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Ranking the eight greatest dynasties in NBA history

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This offseason we have seen the Warriors dynasty get dismantled which had us thinking – where do they rank amongst the all-time greatest NBA dynasties?

First, what constitutes an NBA dynasty?

Dynasties are defined as a team that dominants their discipline for an extended time.

How will we rank the teams?

There are three factors that we will use to rank the eight greatest dynasties of all time:

  • Championships – all teams in the list have won multiple NBA championships
  • Longevity of dominance
  • Degree of difficulty

The requirements we have in place dictate that teams that only won one championship are instantly eliminated, therefore, favouring the most dominant teams in NBA history.

8) Miami Heat – 2010-2014

  • Championships: 2
  • Longevity: 4 Years
  • Degree of difficulty: Moderate

LeBron James is undeniably one of the greatest basketball players of all time if not the greatest. So when he took his talents to South Beach to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh creating a big three, the NBA shook.

The Heat struggled initially with team chemistry as they went 9-8 in their first 17 games, leading to a players-only meeting. This changed their fortunes as they finished their first season with a record of 58-24 earning the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The big three fell short and were beaten in the finals by a Dirk Nowitzki led Mavs.

The following season would see the Heat go one further winning the NBA championship after beating OKC 4-1 in the finals. The 2012-2013 season would see Miami go on to set multiple franchise records including the best record at 66-16. The Heat would make it to the NBA finals to face the San Antonio Spurs defeating them in seven games and LeBron earning back to back finals MVPs. Unfortunately, Miami couldn’t repeat this feat the following season as the Spurs seeked revenge beating the Heat 4-1 in the NBA finals.

LeBron would leave the Heat after this season vowing to go home and bring a championship to Cleveland. Miami tried to fill the huge void left by LeBron but was unable to, missing out on the playoffs after four consecutive Eastern Conference titles.


7) Golden State Warriors – 2015-2019

  • Championships: 3
  • Longevity: 5 years
  • Degree of difficulty: Moderate

The Warriors have dominated the NBA for the last 4 years since their first title win back in 2015. They set multiple records over these four-years such as:

  • Best NBA record of all time 73-9
  • The record amount of 3 pointers made by a duo, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson a combined total of 525
  • Best start to the season by any major American professional sports team – 24 wins

This Golden State team has changed the way basketball is played focusing their style of play around the three-point shot. The system that head coach, Steve Kerr, implemented maximised the potential of the players available to him. The 2015 title the Warriors won stands out as the most impressive as they won this pre-Kevin Durant, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games to win their first NBA Championship since 1975.

In the off-season of 201 Golden State acquired Kevin Durant through free agency giving the Warriors a starting line-up that would feature Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.

The following two seasons saw the Warriors win back to back championships defeating LeBron’s Cavaliers 4-1 and 4-0. The dominance that the Warriors displayed in this period rivals the greatest dynasties of all time and has changed the way that teams recruit and play the game of basketball.

Is the dynasty over?

The consensus around the NBA is the Warriors dynasty is over. Kevin Durant has moved to the east coast to join Kyrie and Klay Thompson will miss the season through injury. The Warriors will rely on a core of Steph Curry, D’Angelo Russell and Draymond Green to keep them at top of the NBA this season.

6) San Antonio Spurs – 2003-2007

  • Championships: 3
  • Longevity: 5 Years
  • Degree of difficulty: Moderate

The Spurs dynasty was built during the early years of the millennium, headed by the ‘Twin Towers’ of Tim Duncan and David Robinson with the latter retiring after helping the Spurs secure the 2003 NBA championship. San Antonio had already got adequate replacements amongst their ranks with a big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

One of the all-time greatest coaches Gregg Popovich set about bringing back the NBA championship to San Antonio.

The big three and ‘Pop’ achieved that in 2005, beating the Detroit Pistons in seven games. The next season would see the Spurs beaten in the second round at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. 2007 would see the Spurs win their final NBA title for seven years. The Spurs faced the Phoenix Suns in the second round, which many fans saw as the real NBA finals. San Antonio would beat the Suns 4-2 in the series and go on to easily dispatch the Utah Jazz in five and sweep the Cavs in the finals.

5) Boston Celtics – 1981-1986

  • Championships: 3
  • Longevity: 6 Years
  • Degree of difficulty: High

Alongside the dynasty of the ‘Showtime’ Lakers, Boston had built their own dynasty fronted by Larry Bird. The Celtics General Manager, Red Auerbach, created a big three featuring: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. This team would immediately win an NBA championship after going 62-20 in the regular season and defeating the Houston Rockets 4-2 in the finals.

The ‘80s became a back and forth battle between the Celtics and the Lakers who won a combined 8 championships in this decade. The first finals meeting between the two juggernauts came in 1984, with the Celtics winning in a tightly contested seven-game series. The next season threw up the same finals with the Lakers becoming the only team to win a championship at the Boston Garden.

The 1985-1986 season would see the Celtics dynasty win their final NBA championship with Larry Bird receiving the finals MVP. Unfortunately, the Celtics were not able to repeat the successes of the earlier half of the decade. Bird had increasing injury problems which left the Celtics without their star man and forced them to begin to rebuild at the beginning of the 1990s.

4) Los Angeles Lakers – 2000-2003 Shaq and Kobe

  • Championships: 3
  • Longevity: 4 Years
  • Degree of difficulty: Moderate

The big man, small man duo of Shaq and Kobe would become formidable in the early years of the new millennium. After four years together Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal took the Lakers to their first NBA finals since 1991, ultimately overcoming the Indiana Pacers in six games to give Los Angeles their first NBA title since 1988.

