SLAM’s TOP 75 NBA Teams of All Time: No. 21-11
This is where things start to get realer than real. This week, SLAM is unveiling our TOP 75 NBA Teams of All Time list that ran in our special issue, SLAM Presents TOP 75 NBA Teams of All Time. It wasn’t an easy list to make, but one thing’s for sure about all of these teams: they dominated in their own way.
Here’s our No. 21-11:
21. 2015-16 Golden State Warriors
Coach: Steve Kerr (Luke Walton, Interim Head Coach)
Roster: Leandro Barbosa, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Ian Clark, Stephen Curry, Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Kevon Looney, James Michael McAdoo, Brandon Rush, Marreese Speights, Jason Thompson, Klay Thompson, Anderson Varejao
Never before in NBA history had a team finished the regular season with a single digit in the loss column. When these Dubs did it, fresh off the first of what seemed sure to be three or five or 10 titles with the Curry-Thompson-Green core, a championship seemed like almost a formality—and even more so when they took a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead in the Finals. Only then it was Cleveland’s turn to make history.
20. 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers
Roster: Jared Cunningham, Matthew Dellavedova, Channing Frye, Joe Harris, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Richard Jefferson, Dahntay Jones, James Jones, Sasha Kaun, Kevin Love, Jordan McRae, Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Mo Williams
There would be no shame in a second straight Finals loss to the mighty Warriors—no shame for LeBron, Kyrie and Kevin in falling short against the historically elite Dubs. There would be disappointment, sure, that the title LeBron came back to Cleveland to win, as part of arguably the most talented team in Cavs history, simply wasn’t meant to be. But this was Cleveland. They were used to disappointment. They weren’t used to making history. Until they did.
19. 1991-92 Chicago Bulls
Coach: Phil Jackson
Roster: BJ Armstrong, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, Bob Hansen, Craig Hodges, Dennis Hopson, Michael Jordan, Stacey King, Cliff Levingston, Chuck Nevitt, John Paxson, Will Perdue, Scottie Pippen, Mark Randall, Rory Sparrow, Scott Williams
One title, against an aging Lakers team, did not make a dynasty, and so the Bulls came into the ’91-92 season motivated for more. Those 67 regular-season wins were a statement, as was another MVP award for Michael Jordan (30.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 6.1 apg). But as ever, the playoffs were where it mattered, and Chicago needed to survive a seven-game series with the Knicks en route to the Finals. Once there, a hungry and talented Portland team promised to make the Bulls earn it. And so they did.
18. 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs
Coach: Gregg Popovich
Roster: Jeff Ayres, Aron Baynes, Marco Belinelli, Matt Bonner, Shannon Brown, Austin Daye, Nando De Colo, Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Damion James, Othyus Jeffers, Cory Joseph, Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter, Malcolm Thomas
The whole thing with the Spurs’ post-millennial dominance was that it was Duncan, Parker and Ginobili, and then whatever spare parts Coach Pop managed to perfectly align around them. It wasn’t supposed to be like this: A 22-year-old, third-year forward who averaged 12.8 ppg in the regular season emerging as the most impactful player in the entire postseason, including a Finals MVP performance in a five-game humbling of the Heat. This Kawhi Leonard guy might be pretty good.
17. 1997-98 Chicago Bulls
Coach: Phil Jackson
Roster: Keith Booth, Randy Brown, Jud Buechler, Scott Burrell, Jason Caffey, Ron Harper, Michael Jordan, Steve Kerr, Joe Kleine, Toni Kukoc, Rusty LaRue, Luc Longley, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Dickey Simpkins, David Vaughn, Bill Wennington
The Bulls kept the gang together for the “Last Dance,” and the result was a sixth title in eight years. There was plenty of tension and pressure. As usual, Michael Jordan was a hard-driving, big-scoring winner, while Scottie Pippen rode shotgun. Toni Kukoc did a bit of everything, and Dennis Rodman pounded the boards. Chicago survived a seven-game thriller with Indiana to reach the Finals, then dispatched Utah in six to end it all in style.
