The Milwaukee Bucks franchise, winners of the 2021 NBA Championship, are the epitome of how hard it is, and what it truly requires to win multiple NBA championships. When you think about the likes of Oscar Robertson, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, Ray Allen, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, you would think that they’re an organization with 10 or 15 banners hanging from it’s arena’s rafters.
Even though you could field an all-time starting five of Bucks players that would probably beat 90% of that of other franchises, winning takes having the right pieces at the right times, while their mere two NBA titles in franchise history is proof in that pudding.
Lets a look at the franchises with the most championships in NBA history, and a few of the players that helped them reach the pinnacle of the basketball world.
The Celtics are tied with the Lakers for the most NBA championships in league history. They’re one of the original four teams from the league’s inaugural season in 1949, and have always been located in the same city while sporting the same nickname.
Bill Russell led the franchise to eight consecutive NBA titles between 1959 and 1966. He largely considered the greatest winner in NBA history; having the most rings among any player.
The Celtics drafted small forward Larry Bird out of Indiana in 1978 and continued their winning ways during the 1980’s when Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish led them to three title runs during that decade, with the latter of the bunch coming in 1986.
22 years after their title in 86′, the Celtics were able to win one more in 2008. That Celtics team defeated the Los Angles Lakers in six games to win their 17th NBA Championship. That team was led by Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.
Of the two teams in Los Angeles, The Lakers are the more iconic franchise in the NBA. They won four of the first five NBA titles during the early 50’s in becoming the first dynasty that we’ve ever seen in professional basketball history. Those teams were led by legend George Mikan, Jim Pollard, and Vern Mikkelsen.
A notable win-streak of theirs was a 33 game unbeaten-run that they went on during 1972. Wilt Chamberlain, one of the greatest centers in NBA history, led that team along with Jerry West , Gail Goodrich and Elgin Baylor.
Their next dynasty came after they drafted a point guard from Michigan State named Magic Johnson in 1979. Throughout the 80’s, Johnson was accompanied by the likes of Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott and Michael Cooper, en route to winning five championships on a Lakers team coached by Pat Riley.
After going through a title drought during the 90’s, The Lakers returned to NBA supremacy in the early 2000’s. It all started with a trade that brought Orland Magic superstar center Shaquille O’Neal to the Los Angeles Lakers. O’Neal joined All-Star guard Kobe Bryant and head coach Phil Jackson to lead the lakers to three straight championships from the year 2000 to 2002.
After O’Neal joined the Miami Heat in 04′, it took Kobe a few years to win his first championship without the big man, but he got it done with back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
Finally, a LeBron James-led Lakers squad honored the late Kobe Bryant in the best way they could’ve when they won the franchises 17th championship in 2020 over the Miami Heat. Anthony Davis was James’ running mate during last year’s title run and will look to help the Lakers tally more championships in the coming years.
It’s hard to imagine life without the Chicago Bulls in the NBA, which is crazy because they were only good during one decade, the 90’s. Coached by Phil Jackson and led by NBA great Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, B.J Armstrong and Horace Grant, the Bulls won their first championship in franchise history during 1991, and three straight from 1991, until 1993.
Form 1996 to 1998, they were able to win three consecutive championships once more. The carried the same core of Jordan and Pippen.but added pieces like Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc and Steve Kerr.
Their next closest shot at a championship probably came in 2012, when MVP Derrick Rose led them to having the best record in the Eastern Conference heading into the playoffs. During game 1 of the first round against the Philadelphia 76ers, Rose tore his ACL in the dying minutes. Chicago would get eliminated by the Sixers in six games that year.
The Warriors resided in the city of brotherly love from 1951 to 1962, and were crowned NBA champions for the first time in 1956. Neil Johnston and Paul Arizin led those teams and are a few of the greatest players in franchise history.
During the early 90’s, “Run TMC” a play-on with 80’s Hip-Hop group “Run DMC” was the nickname for the trio of Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, and Mitch Richmond. Although they never won a championship together, they’re one of the most iconic trios in NBA history, and one of my favorite NBA teams ever.
Finally, a new era of bay-area dominance was brewed in 2015 when the 67-win Warriors, led by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala defeated LeBron James and the Cavaliers to win the organization’s 4th NBA championship. That same year, they put up the 2nd best winning streak of all-time when they won 28 straight games.
Over 11 seasons, Curry has won two MVP’s, three championships and has been t0o seven All-Star games. Paired with Klay Thompson, they are considered the greatest shooting backcourt that the game has ever seen, garnering the nickname, “Splash Bros.”
