The ten most successful teams in NBA history makes for a fascinating list. On one hand, there may be a few that surprise you, while on the other, it is pretty clear that there is are guaranteed to be some big names on the list. Either way, the order goes as follows, ranked first to last: Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, the Houston Rockets, and the Atlanta Hawks.
The Los Angeles Lakers are the single most successful basketball team throughout the existence of the sport in the United States. The franchise was started in 1947, when the Detroit Gems were bought out and moved to Minnesota, where they changed their names to reflect their new state. After crushing all the local competitions, the Lakers, led by George Mikan, chose to relocate their operations to California, and moved to Los Angeles. In the 1960s alone, the Lakers would find themselves in the league finals six times, though each time lost to the Boston Celtics, which would lead to the famous and long-lasting rivalry between the two franchises and their fans. Finally, in 1972, the Lakers won their first championship at their new home in California.
Head Coach Bill Sharman would lead the Lakers from 1968 to 1976 and, in that time, chalk up mighty win rates overall. In 1996, the Lakers would acquire Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, both of whom would soon help lead the team to an incredible string of success under head coach Phil Jackson, who came on in 1999.
By the time Jackson would leave the Lakers in 2011, they would have won another five championships, and the Laker franchise would go down in history as the single most consistent and powerfully dominant teams in professional league basketball.
Founded in 1946, the Boston Celtics are tied with the Lakers for the position of best basketball team in the history of the NBA. Though their early years were plagued with inconsistency and struggles, the eventual hiring of Red Auerbach would lead to a situation in which the lead coach took complete control over the team, including drafting and scouting, even scheduling all the logistic work.
By 1957, the Celtics had a star team assembled and would defeat the St. Louis Hawks in 1957 to give Boston their first ever championship. However, while they would lose to the Hawks again the next year, the Celtics would soon embrace a massive win streak that would go on to form an intense rivalry with the California-based Los Angeles Lakers. Starting in 1959, the Celtics would beat the Lakers at their first ever match, and go on to win five out of the eight consecutive finals in which both teams were present.
By 1979, the Laker-Celtics rivalry was real and in force. The drafting of Larry Bird in 1978 and his first performance in 1980 would lead to a resounding shift in fortunes for the Celtics, and the Boston-based team would go on to beat the Lakers for an astounding 15th championship in 1984. By 1985, the Celtics were easily the best in the world, going a shocking 40-1 in their hometown and winning their last championship of the decade. It was not until the summer of 2007 that the Celtics arranged enough trades and new leadership to return to prominence with the Boston “Three” Party, which would then another title in 2008.
The Celtics could be placed higher than the Lakers, but for the sake of this list, the Lakers have reached more finals and have an additional total title, so it stands to reason that the Lakers have a statistically better record, and therefore place higher.
The Chicago Bulls truly rose to prominence when Michael Jordan was drafted in 1984, as a third pick in the NBA draft. Jordan would go on to win six championship titles for the Bulls, forever marking the franchise as one branded by the Jordan logo. Jordan destroyed record after record, leading the Bulls to victories again and again and even going so far as to have Larry Bird call him “God disguised as Michael Jordan”. This would be high praise coming from Bird, who is a man known for trash talk and aggressive demeanor on the court.
The Bulls would go onto to win the 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, and 1998 championships with Jordan paving the way. By 1999, the team had largely been disbanded due to administrative decisions by the management and the overall consensus was that the time of the Bulls dominance had come to an end. Though the Bulls would return to the playoffs in the 2004-2007 seasons, the Bulls would continue to be plagued with poor performance and injuries. However, Derrick Rose marks a powerful addition to the team that may be able to change its fortunes.
The Detroit Pistons were founded in 1941, and represent a successful team that has won championships in 1989, 1990, and 2004. The Pistons started achieving more substantial success in the 1980s and 90s with the “Bad Boys” era, which allowed the Pistons to begin drafting a team that could post well in the playoffs and championships. It was not until the loss to in Game 7 to the Celtics in 1987 that the Pistons would finally be spurred to win their first championship against their Boston rivals in 1989. They would win again in 1990, led by Chuck Daly, the coach of the Pistons during both of those years. The Pistons would not return to competition level until Larry Brown was brought on board. Brown led the team to a 2004 victory in the championship game against the Lakers.
Based out of Texas and formed in 1967, the Spurs have won four NBA championships, which puts them fourth in the total number of titles won by any franchise, behind the Celtics, Lakers, and Bulls. The Spurs are a team that consistently posts admirable results, making the playoffs every year since 1990 and have an incredibly high win percentage. The Spurs have the distinction of being a top tier team, capable of competition with the best, but usually failing at some point right before success. In this sense, the Spurs are still a great team, and do very well for themselves, and are surely championship material if they truly spur themselves to action.
Founded in 1946, the 76ers are a prominent team on the league scene, having won three NBA championships and placed in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the team has not done well since their last championship victory in 1983, and have only returned to the finals in 2001, largely due to the efforts of Allen Iverson. Despite their lack of competitive performance in recent years, the 76ers nonetheless represent a rich franchise that is able to put up a good effort many times and has the potential to revitalize itself as a top tier brand.
7. The Golden State Warriors are a team based out of Oakland, California. Formed in 1946, the Golden State Warriors are ranked fifth in overall titles, having won the 1956 finals and the 1975 ones as well. Sadly, the Golden State Warriors have suffered to injury-prone seasons in recent years and have largely failed to make a strong impact on the competitive scene overall. Still, the Golden State Warriors reached the sixth seed overall in the Western conference, having successfully beaten Denver in 2006. It seems that the Golden State Warriors have a future in the sense that they are now acquiring all-star players from other teams, like David Lee, and are beginning to assemble a strong class of players for future efforts.
The New York Knicks, sadly, have never won a championship. They have, however, reached the finals twice, once in 1994 and once in 1999. The team is based out of New York and was founded in 1946. Currently, the Knicks are aiming at rebuilding their team to allow for better competition with existing rivals.
The Houston Rockets were founded in 1967 and are based out of Houston, Texas. Sitting on a comfortable two championships in 1994 and 1995, the Rockets are, much like the Knicks, positioning themselves for a form of competitive rebuilding, in which the Rockets are aiming to provide themselves with sufficient quality players to make a bid for the playoffs. In 2013, the Rockets signed with super-star Dwight Howard, who plans to move to Houston and lead his new team toward success in the future.
10. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks have one championship under their belt, which dates back to 1958. This team, sadly, has not advanced beyond round two of the playoffs in over four decades, and their last attempt at the championship ended in complete failure. However, in recent years, the Hawks have drafted several good players which enabled them to push themselves to reach the Eastern Conference playoffs for five seasons in a row.