Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were teammates on six finals champs.
Every June a new NBA champion is crowned. That team is of course "the best."
What about all those champs though? Every champ isn't created equal are they?
Surely some champs are better than others, while some are unquestionably worse.
In a world of constantly evolving statistics, there are numerous ways to try and determine the "better" and "worse" NBA Champs from a historical perspective. There's regular season record, postseason record, margin of victory and strength of opponent. All of which are very legitimate statistics.
Of course none of those take into account the league as a whole.
Twenty-five years ago there were only 23 teams in the NBA. Now there are 30. Yes, basketball as a sport has increased in popularity over those 25 years, but does that mean that the added seven teams haven't resulted in a slight watering down of the overall talent level on each team?
What about the lack of skilled big men? Today's top centers, men like Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum are very good, but they're not nearly as good as players like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing.
Less dominant big men means an increase in shots taken from long range. Adding to that is the increased popularity of the three-point shot.
The simple fact is that athletes might be better, but the complexity of the game is not what it was 25 years ago.
So how would one accurately rank the best and worst champs of the last 25 years?
This breakdown will refer to four main sources.
Last June, John Hollinger of espn.com ranked every single team to ever play in the Finals over the last 35 years. Hollinger assigns point values to regular season and postseason wins, assigns point values to margin of victory and finally hands out a bonus to teams that won the finals.
Neil Paine over at Basketball Prospectus used Basketball Reference's SRS stat to rank the most dominant champs of the last 25 years. This stat is heavily influenced by margin of victory. It also adds in priority to certain games of importance.
Then of course there's Bill Simmons. His "Book of Basketball" has a very interesting breakdown of NBA Champs that does take the era the title occurred in into account.
Finally, I'm old enough to have watched the last 25 NBA Finals and full seasons myself, so I've got my own opinions as well.
Will this produce an agreed-upon consensus?
No, that won't happen, but that doesn't mean it's not worth a try.
Hakeem Olajuwon celebrates his second championship.
The 1995 Houston Rockets were a very good basketball team, but when compared to other NBA Finals winners, they look a bit underwhelming.
They won only 47 regular season games and entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.
The Rockets did beat the 62 win top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.
Once the NBA Finals started, their opponent was a very young and inexperienced Orlando Magic team.
The Magic made the finals as a result of Michael Jordan's retirement. The league's best player had returned to the Bulls in early March, but with less than two months to incorporate Jordan back into the Bulls' game plans and rotations, the Bulls were never able to completely gel.
That Magic team fell apart after Nick Anderson missed four consecutive free throws down the stretch in Game 1, and lost in overtime.
From there the experienced and focused Rockets were able to overwhelm the talented but young Magic who were anchored by Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway
Tim Duncan and Marcus Camby tip-off the 1999 Finals.
The 1999 Spurs were a good team, but they played (by no fault of their own) weak opponents. Adding to the team's weakness when compared to other Finals champs are the circumstances surrounding the 1999 season.
If you thought this past season that was shortened by the lockout was impacted, then you'd be hesitant to even watch the 1999 season.
That year the season didn't even start until February. It was a 50-game season, and the league as a whole was unprepared for it.
Those fans that felt like certain players were not in top condition for the start of the 2011-2012 season would have been aghast at the outset of the 1999 season. Most players—not some, but most—seemed out of shape.
As Bill Simmons points out, and I myself can verify from memory, Shawn Kemp probably gained 40 pounds during the unusually long offseason.
To the Spurs credit, they really beat the opponents they played. But the fact is that the Knicks were an eight seed. By the time they got to the finals, Patrick Ewing wasn't even playing.
No Ewing while facing off against Tim Duncan and David Robinson. That's not a finals—that's futile.
Dwyane Wade carried Miami to its first title in 2006.
This was a season when the Heat spent the whole year getting their act together, in time to make a playoff run and win a weak Eastern Conference.
Once they made the Finals, the Heat faced off against a good (but inexperienced) Dallas Mavericks team.
The Mavericks had a better record, and faced tougher teams to get to the Finals.
Once there the finals inexperience of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and the rest of the squad became apparent.
Meanwhile, the Heat had Dwyane Wade playing the best basketball of his career. Shaquille O'Neal was eager to show the Lakers and Kobe Bryant he didn't need them to win a ring. Gary Payton, Antoine Walker and Alonzo Mourning all knew this was their last shot at a ring.
