When I say "explosive," what comes to mind?
Is it monster dunks? Blazing speed? Jaw-dropping offensive execution? Overall physio-athletic superiority? Perhaps a healthy mix of all of the above...
For the purposes of the following list, explosiveness is defined as the likelihood of landing on the highlight reels via feats of athleticism, scoring runs and the like.
Overall team success counts for less in this context, as it's more about the entertainment aspect, which is why you won't be seeing the Celtics, Pistons or Spurs on this list. Also, please note that no franchise can appear twice, so a few difficult cuts had to be made.
Now then, here we go. Please be aware that you will almost certainly not entirely agree with some of these picks and will have your own better candidates. Be kind, do share.
Once upon a time, back before Vince Carter became a whining offensive liability and Tracy McGrady became a creaky has-been, they were the two most athletically gifted players in the entire league. And they happened to start out on the same team, up in Canada.
For those who don’t remember, Carter pretty much leapt out of the gates with his jaw-dropping, revolutionary aerial manoeuvres, immediately establishing himself as a serious candidate for greatest dunker ever.
McGrady had opened his bag of tricks a year earlier in Toronto, but when Carter came around, he dialed his game up to “athletic terror” with his own hefty share of airborne plays both offensive and defensive.
Then they brought in Antonio Davis, known to make a rim crackle here and there, and the NBA’s “Team Most Like to End Every Play with an Exclamation” wasn’t even on U.S. soil.
I know many people will disagree with their presence on this list, but it's hard to overlook a team that has the two most amazing aerial artists in the NBA not named Kobe Bryant.
Remember the Nets when they were (briefly) the cream of the East?
Remember in 2003 how you couldn't go one game without seeing either Kenyon Martin or Richard Jefferson in the act of making a poster? Remember how downright dangerous this team was playing a run-and-gun, above-the-rim style other teams only dared dabble in?
Yeah, that may or may not have something to do with that Jason Kidd guy. Or everything.
As soon as Kidd came to town, this team became an in-game circus, with guys bouncing all over the place on fast breaks as well as in the half-court.
To this day, Kidd to Martin is one of history's most formidable alley-oop tandems. Hell, Kidd was so good at what he did that even Lucious Harris was catching lobs off the backboard...
These guys wouldn't make it onto a "Heat Versus the Greatest Teams" list, but we're talking explosiveness here, and the Kidd/Martin/Jefferson Nets had that in spades.
Explosiveness: 7.5 kilotons.
For the purposes of this list, the first thing that comes to mind when talking Sonics is (this should come as no surprise) Shawn Kemp and his legendary antics above the rim. Second in line would be Gary Payton, equal parts zippy and slippery.
The two combined to form the NBA's most historically renowned alley-oop duo, and around them was a team that liked to run, coached by one of the less conservative coaches of his time, George Karl.
At different times, the two were manned by either Kendall Gill or Hersey Hawkins, both explosive in their own unique ways (vertically and laterally, respectively) and both more than happy to run the floor when the situation called for it.
In general, their entire scoring unit could be described as explosive, what with the ability to produce points in any fashion you could think of. But you have to take it back to Payton and Kemp for the real reason why this Sonics team places on this list.
Shawn Marion—back when "Matrix" was a far more fitting nickname—would almost unnaturally spring off the floor on a nightly basis to go get those lobs and rebounds. He basically made a seasonal home above the rim.
Amar'e Stoudemire, meanwhile, was the becoming the league's most feared pick-and-roll finisher, and these two alone often wrought havoc on opposing defenses on the receiving end of Steve Nash's passes.
These Suns were also the originators of the seven-second offense, deliberately pushing a high-octane style that left defenses at the mercy of their many passing options.
They were probably never as dangerous as in their first year together, when Joe Johnson was still in Phoenix—where he was, terrifyingly, the Suns’ fourth option.
This team ran so smoothly on offense thanks to its wealth of effective finishers that they convinced the world Mike D’Antoni was a world-class coach despite his last initial being the only D he had to his name.
Most of that success came while running and/or gunning. No rim was safe, and no passing lane too narrow.
Nothing says "explosive" like Dr. J in his prime...well, unless you're talking about Darryl Dawkins, who was famous for detonating backboards with his ridiculously named dunks.
That kind of screams it. These two were like the Kobe and Shaq of the '70s.
Throw in some Joe "Real Kobe's Dad" Bryant going at the rack regularly, and the task of playing the Sixers gets no easier. How about a young Lloyd (later World B.) Free to make your eyes spin?
This team was not only the league's most entertaining, it also had a measure of success in those years, making it to the finals and the East finals before the '80s arrived.
This team was essentially ahead of its time in terms of athletic gifts and the general ability to leave a giant handprint in the face of both gravity and basket engineering.
In fairness, I could have had two Showtime Lakers teams on this list—the Norm Nixon/Jamaal Wilkes version and the Byron Scott version—but I had to narrow it down to one, and I went with the latter.
There were a few less Coop-a-loops happening in the mid to late '80s, but a young Byron Scott and a prime James Worthy were more than enough for Magic Johnson to make sparks fly regularly on the break.
Given his relatively diminutive size, Scott in particular used to get off the ground and above the rim in quite impressive fashion.
Still, even in his later years, Michael Cooper was no slouch athletically and could still find his way to the rim—not to mention block his share of shots—thanks to his light, bouncy frame.
Overall, I think I need not break down in detail exactly why Showtime would make it onto a list like this.
From the moment Michael Jordan arrived in 1984, the Bulls as a whole turned into one of the league's most explosive teams. However, once Scottie Pippen arrived and eventually established himself as, well, the Pippen to Jordan's Jordan, they became all-time TNT.
This was not so much the case during their second three-peat, with age starting to catch up to them, but those prime years were just that: prime.
The combination of a constantly airborne Jordan and a gazelle-like Pippen who seemed to lope to the rim provided more highlight plays than you can fit on most modern hard drives—perhaps once they graduate to petabytes...
Anytime they got out on the break, you almost regretted even wasting the energy of attempting to guard them. We're talking a team with two free-throw line dunkers here.
Providing some bang alongside Mike and Scottie were a lean, active and scrappy Horace Grant and B.J. Armstrong, who was known to run a break or two—with both superstars ready to finish, no less.
With John Paxson and Craig Hodges to stretch the defense and keep things relatively honest, the half-court wasn't all that much safer than the fast break, but at least when you got scored on, you weren't left cursing nature for distributing the vertical-leap gene so unevenly.
When you have LeBron James (i.e. possibly the most explosive player in NBA history) coupled with Dwyane Wade (not too far behind), you're going to be in the conversation for most explosive team ever.
I don't care if you put 10 Oliver Millers on the roster with them—these two guys are a two-man wrecking crew/pyrotechnics display.
Chris Bosh is also capable of the occasional exclamation at the rim, what with his feathery feet and total lack of mass. The combined passing skills of LeBron and Co. are what mostly make this possible, as Bosh is not the type to go through anybody to get at the rim.
In general, though, taking it back to the Big Two, they are so aware of their massive leg up, so dripping with swagger as a result, that they're getting downright cute on their opponents—witness Dwyane Wade's "easy layup into modified LeLob."
You know how some people overstate a situation by saying it's just not fair? With these two together, you could say that literally, which, in case you didn't hear, is precisely why they're so universally despised.