16. 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers
Coach: Alex Hannum
Roster: Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Costello, Billy Cunningham, Dave Gambee, Hal Greer, Matt Guokas, Luke Jackson, Wali Jones, Bill Melchionni, Chet Walker, Bob Weiss
After years of dominating the scorebook but not the winner’s circle, Wilt Chamberlain finally won a title. He did it by playing great defense, grabbing nearly every rebound and, amazingly, passing. He had plenty of targets. Hal Greer, Chet Walker, Billy Cunningham and Wali Jones were dangerous scorers, and few were tougher inside than Luke Jackson.
The Sixers whipped the Celtics in five to reach the Finals and then stopped the Warriors to give The Big Dipper a championship.
15. 1984-85 Los Angeles Lakers
Coach: Pat Riley
Roster: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper, Magic Johnson, Earl Jones, Mitch Kupchak, Ronnie Lester, Bob McAdoo, Mike McGee, Chuck Nevitt, Kurt Rambis, Byron Scott, Larry Spriggs, Jamaal Wilkes, James Worthy
The Lakers had lost in two straight Finals but ’84-85 would be different. L.A. trampled all Western Conference competition and was led again by maestro Magic Johnson. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still a force in the paint, while James Worthy, Byron Scott and Michael Cooper were a formidable supporting cast. After L.A. lost by 34 in the Finals opener, Abdul-Jabbar took over and was MVP of the Lakers’ first-ever championship win over Boston.
14. 1988-89 Detroit Pistons
Coach: Chuck Daly
Roster: Mark Aguirre, Adrian Dantley, Darryl Dawkins, Fennis Dembo, Joe Dumars, James Edwards, Steve Harris, Vinnie Johnson, Bill Laimbeer, John Long, Rick Mahorn, Pace Mannion, Dennis Rodman, Jim Rowinski, John Salley, Isiah Thomas, Micheal Williams
The Pistons won a title with a team as tough as their town. The Bad Boys were physical, to be sure, but they had plenty of talent. Isiah Thomas teamed with Joe Dumars in a lethal backcourt, with Vinnie Johnson providing heat off the bench. Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer handled the rough stuff, and the mid-season trade for Mark Aguirre brought it all together. Detroit ended the Showtime era by sweeping the Lakers in the Finals.
13. 2017-18 Golden State Warriors
Coach: Steve Kerr
Roster: Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher, Omri Casspi, Quinn Cook, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Damian Jones, Shaun Livingston, Kevon Looney, Patrick McCaw, JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Klay Thompson, David West, Nick Young
For the Dubs, regular-season records had long since been rendered meaningless. This was about trophies, and the last of Golden State’s trio of titles ended up being its most conclusive. KD and Steph both missed chunks of the season but still functioned as the League’s most reliable cheat code when it mattered, and after a seven-game scare from Houston in the West Finals, the Warriors swept a depleted Cavs squad for the championship.
12. 1996-97 Chicago Bulls
Coach: Phil Jackson
Roster: Randy Brown, Jud Buechler, Jason Caffey, Bison Dele, Ron Harper, Michael Jordan, Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, Luc Longley, Robert Parish, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Dickey Simpkins, Matt Steigenga, Bill Wennington
By now, it was only a question of how long they could keep it going. A year after that 72-win campaign, the Bulls started the ’96-97 season with 12 straight victories and had five winning streaks of seven games or more. The machine just kept humming right up until the Finals, and then, there was a moment in Game 6 when it looked like the Jazz might force a Game 7. But they didn’t, because against these Bulls, nobody ever did.
11. 1964-65 Boston Celtics
Coach: Red Auerbach
Roster: Ron Bonham, Mel Counts, John Havlicek, Tom Heinsohn, KC Jones, Sam Jones, Willie Naulls, Bevo Nordmann, Bill Russell, Tom Sanders, Larry Siegfried, John Thompson, Gerry Ward
The best team of Boston’s ’60s dynasty? It’s at least in the conversation. Six Celtics averaged double figures, led by Sam Jones’ 25.9 ppg. It was the last of Bill Russell’s five MVP seasons, and the last of Tommy Heinsohn’s Hall of Fame career. The defining moment, thanks to a legendary call by Johnny Most, came against Philly in Game 7 of the East Finals: “Havlicek stole the ball!” A 4-1 dispatching of the Lakers in the Finals was almost anticlimactic.