The NBA has existed for over 75 years now. Three-quarters of a century of beautiful basketball orchestrated by some of the best athletes on the face of the planet. With so much talent on the court, there's nothing quite like professional hoops. But what makes the game such a marvelous, mind-blowing amalgamation of skills is the camaraderie that makes up a team. When the 15 men who make up an NBA roster truly come together to become greater than the sum of their parts. Not only are championships won, but legacies are cemented. These are the 22 best NBA teams of all time!
1. 2017 Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors won an NBA record 73 games in the 2016 season but failed to win an NBA championship. They needed a tiny little boost to get back to the top of the mountain; instead, they signed perhaps the greatest scoring threat in the history of the NBA. Kevin Durant helped make the Dubs an unfathomable team, with more than a few grown men crying on social media. With a devastating 16-1 run through the postseason and a “Death Lineup” of Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, there's not a team in the history of the sport that has a better argument for the number one spot all-time.
2. 1996 Chicago Bulls
Possessing one of the greatest players in history on their team, the 1996 Chicago Bulls leveraged the power of Michael Jordan's return from a baseball sabbatical to re-establish their dominance over the NBA like never before. An influx of expansion teams helped add some easy wins to their regular season total before they ran unopposed through the playoffs en route to a fourth championship in the 1990s. Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman rounded out an unstoppable dynamic trio with MJ on both ends of the court.
3. 2001 Los Angeles Lakers
The late Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were never more dynamic and jarring than during the 2001 NBA season. Hungry for a repeat and coming off of an MVP season by O'Neal, the Lakers took it easy through the regular season with a record of 56-26 before lambasting the league with a 15-1 record in the playoffs. All three of the Lakers titles were impressive between 2000 and 2002, but this middle one saw everyone dialed even more than before or after.
4. 1986 Boston Celtics
Boston is dubbed “Title Town” by their fans, and the 1986 Celtics should be their biggest argument for the moniker. Larry Bird took home his third straight MVP (he's the last player to do this), and Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and Bill Walton did major supporting work on a team that won 67 games and only lost one game on their home floor all year. The only thing that would have made the season more legendary is if the Lakers had met them in the NBA Finals.
5. 1987 Los Angeles Lakers
Speaking of the Showtime Lakers, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's dynasty waited until the year following the Celtics' best work to show off their muscle. The difference that made this Lakers team the best of the decade was the improved play of Byron Scott and James Worthy, two wing players who would have been even better in the modern NBA with more three-point shooting and pace on offense.
6. 1972 Los Angeles Lakers
Believe it or not, there was a time when the Los Angeles Lakers were considered perennial second-place losers. After repeatedly coming up short of the Boston Celtics throughout the 1960s, the Lakers put it all together in 1972 with Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Gail Goodrich leading the charge. Chamberlain was in the twilight of his career and focused more on defense and rebounding, while Goodrich and West handled the scoring. The team still holds the NBA's longest winning streak ever, with 33 straight wins.
7. 2014 San Antonio Spurs
While it may not have looked like it on paper, the fifth and most recent title won by the San Antonio Spurs featured one of the most cohesive and dynamic rosters ever to grace the hardwood. Veterans Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Boris Diaw combined with the youthful presence of Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills to create something truly special. Motivated by their heartbreaking loss to the Miami Heat the previous year, nothing would deny the Spurs in 2014.
8. 1971 Milwaukee Bucks
Before he was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lew Alcindor was one of the most unique talents in the history of the game for the Milwaukee Bucks. Paired with the all-around threat of Oscar Robertson in the latter part of his career, the duo truly made America “Fear the Deer” long before the most recent stretch of pro basketball success in Wisconsin. 66 regular season wins, and 20 in a row at one point, were just two indicators of the team's ability to win in various ways, capping it off with a sweep of the Washington Bullets in the NBA Finals.
9. 1970 New York Knicks
Unless you're firmly aging into your late 50s or early 60s, it's probably impossible to remember a time when the New York Knicks were truly outstanding at basketball. Sure, Patrick Ewing helped lead the team to the NBA Finals in 1994 and 1999, but the Red Holzman-coached Knicks of the early 1970s brought eternal glory to the Big Apple. Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, and Dave DeBusschere were just the tip of the iceberg on a start-studded team that played in perfect unison. They went 60-22 in the regular season and defeated the Lakers in the Finals.
10. 2013 Miami Heat
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh finally delivered on their championship promises for the Miami Heat in the second year of their “Big 3” team-up, and the journey to that title was iconic. Twenty-seven straight wins in the regular season led many to believe it would be easy sailing in the playoffs, but both the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs took the Heat to seven games late in the tournament, with Ray Allen's famous corner three extending the NBA Finals when it looked like the Spurs had it won already. If the playoffs had been a more dominant showing for the Heat, they would probably rank higher here.
