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10 Greatest NBA Dynasties Of All-Time

2018 NBA Finals - Game Four
Where does the current Warriors' dynasty rank on this list?
Yash Matange

What is a dynasty?

Fortunately, this isn't a term that is restricted only to basketball or the NBA. In sports, a dynasty is a team that dominates the competition over an extended period of time. And given that the 2017-18 season is the NBA's 71st year, it's safe to say that the league has seen plenty.

Now to rank them in a Top 10 there would have to be parameters placed. So here are the factors based on which these dynasties have been ranked:

a) Championships - A team has got to win at least one championship to be on this list. The number of championships is the primary elimination factor.

b) Some level of continuity on the roster.

c) Period and time span of dominance.

These parameters obviously remove the non-title winning dynasties. The ones that clinched just one title, ala the 2007-08 Boston Celtics or the Detroit Pistons of the mid-2000's, can't make it to this list, given that there are already 10 dynasties that have clinched more than one. So let's get right to it:

#10 Houston Rockets - (1993-95)

Hakeem Olajuwon and Cylde Drexler
Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler

Championships - 2 (1994, 95)

Like almost every championship-winning team the league has witnessed, the Houston Rockets were built around the talents of their superstar - Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon. Although he had a roster well tailored to suit his talents, numerous times Olajuwon single-handedly carried the Rockets to wins not only in the regular season but also when it mattered the most - in the Playoffs.

Houston basically surrounded Olajuwon with shooters who could play moderate defense. Kenny Smith (joined the team in 1991), Vernon Maxwell (joined the team in 1989), Robert Horry (drafted by the team in 1992), Mario Elie (joined the team in 1993) and Otis Thrope (joined the team in 1988) were key role players in the Rockets' first championship in 1994. In the second year, the franchise traded for superstar Clyde Drexler in exchange for Thorpe, another player, and a future first-round pick.

This team was well constructed, well balanced but and might have been slightly lucky, considering the fact that both their championships came during the break Michael Jordan took in the mid-1990's.

What puts them right at the bottom?

They might have been slightly lucky, considering the fact that both their championships were clinched when Michael Jordan took a break from basketball in the mid-1990's. Also, their dominance of the competition was only in the first year. In the second season of their back-to-back championships, they really had to dig deep and fight hard to win it all.

#9 Miami Heat (2010-14)

2012 Miami Heat Media Day

Championships - 2 (2012, 13)

So how this team came about might be very controversial and that might have resulted in them being the most scrutinized team in league history. Either way, what they achieved cannot be put aside or ignored because the players exercised what's within their rights.

Over a four year stretch, led by their Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat from 2010 to 2014 made it four straight NBA Finals. Of those four Finals trips, they clinched back-to-back titles in 2012 and 13 by defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs respectively.

While the three superstars were the key to the dynasty, they wouldn't have been competitive without some of their role players - Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller and Chris Anderson being the most notable.

The team was a spectacle as they sold out every road arena they were slated to play in. Once the stars got used to playing with each other, they were really unstoppable. They showcased that when they won 27 games in a row in 2013. It's a pity the way it ended but the grind of four consecutive Playoffs eventually got to them.

They rank seventh because of their conversion rate in the Finals. Two out of four is far too less and one was clinched because Ray Allen knocked down one of the most clutch shots in NBA history.

So despite all of their greatness, they are still just 9th because, at the end of the day, they won only two championships. Nobody is saying that's easy but we had to nitpick when comparing great teams. In addition, their greatest team accomplishment - 4 straight NBA Finals - was made in a fairly easier Eastern Conference as compared to East the next team on this list had to face.

Championships - 2 (2015, 17)

When this list is re-evaluated in a few years, these current Golden State Warriors are bound to be far higher on the list. A majority of the success this franchise has tasted these past couple of years has been because of the ownership change back in 2010.

That change led to a change in the front office and which eventually resulted in more sound roster decisions. e.g: Picking Stephen Curry ahead of Monta Ellis as the franchise's cornerstone and building through the Drafts (Klay Thompson and Draymond Green). And that resulted in them being able to sign Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016.

In terms of dominance, their numerous records speak for themselves - 73 regular season wins, largest point differential for a season, 16-1 Playoff record en route to a championship.

Again, they rank at #9 right now because of their comparatively shorter period of dominance (championship contending years) and the number of championships.