The following season the Lakers would be involved in one of the most controversial games in NBA history against the Kings. This would see the Lakers retain the NBA championship. The three-peat was complete after the Lakers beat Jason Kidd’s New Jersey Nets, which saw Shaq take home his third consecutive finals MVP title a feat only matched by Michael Jordan.

The Lakers dynasty fell apart during 2004 offseason as Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, Caron Butler and a first-round draft pick. Phil Jackson did not return as head coach, bringing the early 2000’s Lakers dynasty to an end.

3) Los Angeles Lakers – 1980-1988

  • Championships: 5
  • Longevity: 9 Years
  • Degree of difficulty: High

The Lakers drafted 6-foot 9-point guard Magic Johnson with the first pick of the 1979 draft, creating the ‘Showtime’ Lakers. Magic and Kareem Abdul Jabbar instantly gelled winning the NBA title in their first season together, with Johnson taking home the finals MVP. This duo would go on to dominate most of the 1980s.

Their dominance wasn’t without controversy though as in the 1981-1982 season Johnson complained to the media about head coach Paul Westhead. Lakers owner Jerry Buss subsequently fired Westhead and replaced him with Pat Riley. This proved very unpopular in the basketball community and Johnson was vilified both home and away. The Lakers would go on to win the 1982 championship despite this drama.

The ‘Showtime’ Lakers went without an NBA championship for two years losing to both the 76ers and the Celtics in the finals. Motivated by the heartache the Lakers dusted themselves off and became the first team to win the NBA championship at the Boston Gardens. The ‘Showtime’ Lakers would again defeat the Celtics finals in 1987 and repeated the feat in 1988 beating the Pistons in seven games courtesy of finals MVP James Worthy.

The dynasty officially ended when a 40-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired in 1989 although the Lakers still reached the finals in 1991, they were beaten by a Chicago Bulls team led by Michael Jordan. Sadly, Magic Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in 1991 immediately retiring from basketball.

2) Chicago Bulls – 1991-1998

  • Championships: 6
  • Longevity: 8
  • Degree of difficulty: High

The Chicago Bulls began building this dynasty when they drafted Michael Jordan with the third pick of the 1984 NBA draft.

It wasn’t until 1991 that Jordan was able to get his hands on the NBA championship. The 1991 season saw the Bulls create the perfect storm. Phil Jackson took over as head coach, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and John Paxson had been with the Bulls for a few years and had matured into elite level players allowing the Bulls to begin their period of dominance.

The Bulls completed a three-peat establishing themselves as one of the most dominant NBA teams of all-time. The dominance was cut short as the death of Michael Jordan’s father prompted him to retire from the NBA in 1993.

Jordan unretired and returned to the Bulls in 1995 but was unable to turn their fortunes around as they were beaten by an Orlando Magic team that featured Shaq, Horace Grant and Anfernee Hardaway.

The 1995 offseason saw Chicago trade for Dennis Rodman who had previously been a part of the ‘Bad Boy’ Detroit Piston’s. The trade for Rodman drastically changed the fortunes of the Bulls who would go on to complete another three-peat with Jordan, Pippen and Rodman as the big three. Over this period, they became the first team to win over 70 regular-season games finishing 72-10 in the 1995-1996 season.

The 1997-1998 and final championship win before the dynasty collapsed was filled with uncertainty.

The media speculated it was Jordan’s final season with the team, Phil Jackson and General Manager Jerry Krause had a falling out and Scottie Pippen was looking for a big payday. Despite this, the Bulls went 62-20 and were the number one seed in the East. Game six of the finals saw Michael Jordan’s most famous moment.

The Bulls were matched up against a Utah Jazz side lead by John Stockton and Karl Malone in the finals. With the Bulls down three, Jordan made a layup and stripped Karl Malone in the next possession, where he would drain a mid-range jumper with 5.2 seconds left on the clock to secure Chicago their sixth title.

1) Boston Celtics – 1957-1969

  • Championships: 11
  • Longevity: 13 Years
  • Degree of difficulty: High

The Boston Celtics 13 years of dominance began with Red Auerbach. He negotiated with Rochester Royals to ensure that Bill Russell slipped to number two in the 1956 NBA draft. This move began a 13 year period of total dominance for the Celtics.

The Celtics won the 1957 NBA title after defeating the St. Louis Hawks in seven games. The next season would see the Celtics make the NBA finals again but lose out to the Hawks in six games. Auerbach acquired K.C. Jones in the offseason of 1958 a move which would see Boston reign over the NBA, winning a record eight consecutive NBA championships spanning from 1959-1966. Of the eight finals Boston reached, they would beat the Minneapolis Lakers (now LA Lakers) in five, igniting the Celtics, Lakers rivalry.

The eight years of consecutive titles would come to an end as Auerbach retired as coach at the end of the 1966 season and was replaced by player-coach, Bill Russell. The Celtics would be beaten by the 76ers in the Eastern Conference finals in Russell’s first season as a player-coach. The ageing Celtics team managed to win the next two titles giving Russell and the Celtics 11 NBA championships in 13 years an unrivalled level of dominance seen in any sport. Bill Russell would retire at the end of the 1969 season bringing the Celtics dynasty to an end but cementing them as one of the world’s most iconic sports teams.

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