Miami was 16-7 in the postseason, which is not especially impressive, and only outscored their opponents by an average of 3.1 points per game in the playoffs. The 2006 Heat did just enough to win, and if not for a superhuman performance by Dwyane Wade, they'd have never won the Finals.
Tim Duncan celebrates his third NBA title.
2005 San Antonio Spurs: 59-23 (2) beat Detroit Pistons 54-28 (2) 4-3
The NBA as whole was not in the midst of a "weak" era for the first decade of the 21st century.
The year 2005 was a weak year though.
Consider that the Lakers were in shambles, having broken up the Shaq-Kobe-Phil dynasty. The Indiana Pacers, who looked ready to become true contenders, were destroyed by the ugly brawl against the Pistons at the beginning of the season.
That brawl resulted in very long, season-disrupting suspensions for Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson.
Wade and Joe Johnson were both lost and both teams, in turn, were eliminated.
That left a Spurs team, which was not too deep, to match up against a Pistons team also impacted by the brawl against the Pacers.
The Pistons didn't suffer the same sort of suspensions, but the consequences of the brawl may have sapped the team of some of their trademark physical defense.
Once in the Finals, the two teams engaged in an entertaining series with the Spurs, eventually prevailing in seven games.
That doesn't change the fact that the 2005 Spurs were not an all-time great championship squad.
Dirk Nowitzki after the Game 6 clincher.
2011 Dallas Mavericks: 57-25 (3) beat Miami Heat 58-24 (2) 4-2
Most readers already know the story of last year's finals.
There wasn't anything not to like about the 2011 Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs just happen to be the team that won the title as the league entered a period of transition.
Its best and most experienced players were getting too old. Guys like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, who accounted for nine of the previous 12 titles, both showed their age in the 2011 playoffs.
Dallas was able to feast on opponents who either were too old, or too young. After sweeping the Lakers, they dispatched the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had three key players all under the age of 24.
Then it was on to face off against a Miami Heat team that had inexplicably spent the entire season making themselves into public enemy number one among opponents, fans and media.
Once they reached the Finals, the Heat were in a fragile state, and once they blew a fourth quarter lead in Game 2, the team started to fold mentally.
Meanwhile the Mavericks, led by battle-tested veterans like Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, were well prepared to take advantage of Miami's fragile psyche.
Once Game 2 was over, the eventual six-game victory felt inevitable.
Hakeem Olajuwon was unstoppable in the 1994 playoffs.
1994 Houston Rockets: 58-24 (2) beat New York Knicks 57-25 (2) 4-3
The funny thing about the 1994 Houston Rockets is that they really weren't that great of a team. In 1994, I was really into the NBA. I was eager to find out what team would win, with Michael Jordan and the Bulls no longer part of the equation.
I watched a ton of that postseason, not just the finals, but the whole playoffs. While the Rockets never stood out as an all-time great team, there was no way Hakeem Olajuwon would allow them to lose.
As the regular season MVP, Olajuwon averaged 28.9 points, 11 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 4.0 blocks per game in the playoffs.
Even those number don't do him justice. Unlike many big men who are dunking over everyone, Olajuwon had an array of moves that were just unstoppable. He didn't take every shot, but he made every big shot.
The Rockets didn't have a great postseason record (15-8) and they only beat their opponents by an average of 3.1 PPG in the playoffs.
The Rockets had one of the greatest players of all time playing his best basketball—that's got to count for something.
LeBron celebrates his first NBA Title.
2012 Miami Heat: 46-20 (2) beat Oklahoma City Thunder 47-19 (2) 4-1
The Miami Heat of 2012 were the best team in the NBA in a lockout-shortened season. The season wasn't as dramatically impacted by the work stoppage as the 1998-1999 one was, but its impact was felt.
Miami gets credit for playing under an intense amount of fan and media scrutiny. Yes, the team brought some of that upon themselves by telling everyone how many titles they'd win in a pep rally nearly two years before.
Miami then compounded the problem by losing the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, even though the Heat had home court, won Game 1 and then had a lead late into Game 2.
The Heat entered the 2011-2012 season with tons of pressure and tons of expectations.
Miami had an impressive, but not dominant regular season, winning by an average of 6.0 points per game.
The playoffs offered more of the same, where Miami beat opponents by 6.8 points per game.