#8 Detroit Pistons - (late 1990's)

The Bad Boys Pistons (Image courtesy: nba.com)
The Bad Boys Pistons (Image courtesy: nba.com)

Championships - 2 (1989, 90)

So although these Pistons from the late 1990's have won just as many championships as the two prior teams, they rank ahead because their identity as a team was fixed. From 1986 to 1991, they reached at least the Eastern Conference Finals each year.

The team relied heavily on their versatile physical defense, considered throughout the league to be far too physical. The defense was led by the Pistons' frontcourt of Dennis Rodman, Bill Lambier, and Rick Mahorn. Meanwhile, their offense was mostly taken care off by the perimeter players in Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Mark Aguire and Adrian Dantley. An underrated important role player for both the championship winning teams was reserve Vinnie Johnson.

Other than winning just two championships, their lack of converting chances also ranks them at the 8th spot. They reached the Conference Finals in 1987 but came short against a great aging Celtics team. In 1988, they won their first Eastern Conference title but couldn't win against the Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals. Largely due to an injury to Thomas in a crucial Game 6.

And in 1991, in what meant the end of their dynasty, they came up short in dramatic fashion to the Chicago Bulls, who they had beaten all three times en route to their three straight Finals trips (1988-90).

#7 Golden State Warriors (2014- Present)

2018 NBA Finals - Game Four
The Golden State Warriors celebrate their second consecutive title (2018), and third in the last 4 years.

Championships - 2 (2015, 17)

When this list is re-evaluated in a few years, these current Golden State Warriors are bound to be far higher on the list. A majority of the success this franchise has tasted this past couple of years has been because of the ownership change back in 2010.

That change led to a change in the front office and which eventually resulted in more sound roster decisions. e.g: Picking Stephen Curry ahead of Monta Ellis as the franchise's cornerstone and building through the NBA Draft (Klay Thompson and Draymond Green). And that resulted in them being able to sign Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016.

In terms of dominance, their numerous records speak for themselves - 73 regular season wins in 2015-16, largest point differential for a season, 16-1 Playoff record en route to a championship in 2017 and sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals.

Winning three in four years, the Warriors have cemented themselves as a Dynasty in NBA history, one that is certainly not reached its ceiling yet.

#6 Los Angeles Lakers - (Early 2000's)

Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant - the pillars of the Lakers' three consecutive championships teams from 2000 to 2002
Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant - the pillars of the Lakers' three consecutive championships teams from 2000 to 2002 (Image courtesy: si.com)

Championships - 3 (2000, 01, 02)

The Los Angeles Lakers of the early 2000's are the last team to have three-peated, a testament to how difficult it is to do so. Led by the superstar duo of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, the Lakers won three consecutive titles from 2000 to 2002 and even reached the 2004 Finals but failed to convert that chance into a championship.

It took four years and Phil Jackson to get this duo and their numerous role players to a championship but once it happened, they didn't stop at one. Shaq and Kobe were supported by the likes of Horry (joined the team in 1997), Rick Fox (joined the team in 1997), Derek Fisher (drafted by the team in 1996).

The team looked unstoppable come Playoff time but a rift between the two superstars tore the team apart and eventually drove Shaq out of town. Who knows how many more he and Kobe could have won if they had just settled their differences? It is surely one of the greatest What If's of the century.

If they were so great, why do they rank 6th?

Well, for starters, they have won just three titles so they aren't even the greatest Lakers' dynasty. Teams yet to come on this list have won more or have been more dominant and consistent than these guys.

#5 Boston Celtics (1980's)

Left to right: Robert Parish, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale
Left to right: Robert Parish, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale

Championships - 3 (1981, 84, 86)

The 1986 Boston Celtics are in the conversion for one of the greatest single-season teams of all-time. That combined with the franchise's dominance in the early 1980's pretty much sealed the team's spot on this list. They relied on the superstar duo of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale but even without them, the team had one of the best supporting casts ever in Robert Parish, Danny Ainge, Dennis Johnson, Cedric Maxwell and Bill Walton (1985-87).

They battled a tough Eastern Conference in the early 1980's and reached the Finals five times in seven years including four straight from 1984 to 1987. For three straight years from 1984-86, the MVP Award (Bird) and Sixth Man of the Year Award (Kevin McHale twice and Bill Walton once) belonged to the Celtics.

Now, why are the 5th?

