The NBA has a long list of dominant NBA teams that have existed throughout its history. The Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen-led Chicago Bulls six-championship dynasty stands out, while the Golden State Warriors made their mark this past decade with three championships in four years. Regardless of the era, one thing separates all these teams from the rest, and that’s the special individuals. We’re talking great talent like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and the aforementioned Jordan leading their teams to some great regular seasons. Here’s a look at the best regular-season records in NBA history.
After winning the 2015 NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry took it up a notch the next season. Led by the reigning MVP in Curry, Golden State’s deep roster seemed unbeatable at times, starting the season 24-0. The Warriors were able to capture the regular-season wins record by beating their opponents in the final four games. This included a rally from 10 points down in the fourth quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The playoffs were a rollercoaster ride. Golden State came back from a 3-1 series deficit in the Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder and later blew a 3-1 series lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 Finals.
When Michael Jordan made his return in 1995 with a press release announcing that he was back, the Bulls dynasty was ready to return to NBA prominence. Though Chicago lost in the second round that season, Jordan and the Bulls made it a mission to return to the mountaintop for the 1995-96 season. Chicago went 23-2 over their first 25 games and was a marvelous 48-5 over 53 games.
Led by Jordan and Pippen, the Bulls smashed the previous record of 69 wins with a 72-10 mark. The Bulls were just as dominant in the postseason, losing just three times in 18 games. Two of those losses came in the NBA Finals with Chicago already up 3-0 against the Seattle Supersonics.
The Los Angeles Lakers never looked back after hiring head coach Bill Sharman in 1971. Led by Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, the Lakers set an NBA record with a 33-game winning streak. No team has come closer than five games to that winning streak. The Lakers continued their success, going 30-10 to set a record at the time with 69 victories.
That Lakers team only lost three games in the playoffs as they went on to win their first championship since moving to Los Angeles in 1960. The Lakers conquered their demons, taking the 1972 NBA Finals against the New York Knicks in five games. New York had defeated Los Angeles in the 1970 Finals previously.
The 1996-97 Bulls team was essentially competing against the ghost of the last season. Having set a win record the previous season, Chicago’s team could’ve taken it easy in their first title defense of the second three-peat, but they chose violence against the rest of the NBA. The Bulls were victorious in 17 of their first 18 games and had a chance to match or surpass their 72-10 record with a 42-5 mark after 47 games.
The Bulls slowed down a bit, going 27-8 over their final 35 games to finish 69-13. It wasn’t a record, but it still tied the original Los Angeles Lakers record from 1972. The Bulls team ran through the East in the postseason, going 11-2 through the first three rounds. In the Finals, Chicago and Jordan overcame a tough Karl Malone and John Stockton-led Utah Jazz team and the Flu to win their fifth of six championships in the ‘90s.
Back in the late-’60s, the Philadelphia 76ers were loaded with talent. Featuring NBA MVP Wilt Chamberlain, the 76ers also had a collection of Hall of Fame complements in Hal Greer, Chet Walker and Billy Cunningham. Led by coach Alex Hannum, Philadelphia began the 1966-67 season 46-4. Though they came back to earth with a 22-9 finish to the regular season, the 76ers finished with a then-record 68-13 mark for the season. The 76ers managed to win a championship, defeating the San Francisco Warriors in six games during the 1967 NBA Finals.
Led by John Havlicek, Dave Cowens and Jo Jo White, the Boston Celtics found their footing in the post-Bill Russell era. They won 14 of their first 15 games during the 1972-73 season and came just one game within the original 69-13 Lakers record from the previous season. After defeating the Atlanta Hawks 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Semis, the Celtics lost to the eventual champion New York Knicks in seven games during the Eastern Conference Finals.
The 1985-86 Boston Celtics were stacked. Already featuring three stars in Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, they added former MVP Bill Walton as a reserve. Boston went a record 40-1 at home that season and had five streaks of eight wins or more. Boston finished just two games shy of the ‘71-‘72 Lakers win record.
Though they ran into a young Michael Jordan in the first round, Boston swept the Bulls in three games. They only lost three total playoff games, bagging the 1986 NBA Championship in six games against the Houston Rockets.
The second title season in Chicago’s first three-peat, Chicago didn’t take their foot off the pedal in their first repeat. After a 1-2 start, the Bulls prevailed 36 of the next 39 games. Chicago settled on 67 wins which was the top record in the NBA that season.
Chicago faced some tough opposition in the postseason. They outlasted a tough New York Knicks team in a physical seven-game second round matchup. After defeating the Cavaliers in six games in the Conference Finals, Chicago beat Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers in six games. Jordan landed his second Finals MVP after averaging 35.8 points in six games.
Swept in the playoffs the previous two years, the Lakers franchise turned to legendary head coach Phil Jackson to steer the team in the right direction. Already armed with the ultimate one-two punch in Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, the Lakers found their groove. Los Angeles had a 19-game winning streak during the season that saw the franchise reach its second-highest win total ever. The Lakers overcame tough teams like the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers to score their first of three consecutive titles in the early aughts.
Dirk Nowitzki had reached the peak of his game by 2006. Coming off a disappointing 2006 NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat, the All-Star took the Mavericks to new heights. The Mavericks dropped their first four games of the season, but went 51-5 over their next 56 games. Settling on an NBA-best 67-15 record, Nowitzki led the way, picking up his first and only regular season MVP.