The Heat were very good, but never faced a truly great opponent en route to a 16-7 postseason record. As the top seed in the East, the Chicago Bulls lost the reigning MVP Derrick Rose to a devastating knee injury in the opening round.
That cleared a path for the Heat, who dispatched an injury-riddled Knicks team in the first round, beat an Indiana team that lacked any sort of elite go-to scorer in the second round, and then needed seven games to defeat another team missing key parts due to injuries: the Boston Celtics.
Once the Heat made the Finals, they faced a talented (but totally inexperienced) Oklahoma City Thunder team.
Yes, the trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden was as impressive as any in the NBA. Not one of them had ever played in the finals before and all of them are under 24 years old.
The Heat had clearly learned from last year's Finals defeat. This season it was Miami that assumed control of the series. Even after a tough Game 1 defeat, the Heat bounced back to run the table.
They out-muscled an Oklahoma City team that looked like it wasn't quite ready to win the big one.
The Thunder might be the team of the future, but Miami was the best team in the NBA in 2012.
Former Pistons coach Chuck Daly congratulates Chauncey Billups on winning the 2004 NBA Title.
2004 Detroit Pistons: 54-28 (3) beat Los Angeles Lakers 56-26 (2) 4-1
The Detroit Pistons were a huge underdog when they reached the NBA Finals.
In retrospect they should have been favorites. No one truly knew how many internal problems their opponent, the Los Angeles Lakers, had at the time.
This was a Lakers team thrown together to look like a fantasy basketball team.
Shaq, Kobe, Karl Malone and Gary Payton: That didn't impress the Pistons, who were anchored by the point guard play of Chauncey Billups and the rugged, physical defense of Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace.
The Pistons didn't let them score, not easily at least. The won ugly, but they did win. In the regular season they beat teams by an average of 5.8 points per game, which increased to 6.4 in the playoffs.
Detroit only had to beat two teams with better regular-season records than their own in the playoffs: the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals and then the Lakers in the Finals.
The victory over the Lakers isn't quite as impressive looking back and knowing about the team's discord, but it was still an impressive run by the Pistons.
David Robinson went out a champ in 2003.
2003 San Antonio Spurs: 60-22 (1) beat New Jersey Nets 49-33 (2) 4-2
The 2003 San Antonio Spurs were a great basketball team, but once in the NBA Finals they only had to beat a 49-win New Jersey Nets team.
The Spurs trotted out Tim Duncan and David Robinson to patrol the low-post, and the Nets countered with an aging Dikembe Mutombo and an overwhelmed Kenyon Martin.
The Spurs went 16-8 in the postseason and benefited from key injuries to two of the Western Conference's best players, Chris Webber and Dirk Nowitzki.
They even lost two games to the 49-win Nets in the Finals.
Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant celebrate the 2010 Championship.
2010 Los Angeles Lakers: 57-25 (1) beat Boston Celtics 50-32 (4) 4-3
The 2010 NBA Season was one that never really featured a dominant "this team will definitely win a ring" type of team.
The Bulls and Cavaliers both seemed either too young, or not deep enough. The Celtics were inconsistent and battled injuries all season.
In the West, Los Angeles was good but not great; the Spurs and Mavericks were both inconsistent through the regular season as well.
Then in the playoffs, the veterans took control. The Celtics traversed a tough eastern conference playoff bracket, eventually eliminating the best record and the league MVP when they beat Cleveland and LeBron James in a six-game Eastern Conference semifinal.
The Lakers really caught fire in the Western Conference playoffs. Once in the Finals the Celtics provided a real test.
It took the Lakers seven games, along with a key injury to Celtics center Kendrick Perkins in Game 6 of the Finals, to get the Lakers over the hump.
Phil Jackson, Shaq and Kobe celebrate their final title together.
2002 Los Angeles Lakers: 58-24 (3) beat New Jersey Nets 52-30 (1) 4-0
It's been ten years since the trio of Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were on the same team winning a NBA championship.
The 2002 team was the weakest of the three that ruled the league from 2000 to 2002.
First there was the finals opponent: a New Jersey Nets team that had never gone to the Finals before. The team started Todd MacCulloch at center; to no one's surprise this matchup heavily favored Shaquille O'Neal and the Lakers.
Los Angeles beat its opponents by an average of 7.1 points per game during the regular season, but during the postseason, that dropped to a less-impressive 3.8 points per game.