11. 1989 Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons weren't loved like their predecessors in championship glory. Dirty play, hard-nosed attitudes, and smug personalities turned NBA fans against the Bad Boys in ways they never felt about the Showtime Lakers or the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics. Despite the haters, the Pistons combined intangibles and talent in unprecedented ways to ravage the league for two years, beginning with their title in 1989. Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, and Bill Laimbeer scored, defended, and passed as fundamentally as they fouled and bothered the competition.
12. 1983 Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers were often the step-sibling of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference, and if they got to the NBA Finals, they were swiftly defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers. Moses Malone and Julius Erving wrote a different story in 1983, demolishing the league with a 65-17 record and a 12-1 postseason explosion. Malone and Dr. J formed one of the best duos in the league, but other role players like Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones shouldn't be forgotten or left out of the conversation.
13. 1992 Chicago Bulls
The first three-peat for the Chicago Bulls doesn't get as much attention or notoriety as the second three-peat, but the 1992 team needs to receive much recognition. Sixty-seven regular season wins, an MVP for Michael Jordan, and Scottie Pippen coming into his own as a superstar propelled the Bulls to their best season in franchise history up to this point in time.
14. 1965 Boston Celtics
It's hard to pick just one of the Celtics titles in during the Bill Russell era as the best, but many historians point to this excellent 1965 team as the pinnacle of the decade. The Celtics won 62 games this season, and the playoffs included John Havlicek's iconic steal at the end of the Eastern Division Finals to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers.
15. 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers
If you're good enough to overcome a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit against the 73-win Golden State Warriors, you're probably one of the best teams in the history of the NBA. This LeBron James and Kyrie Irving-led Cavs team was a solid 57-25 in the regular season, but their metal and grit during the toughest moments of the postseason canonized their legacy.
16. 1967 Philadelphia 76ers
Wilt Chamberlain took many years to figure out how to play team basketball, but the 76ers helped put some supreme talent around him in 1967 to encourage more selfless play. Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, and Chet Walker were excellent on the perimeter, and Philadelphia was the best team in the league from the first day of the season to the last, including a 46-4 record through 50 games.
17. 1973 New York Knicks
This New York Knicks team possibly had even more talent than the 1970 one, but slightly less cohesion and chemistry has them lower on the list. Jerry Lucas and Earl Monroe added to an already stacked roster, as five players went to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Knicks fans still long for the days of this last taste of championship glory.
18. 1994 Houston Rockets
There's no asterisk on this title; Michael Jordan may have been attempting to play baseball, leaving the Chicago Bulls to fend for themselves, but Houston more than grabbed ahold of the league's crown in 1994 in his absence. Hakeem Olajuwon won MVP, Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year to show why his nickname “The Dream” was well-earned. Role players like Robert Horry and Kenny Smith were the perfect perimeter-scoring threats to balance out Hakeem's interior dominance.
19. 2023 Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets were knocking on the door of a title for several years until 2023, and the health of Jamal Murray facilitated the first title in team history. Nikola Jokic continues to revolutionize the center position, and his jaw-dropping performance in the playoffs made quick work of big-name stars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The Nuggets were never pushed past six games in any playoff series.
20. 2004 Detroit Pistons
Depending on your perspective, the 2004 Detroit Pistons either had no All-Stars or a team full of All-Stars. Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Ben and Rasheed Wallace, and Tayshaun Prince won low-scoring games against more talented teams with some of the most suffocating defenses in league history. Larry Brown won his only title as a head coach with this team.
21. 1977 Portland Trail Blazers
The 1970s saw a different NBA champion almost every year. While this parity was a nice change after the Boston Celtics dynasty in the 1960s, the NBA loves its truly great champions; these teams are the most memorable. The Bill Walton-led Portland Trail Blazers were arguably the best team from the 1970s, anchored by incredible paint play and intelligent point guard instincts by Lionel Hollins.
22. 2011 Dallas Mavericks
When Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs to their first title after years of disappointment, many people just blamed LeBron James and the Miami Heat for failing to live up to their dynastic expectations. What people should have been doing was talking about the incredible team Dallas constructed that prevented the Heatles from winning right off the bat. Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, and coach Rick Carlise helped Dirk win his long-coveted ring.
Shawn Laib is a writer who has loved all things pop culture from a young age. Growing up playing classic Nintendo games and being introduced to a variety of movies and shows, he always enjoyed analyzing and getting to the bottom of the point of a story. As he went into high school, basketball and sports in general became a main focus. Shawn decided to put his skills in English class to good use and majored in the subject area at the University of Washington, graduating with a B.A. in 2020. He began his freelance writing career after college with sites like SUPERJUMP, Den of Geek, and Quote.com. He now remains a fixture with publications like The Manual and Wealth of Geeks.