Only three championships and a dynasty that lasted seven years. Nothing wrong with that except the fact that teams higher on this list have achieved and won more over a slightly longer period of time.

#4 San Antonio Spurs (1997 - Present)

Dallas Mavericks v San Antonio Spurs, Game 3
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili

Championships - 5 (1999, 2003, 05, 07, 14)

The San Antonio Spurs might never be number one given their slightly late rise to dominance but once they did but at some point in the future they could be higher on this list. They might not have a championship every year but they have been legit title contenders every year since the Gregg Popovich-Tim Duncan era began.

The Spurs have made it to every Playoffs since Duncan was drafted in 1997. The greatness of this organization or dynasty is that it's showing no signs of slowing down or being irrelevant. Just take this season for example, even without their best player Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio went 19-8 through 27 games.

And going by how Pop has set up everything in the franchise, by empowering the players and the coaching staff around him, there might even be a smooth transition once he retires.

They probably would have been higher if they won more championships. Right now, they managed to win five titles in 20 years. Five is not bad but when dynasties are ranked, teams need to have a good conversion rate and although it's commendable that the Spurs have been able to stay relevant and dominant so long, they have still only five trophies to show for.

#3 Showtime Lakers (1980's)

Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Championships - (1980, 82, 85, 87, 88)

The 1980's, the decade that saved the NBA, is often known as the decade that was dominated by the Celtics and the Lakers but that might not be completely true. While the Celtics-Lakers rivalry might have dominated the storylines, it was the purple and gold franchise that really ruled the league in the 1980's. They won five championships from 1980 to 1990, by making seven out of a possible 10 Finals in the decade.

In comparison, the Celtics only made five Finals.

The Lakers had a star-studded roster heralded by Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy (later part of the dynasty). And of course, like any other dynasty, this one too had an impeccable group of reserves - A.C. Green, Mychal Thompson, Byron Scott, Michael Cooper, Bob McAdoo, Jamaal Wilkes and Kurt Rambis.

The dynasty eventually came to an end with its superstars. Kareem retired in 1989, but still Magic carried the Lakers to the 1991 Finals and they came up short against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. They are ranked as high as possible as the team above them on this list are just far more superior in terms of success achieved.

#2 Chicago Bulls (1990's)

Michael Jordana and Scottie Pippen
Michael Jordana and Scottie Pippen

Championships - 6 (1991, 92, 93, 96, 97, 98)

No other team has gone 6-0 in the Finals during their dynastic reign. The Chicago Bulls have made only six Finals in franchise history, all in the 1990's, but they are 6-0 in those appearances. A huge reason for that was having "arguably the greatest player ever" Michael Jordan. Some might mention Scottie Pippen as well but there were times in the 1997 and 1998 Playoffs when Jordan was single-handedly carrying the team.

That said, there is no doubt, Pippen was the clear second superstar and that he played a huge role in the team's success.

Without undermining their contributions, it's important to point out that Jordan and Pippen had a lot of help. They played in the expansion era, had one of the best coaches (Phil Jackson) even at that time and had a front office that was forward thinking (getting Tony Kukoc from Europe who he played a huge role in the second three-peat from 1996 to 1998) and provided the team with what it needed.

This dynasty dominated the 1990's, preventing a lot of great players from winning a championship - Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller and many more. The Bulls dynasty from the 1990's could have easily been the greatest but it's difficult to argue against 11 titles.

#1 Boston Celtics (mid-1950's to late 1960's)

Boston Celtics won 11 championships in 13 years.
Boston Celtics won 11 championships in 13 years.

Championships - 11 (1957, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 68, 69)

Easily the greatest dynasty of all-time.

At one point, the Boston Celtics won 11 championships in 13 years, including eight straight from 1959 to 1966. Six of their eleven titles came at the expense of the Los Angeles Lakers. Of course, the number of teams, and to some extent, even the competition might have lesser than it is right now but it still requires a lot of mental fortitude and competitive drive to keep winning like these Celtics have.

At the center of this dynasty were Red Auerbach (head coach) and his jewel find Bill Russell. In fact, for the last two championships in 1968 and 1969, Russell was both a player and the coach. Jordan might always be the "greatest player of all-time" but Russell is often regarded as the greatest champion of all-time".

No dynasty has and will never come close to achieving what the Celtics of the 1960's did.

Edited by Yash Matange

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