Bottom line, though good, this was not nearly as impressive of a Lakers squad as its two predecessors were.
Isiah Thomas led the Pistons to their second consecutive title in 1990.
1990 Detroit Pistons: 59-23 (1) beat Portland Trail Blazers 59-23 (3) 4-1
This was a season when the strongest teams were in the western conference. The Pistons were able to use their experience to defeat less experienced, less prepared postseason entries on the road to the finals through the east.
Rather than face off against the 63-win L.A. Lakers, who were upset by the Phoenix Suns in the second round, the Pistons faced a "just happy to be here" Portland Trail Blazers team.
The results were predictable as Detroit easily dispatched the Blazers in five games.
Watching this Pistons team, one never felt like they were a dominant team. The Blazers were the best team on paper that the Pistons would face that postseason.
Their lack of experience made the outcome of the Finals a foregone conclusion.
A young Kobe Bryant, Shaq in his prime, and veteran Ron Harper led L.A. to a title in 2000.
2000 Los Angeles Lakers: 67-15 (1) beat Indiana Pacers 56-26 (1) 4-2
Don't let the 67 wins fool you. This was a team that wasn't quite ready for prime time. The talent level was sky-high, but the 2001 Lakers would crush the 2000 Lakers if they met in a best-of-seven series.
The Lakers were actually outscored in the finals by the Pacers, even though they won the series.
Los Angeles trounced teams by an average margin of 8.5 points per game in the regular season and then watched that drop all the way down to a meager 2.3 points per game in the playoffs.
Don't forget that this was an aging Pacers team that the Lakers were facing as well. Reggie Miller was 34, Dale Davis was 30, Rik Smits was 33 and Mark Jackson was 34.
The Lakers had enough youth and talent to beat this Pacers team soundly. Instead, the six game series was much closer than it had to be.
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker celebrate the 2007 Finals victory.
2007 San Antonio Spurs: 58-24 (3) beat Cleveland Cavaliers 50-32 (2) 4-0
I'm certain that Spurs fans by now have a major beef with me. Hey: Tim Duncan is probably the greatest power forward of all time, and one of the ten best players in NBA History.
Unfortunately, it just so happens that most of his titles happen to come in odd NBA seasons.
2007 was no exception to that rule.
The Spurs were very good. This was a deep team with Duncan still in his prime, and Parker and Ginobli both playing great basketball as well.
Still this Spurs team beat its opponents by 8.4 points per game in the regular season and only by 4.0 in the playoffs.
The Spurs also were locked in a tight Western Conference semi-final matchup with the Phoenix Suns (61-21) when a Robert Horry-Steve Nash confrontation brought both Boris Diaw and Amar'e Stoudemire off the bench in Game 4.
That earned both players a one-game suspension and may have catapulted the Spurs into the Finals as much as anything else did.
Once in the Finals, the Spurs were faced with a one-man team. The Cleveland Cavaliers were led by phenom LeBron James. The problem was that not only was Cleveland thrilled to be there, it really was a one-man team.
Facing a Spurs team coached by Greg Popovich, with defensive stalwarts such as Bruce Bowen, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, the Cavs were totally outmatched.
It's tough to say how good this Spurs team was, with a finals matchup against that version of the Cavaliers.
Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant visiting the White House after winning the 2009 Finals.
2009 Los Angeles Lakers: 65-17 (1) beat Orlando Magic 59-23 (3) 4-1
This was the best Lakers team in the post-Kobe/Shaq paring era.
Gasol had a full season in Los Angeles. Bynum was healthier and started 50 games. The Lakers had defense from Trevor Ariza, a versatile all-around game from Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant was still in his prime.
Still this team never quite found their groove.
They needed a full seven games to get past the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals, then six to get past the Suns in the Conference finals.
When the Lakers won, they won big, by an average of 7.2 points per game in the playoffs. Yet the team's overall win-loss record in the postseason was an underwhelming 16-7.
The Orlando Magic were the third seed in the east, and a perfect matchup for the Lakers, similar to how the 2007 Cavaliers were an ideal matchup for the Spurs.
A team with little finals experience, the Magic were totally dependent on one dominant player: Dwight Howard.
That was not a challenge that Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant couldn't handle. The Lakers won with relative ease in a five game series.
Jordan exults as his Bulls polish off the Suns for the three-peat.
