Nothing signifies team success in the NBA more than a championship. It is the single most important achievement in the league, and possibly its toughest, and it serves as the culmination of a franchise's resolve to flourish.
Which is why the most successful title-winning clubs should be celebrated and remembered. So let's run down the teams that reigned over the NBA landscape and collected the most league titles over the years.
Years won: 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1986, 2008
When it comes to championships, the Boston Celtics stand atop the NBA landscape. The storied franchise has a league-best total of 17 titles over a span of 51 years.
Needless to say, the Celtics built several dynasties across generations. The most dominant was the one spearheaded by all-time great Bill Russell, a five-time league Most Valuable Player (MVP) who brought 11 titles to Boston.
On his watch, the green-and-white strung eight consecutive NBA championships from 1959 to 1966, a record which is unlikely to be broken, as no other team has since won more than three in a row.
Without Russell retiring in 1969, the NBA title would become more elusive for Boston in the next decade. The only times the ball club conquered the league in that span came in 1974 and 1976, before Larry Bird, alongside Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, ushered in a new era of dominance in the 1980s.
The Celtics Big Three brought the Larry O'Brien Trophy back to Boston, reaching the Finals for four consecutive seasons en route to three championships.
A title drought, however, would plague Boston for 22 years until the organization ripped a page out of its fabled run in the '80s and assembled another Big Three in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. The move proved an instant success, as the trio brought the city back to prominence in 2008, delivering title No.17.
Los Angeles/Minneapolis Lakers
Years won: 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2020
It has long been known that the Lakers are the arch-enemies of the Celtics. But it was only until last year that the Lakers were finally able to match the 17 NBA titles owned by their fierce rivals.
Since its inception in Minneapolis back in the late 1940s, the Lakers have wasted no time in establishing themselves as perennial title contenders. They emerged as the inaugural champions in 1949, when the National Basketball League (NBL) and the Basketball Association of America (BAA) launched a merger in the form of the NBA, and also captured four of the next five league championships.
From then on, there is nothing like the staying power of the "Purple and Gold" as the Lakers hold the most NBA Finals appearances with 32. And much like the Celtics, the Lakers also formed classic dynasties that brought honour to their host city with repeated title reigns.
The first of the Lakers dynasties revolved around 6-foot-10 center George Mikan. Dubbed by pundits as the first superstar of the league, Mikan gave the franchise their first tastes of championship success. Soon after he retired, the ball club moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, marking the rise of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor in the 1960s.
The prolific-scoring duo had all the makings to rule over the league, but the Russell-led Celtics proved too much to handle, as the Lakers fell seven times to the Celtics in the NBA Finals. They would eventually end that winless streak in 1972 after Wilt Chamberlain – the man who tallied a league-record of 100 points in a single match – was brought in to end the drought.
While the troika of West, Baylor and Chamberlain never lasted long enough to rule over the '70s, LA would soon enter the age of its second dynasty with the arrival of Magic Johnson and the formation of the so-called Showtime Lakers. Johnson, alongside a solid supporting cast, guided the Lakers to the NBA Finals nine times and won five championships in a span of 12 years.
When the 2000s came around, Shaquille O'Neal and the late Kobe Bryant carried the torch for the purple-and-gold. The iconic duo did not get along very well, but still managed to steer the Lakers to three straight titles, before chemistry issues broke them apart as Bryant stayed put and O'Neal left for good.
Years removed from the fallout, Bryant teamed up with another talented big man in Pau Gasol to lead the Lakers back to the promised land with back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. Ten years later, LeBron James and Anthony Davis would raise championship banner No.17 after ruling over the 2020 NBA Bubble.
Years won: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998
A herd of Bulls ran roughshod over the league in the 1990s, resulting to Chicago's rise to prominence, landing the franchise six memorable titles and one of the greatest regular seasons in NBA history.
The ones that led the "stampede" were none other than Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson. Behind the two-way dominance of Jordan and Pippen, laced with the coaching brilliance of Jackson, the Bulls were pretty much unstoppable at their peak.
No one had an answer for them, and their dominance culminated in the extraordinary 1995/96 season, when they lost just 10 times in regular season, compiling a 72-10 win-loss record that stood unsurpassed for 20 years, and then finishing the job by defeating the Seattle Supersonics in six games in the Finals.
As frequent as the regular-season victories came, titles also turned into a recurring part of the narrative for the Bulls. Six times they entered the NBA Finals during their dominance run, and they emerged champions in all six occasions, leaving numerous title-worthy opponents in their wake.
During the first three-peat, the Bulls earned their breakthrough title at the expense of Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers, before defeating the Portland Trail Blazers and the Phoenix Suns in convincing fashion in the next two Finals.
The second three consecutive title runs then saw the Bulls beat the Supersonics first, before overcoming the Utah Jazz twice. In all six Finals, Jordan and gang never went the full length, wrapping up each title in either five or six matches.
Golden State/San Francisco/Philadelphia Warriors
Years won: 1947, 1956, 1975, 2015, 2017, 2018
Decades before Golden State became the golden standard of modern day basketball, the Warriors had already established itself as a championship franchise.
The Warriors captured a pair of golden trophies back when it represented Philadelphia in the late 1940s to 1950s before moving to the West Coast, where Rick Barry and Jamaal Wilkes steered Golden State to the summit in 1975.
As a long stretch of futility ensued, the Warriors then concocted a modern day title-winning strategy with their "small ball" approach, a system which tapped into the full offensive potential of famed Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, two of the greatest shooters of all-time.
This resulted to a title in 2015, a league-best 73-9 record in 2016, and paved the way to the short yet productive stint of Kevin Durant, as a stacked Warriors line-up dominated the league amid their 2017 and 2018 title triumphs.
San Antonio Spurs
Years won: 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014
The past two decades saw the rise of super teams.
From the Celtics Big Three to the so-called Miami Heatles (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) and then to the Durant-reinforced Golden State, the trend of building a team infused of superstars via free-agency signings became the formula for franchises to contend for NBA titles.
In that same era, though, the San Antonio Spurs had a different approach in building a dynasty - via good scouting and signing role players that complement their top star, Tim Duncan.
Duncan was acquired after the Spurs landed the top draft pick of 1997. The 6-foot-11 stalwart would soon be known as the Big Fundamental, and formed a towering duo with David Robinson which led to a title in 1999.
The Spurs then scouted brilliantly and drafted Argentina's Manu Ginobili and France's Tony Parker, and the duo meshed perfectly with Duncan as the franchise secured their second title in 2003 before winning two more championships in the next four years.
As time began to wear down the trio, the Greg Popovich-led ball club picked up yet another generational talent through the draft in Kawhi Leonard. With his all-around talents, the Spurs would conquer the NBA mountaintop again in 2014 with Leonard emerging as the Finals MVP.
Explore the Larry O'Brien Trophy winners throughout the years in augmented reality
Explore the championship history of the Lakers, Celtics, Bulls, Heat and Warriors in augmented reality. Click on the video below and cycle through the four icons on the bottom of the experience to view each teams “trophy case,” which includes all of their NBA championship trophies as well as pictures of the team throughout history. Make sure to turn on your device’s sound to get an analysis of what makes each of these franchises so dominant.
The 3D experience can be viewed on both desktop and mobile.
Click on “View in 3D” above
Use your mouse to zoom and rotate the object
For mobile (optimal experience):
Click on “View in 3D” above
Tap on the camera icon in the upper right-hand corner of the browser
Press “allow” (this prompt should come up multiple times)
Place the object in your space, use your fingers to resize and rotate in augmented reality
To take a photo of what you’re seeing, tap on the screen and a camera icon will appear
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.
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