The list of NBA champions is one of the most exclusive clubs in sports.
Only 65 teams have ever captured the NBA (and formerly BAA) crown, and the Lakers and Celtics franchises are responsible for 33 of those 65 titles.
Of course, there is a wide disparity between the various teams that have won the NBA Finals over the past six-plus decades. Clearly, it would be unfair to compare the teams of today to the squads of the '50s and '60s, but we can evaluate each title-winning club against the powers of its own era to determine how strong they actually were (relatively speaking).
So, with a little analysis, here is a look at the five worst NBA champions of all time.
Let the debate begin.
The 2004 Detroit Pistons are the only team since the 1979 Seattle Supersonics to win an NBA title without a superstar. So while most would consider them an outlier, many fans continue to use them as an example of how a team can win despite lacking a legitimate go-to option.
Chauncey Billups won the Finals MVP after a five-game set with the Los Angeles Lakers, but it can be argued that Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace or even Ben Wallace was the team's most important player that season.
Whatever the case may be, it can't be argued that they were a far superior unit than the hastily configured Lakers squad that added Gary Payton and Karl Malone in the previous offseason.
The Houston Rockets were the sixth seed heading into the 1995 playoffs, but knocked off the higher-seeded Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs before sweeping the Orlando Magic in the Finals.
The 1995 Rockets—who were led by all-world center Hakeem Olajuwon—were a markedly different team when compared to the unit that won the title the previous season. A late season trade resulted in Houston acquiring Clyde Drexler from the Portland Trailblazers in exchange for Otis Thorpe. During the Finals, Drexler averaged 21.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists.
Despite the sweep, it was actually a highly competitive series, as both teams scored 100 points or more in each of the four games.
Rick Barry and Willie Mays
The undersized Golden State Warriors upset the powerhouse Washington Bullets squad to win the 1975 NBA title. But in the pantheon of former NBA Finals champions, that Warriors squad ranks as one of the weakest of all time.
For what it's worth, the 48-34 Warriors did have the best record in the Western Conference during the 1974-75 season. But aside from Rick Barry—who averaged 27.3/5.1/5.5—the Warriors' roster that year was rather short on talent.
Only three players other than Barry averaged double figures in scoring for Golden State that season (Butch Beard, Charles Johnson and Rookie of the Year winner Jamaal Wilkes), and the team allowed an astonishing 105.2 points per game.
The Warriors swept the Bullets in the Finals, but they won the four games by a total margin of 16 points. The result was so unexpected that Golden State didn't even make the cover of Sports Illustrated the following week.
In a rematch of the previous year's NBA Finals, the Seattle Supersonics turned the tables on the Washington Bullets to win the first and only championship in the history of the franchise.
Seattle actually won 52 games on the season, but they pale in comparison when stacked up next to other NBA titleholders. Jack Sikma paced the Supersonics on the inside, while Dennis Johnson and Gus Williams held down the perimeter.
Johnson—who would later be a part of the legendary Boston Celtics teams of the 1980s—had a stellar playoff run, averaging 20.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game as Seattle rolled to the title.
The 1977-78 Bullets only won 44 games during the regular season, but they rolled through the Eastern Conference playoffs and knocked off an underwhelming Seattle Supersonics team to win the NBA title.
Washington was a well-balanced unit (six players averaged nine points or more per game), but were led by Elvin Hayes—a 6'9" power forward who averaged 21.8 points per game and 13.3 rebounds per game during the team's playoff run. And as pedestrian as they were otherwise, the Bullets averaged 50.8 rebounds per game—second best in the NBA that season.
To their credit, the Bullets should be commended for winning the Finals despite being down in the series three games to two.