Best NBA Team In Each Of The Past Five Decades
The Miami Heat are playing in their fourth consecutive NBA Finals and are looking pull off the extremely rare three-peat. Doing so would likely cement them as the team of the 2010’s despite there still being half the decade to go. Being the dominant team of an entire decade brings one word to mind…dynasty. With the Heat working towards adding themselves to the exclusive list of teams with the dynasty label, let’s turn back the clock and see which teams could be considered the best of their decades.
There is no question that the 60’s belonged to the Boston Celtics. They won the NBA Finals nine of the ten years and are the only team ever in American competition to win eight consecutive championships. Led by coach Red Auerbach, the Celtics fielded teams that were full of future Hall of Famers. Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, K.C. Jones, John Havlicek, Tom Hiensohn, Frank Ramsay, Sam Jones, Clyde Lovellette, Satch Sanders, John Thompson, Wayne Embry, Bailey Howell and Auerbach would all end up being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Six of Boston’s nine championships during the 60’s came at the expense of the Los Angeles Lakers.
With eight different NBA champions and no back-to-back winners the 1970’s are the only decade that had no single dominant team. The New York Knicks and Boston Celtics were the only two multiple title winners during the 70’s. The Baltimore/Washington Bullets reached the Finals four times in the decade but only won the NBA Finals once. The Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers each made it to the Finals three times. Following a decade in which one team (Boston) was completely dominant, the parity during the 70’s may have been a welcome change to NBA players and fans alike.
This is a decade that most will agree belonged to the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. The two powerhouse teams combined to win eight of the ten NBA titles during the 80’s. Boston reached the Finals five times during the decade but I have to give the edge to the Lakers as they made it to the championship series eight times during the 80’s, winning five of their visits. Los Angeles was led by Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Bob McAdoo and head coach Pat Riley. The ‘Showtime’ Lakers dominance of the Western Conference in the 80’s was very similar to their six Finals trips during the 60’s except this time around L.A. was able to get over the hump and enjoy being the first dynasty in the city’s history.
I don’t think there is any question that the 1990’s belonged to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Starting in the late 80’s Chicago began to show the winning nature that would lead them to six championships in eight years during the 90’s. Before the Bulls could earn their spot as one of the best teams ever, they first had to overcome their biggest rival to reach the NBA Finals. Chicago was taken down in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1989 and 1990 by Isiah Thomas’ Detroit Pistons who went on to win back-to-back titles. After earning their stripes, Chicago finally took down the Pistons in the 1991 conference finals en route to their first NBA Championship. The Bulls would win again in ’92 and ’93 before a brief retirement by Jordan led to a couple disappointing playoff losses the following two seasons. Jordan returned in 1995 and the Bulls picked up right where they left off, conquering the NBA Finals in ’96, ’97 and ’98 for their second three-peat of the decade. Chicago’s run of dominant seasons, including an NBA record 72 wins in 1995-96, saw the Bulls become one of the hardest teams to beat in NBA history.
Our first repeat winner comes after the new millennium as the 2000’s belonged to the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. started the decade by winning three straight titles and made a total of six Finals appearances, winning four of them. If you expand the decade by one year then you can add another championship to the Lakers as they won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. Los Angeles hadn’t reached the Finals since 1991 when they lost to Jordan’s Bulls and the key to the Lakers resurgence was someone who had a big hand in defeating them back in ’91. Following the 1999 season Los Angeles signed former Bulls head coach Phil Jackson to get them over the hump and lead the Lakers back to glory. He did just that, taking a very talented Lakers team featuring Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Derek Fisher and Robert Horry to back-to-back-to-back titles in 2000, ’01 and ’02. When the Lakers returned for three straight Finals appearances from 2008-10 Bryant and Fisher were still leading the way for L.A. but Shaq had been replaced by Andrew Bynum and key players Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest had been added to round out another dominant Lakers squad.