The year after his Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, superstar Kevin Durant decided to join Golden State, and would help them win two more championships in 2017 and 2018.
During the late 90’s, the Spurs were formidable competition for the rest of the league with teams that were led by David Robinson, Avery Johnson, and arguably the greatest power forward of all-time in Tim Duncan. That team, coached by Gregg Popovich, would win their franchises first championship in 1999.
Their true domination started during the early 2000’s though, when they won the NBA Finals in 2003, 2005, and 2007. Those teams were led by Popovich, Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli. After a seven-year title drought, San Antonio got another chance to add to their trophy case, and did so in defeating the Miami Heat and their “Big 3” of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, while avenging their gut-wrenching loss to Miami in 2013.
The Philadelphia 76ers were once known as the Syracuse Nationals, and posted winning seasons in 11 out of their first 14 campaigns. After losing the 1950 and 1954 finals to the Minneapolis Lakers, the Nats broke through in 1955 in beating the Fort Wayne Pistons in seven games to win their first championship. Earl Lloyd and Dolph Schayes were key cogs in that championship team.
The Nats would undergo a name change 12 years later, making them the Philadelphia 76ers on August 6th of 1963. They’d win their first championship four seasons later, as Hal Greer, Wilt Chamberlain, and Billy Cunningham beat Rick Barry and the San Francisco Warriors for the franchises 2nd title.
In 1982, the Sixers made a trade that would lead to their next and latest triumph. They got Moses Malone from the Houston Rockets in what is now considered one of the more lob-sided trades in NBA history. Malone would join Julius Erving, who they acquired from the Nets in 1976, Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney on a Sixers team, coached by Billy Cunningham, that would sweep the Lakers in 1983 in the NBA Finals.
18 years later, they came within three wins of lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy once more, when a skinny guard from Georgetown named Allen Iverson led Philly to having the best record in the Eastern Conference and an NBA Finals appearance in 2001. They lost in five games to Kobe, Shaq, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The late 1980’s and early 1990’s Detroit Pistons basketball teams had a reputation for a hardcore bully-ball play style that optimized basketball during that era. While Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, and Bill Laimbeer, might’ve been the brutes of the league, they were also kings of the crop when they won back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. Their heated rivalries with the Bulls and Celtics during that era was great for basketball. Hall of Fame head coach Chuck Daly coached those Pistons teams.
Their latest championship came during 2004. That year, the Pistons acquired Rasheed Wallace from the Atlanta Hawks midseason, and would end the year winning 16 of their last 19 games. Accompanied by Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, TayShaun Prince and Ben Wallace, the Pistons would end the Lakers dynasty in 04′, defeating LA in five games.
When the Miami Heat drafted Dwayne Wade out of Marquette in the 2003 NBA Draft, they found themselves a franchise cornerstone for the next 12 years. By the time 2004 rolled around ,the heat were a young playoff team, but were missing one more piece to take them to the next level. At the time, Shaquille O’Neal was not happy in Los Angeles, and longed for the possibility of joining forces with an up-and-coming D-Wade. In 2006, it all came together when Wade and O’Neal led Miami to their franchise’s first NBA title.
Six years later, another NBA superstar fancied the idea of joining forces with Wade and the Heat. On July 8th of 2010, LeBron James did, and created a super team led by himself, Wade and Chris Bosh. That Miami Heat “Big 3” would win back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013.
For me, their most memorable title run came against the Spurs in 2012, when the Heat rallied from being down 3-2 in the series to win in seven games for LeBron’s first NBA championship.
During the NBA’s Jordan-less years of 1994 and 1995, the Houston Rockets were able to capitalize on the league’s best player opting to go play baseball. In 94′ the Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, Vernon Maxwell and Sam Cassell, matched up against Patrick Ewing’s Knicks , beating New York in seven games.
The next year, Olajuwon and company swept Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal, and the Orland Magic in route to their franchise’s second championship.
I’m sure the Knicks would’ve liked to have the likes of Walt Frazier and Willis Reed, while going up Hakeem Olajuwon and those Houston Rocket teams during the mid 90’s.
Unfortunately for those Knicks teams, Reed was before their time, but was the MVP of the 1970 NBA Finals. That series saw New York defeating the Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain led Los Angeles Lakers in seven games for their first NBA championship. Walt Frazier, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, and Dave DeBusschere were other key players for the Knicks during the early 70’s. The Knicks would win for a second time in 1974, beating that same Lakers team, this time in five games.
Those mid 90’s battles against Houston is the closest that New York has gotten to another championship.