NBA
May 20, 2020
BY Joey Pisciotti

The 5 Greatest NBA Teams Ever, Ranked

Picking the greatest NBA team ever is no small task. 

What should really be considered when discussing where some of the greatest dynasties rank all time? 

NBA Titles? MVPs? Scoring? Chemistry? Defense? Shooting? Hall of Famers? Winning streaks?

All of those factors play into deciding our five greatest teams in the history of the league. 

There are plenty of teams who could reasonably stake a claim as the best team ever. 

There's Larry Bird's 1985 Boston Celtics, Magic Johnson's 1986 Lakers, the Bad Boys Pistons of the 80s, Michael Jordan's '95 Bulls and — most recently — the Stephen Curry's 2016 Warriors. 

Not to mention, LeBron James' Heat teams or Bill Russell's Celtics. That's how stacked our top five is. 

We are about to take a deep dive into the world of NBA history.

So pull up your short shorts, high socks and high-top Converse because we're about to take a deep dive into the history of the NBA.

Here are the five greatest NBA teams ever. 

READ: Michael Jordan's 10 Greatest Games of All Time

Honorable Mentions:

Remember, Wilt Chamberlain?

The 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers won 68 and were crowned the NBA Champions. It's an impressive feat, sure, but that 68-win season wasn't enough to break our top five.

Did somebody call a doctor?

Unfortunately, that 6-foot-7 UMass product can’t help us in today's world, but he certainly helped the 1982-1983 Sixers ink their spot in this conversation. Thats because 32-year-old Julius Erving finally broke the curse and won his first NBA championship. Dr. J certainly was not alone.

With Maurice Cheeks running the point, Moses Malone ripping down every rebound in sight, and Andrew Toney helping on the offensive end, the Sixers cakewalked through the entire postseason. In the end, they swept the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to win the NBA Title.

That's right. SWEPT. But this squad still does not make the cut.

Standing at 6-foot-10, Bill Russell averaged 15.1 PPG, 22.5 boards and 4.3 assists. While dominating the league statistically, Russell won five MVP awards, 11 championships and was elected into the Hall of Fame. He didn't do it by himself, either. 

With Sam Jones and John Havlicek beside him, the Celtics capped off a 62-win season by defeating Jerry West’s Lakers in the NBA Finals. Therefore, the 1964-1965 Boston Celtics earn an honorable mention but do not make the cut.

LeBron James or Michael Jordan? We'll save that conversation for another time. For now, let’s throw the self-proclaimed King into the mix. 

Despite the meteoric expectations from the "Heatles," the trio never did reach their full potential.

Still, the group of James, Wade, Bosh, Shane Battier and Ray Allen will never be forgotten. Therefore, the 2013 NBA Champion Miami Heat warrant mention but not glory..

Kenny Smith might believe that his 1994-1995 Houston Rockets would have beat Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls for the NBA Title that season, but he's wrong. 

Although this statement is delusional, Smith’s Rockets do deserve a mention here. Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Vernon Maxwell, Robert Horry, Sam Cassell and Smith. That's a stacked squad, but not enough to make our list. 

5. 1986-1987 LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Photo: Getty Images / Lines.com Illustration

Following a 62-win season without an NBA championship, the star-studded Lakers broke through the following year. The historic Celtics-Lakers matchup once again proved to be a doozy. After a 65-win regular season, the 1986-1987 Lakers hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The Lakers finished with a 15-3 postseason record, and defeated their hated rivals in six games. The Lakeshow also finished the regular season with a +9.3-point differential, and upped that to a +12.9-point postseason-point differential.

Not too shabby, huh? That team has forever inked themselves in history books, and has earned the No. 5 spot on our ranking.

4. 1988-1989 DETROIT PISTONS

Photo: Getty Images / Lines.com Illustration
“Bad boys, bad boys. Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” 

One simple word that will forever describe this squad: Physicality. These Bad Boys Pistons are the most-hated team in NBA history because of their brute-force playing style. Featuring Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, this was not a team you wanted to mess with. Michael Jordan might still have some bruises from his legendary battles with these guys.

Defense wins championships was a term that came to fruition with this squad. Chuck Daly implemented the “Jordan Rules," which meant if anyone on the Bulls is going to beat Detroit, it won’t be Michael.

This mentality earned the Pistons their first NBA Championship in 1989, and it also led to the downfall of the 1980’s Los Angeles Lakers reign.

A 63-win season, defeating Larry Bird’s Celtics, Michael Jordan’s Bulls and sweeping Magic Johnson’s Lakers make this selection easy. Print these Detroit Pistons as No. 4 in our top five. And never forget: Bad Boys for Life.

3. 1985-1986 BOSTON CELTICS

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Bird, Bird, Bird. Bird is the word. Larry Legend, the unorthodox scorer with a dusty blonde mop of hair,  was a the peak of his powers in this championship run with the Celtics. 

Bird had plenty of help, too.  Alongside Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, Robert Parish, Bill Walton and Dennis Johnson, the 1985-1986 Celtics went onto win 67 games that year. Behind Bird’s third straight MVP, the Celtics were set to win another title.

Following their NBA Finals loss to the Lakers the previous season, Bird’s Celtics sought revenge in ’86.

Unfortunately, the Houston Rockets upset the Lakers 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals. The Celtics rebounded, though, by beating Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets in six games to once again capture the NBA title.

Bird added the regular season and Finals MVP to his trophy case that season.

2. 2016-2017 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

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Kevin Durant forever changed the landscape of the NBA when he decided to join the Golden State Warriors in 2016. 

Durant's decision sent the sports world into a frenzy. And not in a good way. Fans around the world blasted Durant for joining the enemy, rather than trying to overcome them like Jordan's Bulls did with the Pistons.  

How could one of the NBA’s best players join a team that already set the record for the most wins in a single regular season? 

His game did not seem to suffer as he blocked out the noise leading the Dubs to back-to-back NBA Championships. KD hoisted two trophies both years: the Larry O’Brien Trophy and the Finals MVP Trophy. 

Durant had a ton of support, too. He was flanked by a tandem of the best shooters in NBA history in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, as well as all-purpose stud Draymond Green.  Durant’s tenure with the Warriors ended in injury, eliminating the possibility of a three-peat, but this team is one for the history books.

1. 1995-1996 CHICAGO BULLS

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“I’m back.”

A faxed letter with those two words flipped the sports universe upside down. If social media was around, it would have broken it. 

After an unsuccessful stint in minor league baseball, Michael Jordan announced his return to the NBA. He led the Chicago Bulls to a three-peat prior to leaving, and he certainly was not done.

How does a 30.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.3 APG return sound? Oh yeah, and the 1995-1996 Bulls won a measly 72 games that season. Nothing special, right?

Behind a +12.2 regular-season point differential, and a +15.3 playoff-point differential, the league had absolutely zero answers for this team. Nobody in their right mind wanted to face Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

They defeated Gary Payton’s Seattle SuperSonics in six games to win another NBA Title.

Sound the horns, the Bulls were back, baby. There's no debate that this is the greatest team in NBA history.

Photo: Getty Images / Lines.com Illustration