Lakers season_1986_1987#5 1987-1988 The “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers

Key Players: Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, A.C. Green, Michael Thompson, Byron Scott, Kurt Rambus

Regular Season Records: 65-17, 62-20

Playoff Records: 15-3, 15-9

Notable wins on way to titles:

  • 4-2 Finals win over Bird’s 59-win Celtics
  • Game 7 win in the Finals over Isiah’s 54-win Bad Boy Pistons
  • Game 7 win in the West Finals over 53-win Mavs led by Mark Aguirre
  • Game 7 win in West Semis over 47-win Jazz team led by young Stockton and Malone

Summary: For how much love these Showtime Lakers get historically, the numbers don’t back it up. The Lakers were pushed to the brink consistently, even by less than stellar competition and beat only three 50+ win teams in two title runs. Their 9 losses in the 1988 Playoffs are the most in any run by a repeat champ.

Warriors#4 2015-2016 The “Splash Brother” Golden State Warriors*

Key Players: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes

Regular Season Records: 73-9, 67-15

Playoff Records: 16-5, 16-6(?)*

Notable wins on the way to titles:

  • 4-2 Finals win over 53-win Cavs led by Lebron
  • 4-2 West Finals win over 56-win Rockets led by James Harden
  • 4-2 West Semis win over 54-win Grizzlies team led by Marc Gasol
  • Game 7 West Finals win over 55-win Thunder team led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
  • Finals win over 57-win Cavs led by Lebron James?

Summary: The Warriors can only play who is in front of them and they have missed playing the Spurs in both title runs. Their 7 Game win over a very tough Thunder team in the West Finals this year was their stiffest test and they came back from a 3-1 deficit to win that. The strength of their regular seasons land them this high, despite a relatively soft Playoff resume.

*Pending repeat title over Cavs

3-peat-bulls-prints#3 1991, 1992, 1993 The “Young MJ” Chicago Bulls

Key Players: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, John Paxton, Bill Cartwright

Regular Season Records:  65-15, 61-21, 57-25,

Playoff Records: 15-2, 15-4, 15-7

Notable wins on the way to titles:

  • East Finals sweep over 50-win, two-time defending champion Detroit Pistons
  • 4-2 Finals win over 58-win Lakers team led by Magic Johnson
  • 4-1 Finals win over 57-win Trailblazers team led by Clyde Drexler
  • 4-2 East Finals win over 57-win Cavs team led by Price and Daugherty
  • Game 7 win over 52-win Knicks team led by Patrick Ewing
  • 4-2 Finals win over 62-win Suns team led by Charles Barkley
  • 4-2 East Finals win over 60-win Knicks team led by Patrick Ewing
  • East Semis sweep over 54-win Cavs team led by Price and Daugherty

Summary: It’s pretty impressive that in three title runs the Bulls were taken to a Game 7 only once. These Bulls were still figuring things out and were not quite as dominant as the 2nd Three-Peaters or the Shaq and Kobe Lakers, but an amazing team nonetheless.

shaquille-oneal-kobe-bryant.vresize.1200.675.high.46#2 2000, 2001, 2002 The “Shaq and Kobe” Los Angeles Lakers

Key Players: Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Ron Harper, Derek Fisher, Glen Rice

Regular Season Records: 67-15, 58-24, 56-26

Playoff Records: 15-1, 15-4, 15-8

Notable wins on the way to titles:

  • Finals sweep over 52-win Nets team led by Jason Kidd
  • 4-1 Finals win over 56-win 76ers team led by Allen Iverson
  • 4-2 Finals win over 56-win Pacers team led by Reggie Miller
  • Game 7 West Finals win over 61-win Kings team led by Chris Webber
  • 4-1 West Semis win over 58-win Spurs led by Tim Duncan
  • West Finals sweep over 58-win Spurs led by Tim Duncan
  • West Semis sweep over 55-win Kings team led by Chris Webber
  • Game 7 West Finals win over 59-win Trailblazers team led by Clyde Drexler
  • 4-1 West Semis win over 53-win Suns team led by Charles Barkley

Summary: Aside from Jordan’s Bulls, there has not been any more dominant of a team than this one. One of only two teams to lose only one game in a Playoff run and the only repeat champ to do so. The Finals match-ups were less than stellar, but to get there the Lakers held off some really good Kings and Spurs teams in multiple years. If only Shaq and Kobe had gotten along, this team could have been the only team to win four in a row.

Bulls_96#1 1996, 1997, 1998 The “Old MJ” Chicago Bulls

Key Players: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Ron Harper, Toni Kukoc, Steve Kerr

Regular Season Records: 72-10, 69-13, 62-20

Playoff Records: 15-3, 15-4, 15-6

Notable wins on the way to titles:

  • 4-2 Finals win over 64-win Supersonics team led by Payton and Kemp
  • 4-2 Finals win over 64-win Jazz team led by Stockton and Malone
  • 4-2 Finals win over 62-win Jazz team led by Stockton and Malone
  • Game 7 win over 58-win Pacers team led by Reggie Miller
  • 4-1 East Finals win over 61-win Heat team led by Hardaway and Mourning
  • 4-1 East Semis win over 56-win Hawks team Smith, Blaylock, and Mutombo
  • 4-0 East Finals sweep over 60-win Magic team led by Shaq and Penny
  • Game 7 East Semis win over 51-win Knicks team led by Patrick Ewing

Summary: This team beat more 60-win teams on the way to championships than any other team, beating five in all. The combination of regular season dominance and Playoff competition gives these Bulls the top spot for all repeat champs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *