The NBA is the place in which dreams are made and stars are born. Looking back over the history of the competition, you will find your way lit by names such as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul Jabaar. More recently, the likes of Kobe Bryant and Lebron James have graced that pantheon.
But what about the NBA’s teams themselves? There are iconic names here, too — such as the Celtics, the Cavs, the Bulls, Heat, and the Lakers. We’re going to be taking a look at the way the game is played in the modern age, as we explore the most successful NBA teams across the last 20 years.
NBA playoff winners in the last 20 years
The easiest way to find the most successful NBA teams is simply to look at the NBA playoff winners over the last two decades.
The last 20 NBA titles have been won by nine teams, with the LA Lakers coming out on top with six titles. The San Antonio Spurs are second with four, while Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors both have two each. The Toronto Raptors are the only team from outside the USA to win the title in the history of the NBA, winning once since 2000 and twice overall.
The Western Conference dominates proceedings, with 14 wins out of 20, largely thanks to the mutual dominance of the Lakers and the Spurs.
NBA conference champions in the last 20 years
To learn more about the most successful NBA teams in recent years, we can take a look at the champions of the individual conferences too. As the conferences are held according to a league system, with the biggest teams from each division often not meeting until the playoff stages, looking at the conference winners can provide us with additional insight.
In the Western Conference, the Lakers have, of course, been the dominant force in the last 20 years, picking up eight conference wins since 2000. The San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors have five each — the Warriors picking up their five in consecutive seasons from 2015 to 2019 — while the other titles were shared between the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Over in the East, no one can match the kind of dominance shown by the LA Lakers. The closest team to achieving this target of eight titles is Miami Heat with six, followed by the Cleveland Cavaliers with four. Traditional heavyweights such as Philadelphia and Boston could only manage one win each over this period. The remainder of the titles were shared across the Indiana Pacers, New Jersey Nets, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, and, of course, the Toronto Raptors two years ago.
Who is the most successful team in NBA history?
Let’s expand our scope a little. Let’s think about the long history of the game and of the competition and ask ourselves, who is the most successful team in NBA history?
Well, despite the Los Angeles Lakers’ reputation for being a “modern” giant of the game, the history of the franchise actually stretches back further than you might imagine. The Lakers are the most successful team of all time, with 32 playoff appearances and 17 wins — the first of these coming as far back as 1949.
But this includes the record of the Minneapolis Lakers too, who wore the Laker jersey up until 1960. Removing these titles, the LA Lakers have won 12 titles from 31 visits to the final.
This means, depending on how you want to measure it, the Boston Celtics are also a contender for the most successful, achieving 17 wins from 21 appearances. We also have the Chicago Bulls, with their 100% record of six wins in six appearances, all arriving during their 1990s dominance of the sport.
What about the other side of the coin? Which NBA teams have never won a title?
The Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Brooklyn Nets, and Orlando Magic have all reached the final twice, losing both, while the Indiana Pacers have a 0% record from their one final. Spare a thought, though, for the Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, and New Orleans Pelicans, none of whom have ever even made a final.
Who will be crowned NBA Champion this season?
Is it time for a new team, perhaps the Charlotte Hornets, to lift the title this NBA season? Or will the Lakers be back again to assert their dominance? What do you think?