The Mavericks’ regular-season success would be short-lived. Dallas became the first number one seed to lose to an eight seed in the seven-game series format when they lost to the “We Believe” Golden State Warriors in six games.
The 2014-15 season was the first year of an NBA dynasty on the rise. Thanks to an injury to All-Star David Lee, little known third-year player Draymond Green was moved into the starting lineup and added defense and intensity to the Warriors. Stephen Curry took another major leap, obtaining his first MVP as Golden State triumphed in 21 of their first 23 games. Golden State went on to earn the first championship for the franchise in 40 years.
The NBA super-team craze reached a new apex when the Warriors added free agent Kevin Durant to their squad in the summer of 2016. Already featuring three stars in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors now fielded one of the best rosters ever. Besides a few hiccups along the way, Golden State was rare, winning 27 of its first 31 games. This Warriors team only lost once in 17 playoff games on their way to the second of three championships in a four-year span.
It’s very rare for a sports franchise to win immediately, but it happened for the Washington Capitols. A part of the BAA, the Capitols went 24-5 in their first 29 games. Led in scoring by Bob Feerick (16.8 points), the Capitols finished the year with a 10 and a half game margin for the best record. The playoffs were another story, as the Capitols lost in six games to the Chicago Stags.
The duo of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (known as Lew Alcindor at the time) and Oscar Robertson made the Milwaukee Bucks into an instant title contender. During the 1970-71 season, Milwaukee won 17 of their first 18 games and even had a 20-game winning streak at one point, They finished with the top record in the NBA at 66-16. The Bucks were able to capture their first title after going 12-2 in the postseason.
The Boston Celtics went from pauper to prince quickly. The second-worst team in the association during the 2006-07 season, Boston retooled on the fly, trading their lottery draft pick to the Seattle Supersonics for Ray Allen.
The acquisition of Allen and the presence of All-Star Paul Pierce allowed Boston to convince former NBA MVP Kevin Garnett to join the club, forming a trio that gelled together immediately. Boston had victories in 29 of their first 32 games and wound up with the best record at 66-16. A championship was in the club’s sights, and the Celtics completed the task, winning the 2008 championship. It was the franchise’s first in 22 years.
Cleveland had some success in the Mark Price-Brad Daugherty years, but they reached a new pinnacle after drafting LeBron James in 2003. In his sixth season, James secured his first MVP as he led the Cavaliers in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Under coach Mike Brown, Cleveland had a stretch where they won 25 of 27 games.
Cleveland breezed through the first two rounds of the 2009 postseason. They swept both series against the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks. However, Cleveland’s great season would end abruptly in their third playoff series. Despite a world class effort from James (38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8.0 assists), the Cavs fell to the Orlando Magic in a 4-2 series loss in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It seemed to take forever for the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh era of the Miami Heat to have a truly elite regular season. By 2012, the team had solidified its identity, adding role players like Ray Allen and Shane Battier making them unstoppable on offense. Miami pulled off a 27-game winning streak over a nearly two months-long stretch. The Heat ended up with the best record in the NBA.
The Heat faced some tough competition in the postseason from the likes of the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, but prevailed. The Spurs had the Heat on the ropes, but Allen knocked down “The Shot,” reviving the Heat as they came back from a 3-2 Finals deficit to beat the Spurs in seven games and earn their second consecutive title.
The inaugural NBA season featured a few titans. The Syracuse Nationals were an early contender, taking 16 of their first 17 games. Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes led the team in scoring with 16.8 points. Syracuse was one of three teams with 51 wins that season, and they won games thanks to coach Al Cervi’s aggressive defensive style. In the playoffs, the Nationals succeeded in their first two playoff series, but they couldn’t finish the job, losing in six games to the Minneapolis Lakers.
The tandem of Moses Malone and Julius Erving is underrated when we talk about the best NBA duos of all time. Flanked by key talents like Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones, and Andrew Toney, the Sixers were 50-7 at one point during the 1982-83 NBA season. Malone famously predicted that the Sixers would run through their opposition in the playoffs “Fo, Fo, Fo,” meaning that they would sweep all three playoff series. The Sixers nearly lived up to the promise, going 12-1 on their way to an NBA championship after sweeping their rival the Los Angeles Lakers in four games.
Built around three stars in Magic Johnson Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy, the Los Angeles Lakers were coming off a disappointing five-game Western Conference Finals loss to the Houston Rockets from the previous season. The Lakers response was simple as they wrecked the whole league. The top team in the NBA, Los Angeles went 15-3 in the playoffs, defeating the Boston Celtics in the 1987 NBA Finals to walk away with their second of three championships in a four-year span.
While the Golden State Warriors were the clear favorite for the 2017-18 season, the Houston Rockets had something brewing. Led by James Harden and Chris Paul, Houston’s ability to dissect teams with isolation basketball and a switch-heavy defensive philosophy made them tough to handle. Harden netted the regular season MVP that season as Houston finished with the best record in the NBA. The Rockets cruised through their first two series of the playoffs. In the Conference Finals, the Rockets came close to an upset of the Warriors, but they lost in seven games after blowing a 3-2 series lead.