1993 Chicago Bulls: 57-25 (2) beat Phoenix Suns 62-20 (1) 4-2
Maybe—just maybe—there was something to it when Michael Jordan retired, following the 1993 season and his third consecutive NBA Championship.
After all, this Bulls team didn't have any reason to be that much worse than the 1991 or 1992 versions. Yet this team struggled in the regular season and then finally hit its stride in the playoffs.
This was the only Jordan-led Bulls title team to not hit the 60-win mark in the regular season.
The team they beat in the finals was an impressive challenger. Charles Barkley was determined to win a ring. He had his best all-around season and won the regular-season MVP award.
That probably didn't help him in the Finals. Once there, Jordan set out to prove his value. When Barkley had a triple-double in game 4, Jordan scored 55 points and the Bulls won the game.
That sums up this season for the Bulls. They weren't the defensive juggernaut that other Bulls teams were, but Jordan wouldn't let them lose.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won his final ring in 1988.
1988 Los Angeles Lakers: 62-20 (1) beat Detroit Pistons 54-28 (2) 4-3
This was the Lakers team that Pat Riley famously guaranteed would win a back-to-back title following the 1987 Finals victory. They came through, but it was a struggle.
An aging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was not the player he once was, and when the playoffs started, the Lakers were not invincible.
It took L.A. seven games to get past the Jazz in the semis. Then, it took another seven to beat the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals.
Awaiting the Lakers in the Finals were the Detroit Pistons, who were just starting to come into their own as a force to be reckoned with.
The Pistons lost a tough seven-game series to the Lakers. The series featured two all-time great individual efforts.
Game 6 will be remembered for Isiah Thomas suffering from a badly sprained ankle, hobbling up and down the court while scoring 25 fourth-quarter points in a losing effort.
Game 7 was won by Los Angeles, with a herculean effort from James Worthy.
"Big Game" James had a triple-double with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists as the Lakers went back-to-back for the first time since the '68 and '69 Boston Celtics.
In 1992 Michael Jordan and the Bulls established themselves as a budding dynasty.
1992 Chicago Bulls: 67-15 (1) beat Portland Trail Blazers 57-25 (1) 4-2
We're at the point where a team ranked below another team isn't really anything to be too concerned about. Think about the 1992 Bulls in similar manner to the 2000 Lakers.
A dominant regular-season team that was not able to dominate in the same manner in the postseason, the Bulls lost 15 of 82 regular-season games and then lost 7 of 22 postseason games.
That's a pretty significant increase. In spite of being dominant all season long, this was the Bulls team extended to seven games by a 51-win Knicks team in the playoffs.
When they met Portland in the Finals, it took another superhuman Jordan performance to beat a team with Kevin Duckworth as its starting center. The Bulls were still pushed to six games by a Blazers team that was clearly inferior.
Chicago even dropped Game 2 at home.
This Bulls team would probably beat most NBA Finals champs, but not the ones ranked ahead of them.
Kevin Garnett celebrates Boston's first title since 1986.
2008 Boston Celtics: 66-16 (1) beat Los Angeles Lakers 57-25 (1) 4-2
The Celtics were a dominant defensive team whose offense would pull random disappearing acts. Celtics fans reading this know that in the years since 2008 this aspect of the team has become more pronounced.
Boston gets lots of credit for basically gelling immediately. This was a team that was almost completely remade in the summer of 2007, when both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett were acquired. Boston also won 66 games with a 21-year-old point guard running the show.
Once the playoffs started, the Celtics had an unimpressive 16-10 record, but when the games counted, they won big.
This was exemplified by the team's blowout win in Game 6 of the NBA Finals over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Isiah and the Pistons bounced back to win the 1989 Finals.
1989 Detroit Pistons: 63-19 (1) beat Los Angeles Lakers 57-25 (1) 4-0
This was when the long-suffering Pistons finally broke through.
In one memorable postseason run, the Pistons swept a Boston Celtics team that had tormented them 3-0 in the opening round, bested the upstart Chicago Bulls (led by Michael Jordan) 4-2, and then swept a Los Angeles Lakers team that was seeking it's third consecutive title 4-0.
The Lakers entered the Finals looking unbeatable.
L.A. was 11-0 in the postseason, but then Byron Scott and Magic Johnson suffered key injuries. This was too much for them to overcome, and the Pistons did exactly what a great team should do under those circumstances: They swept L.A. 4-0.
Michael Jordan led the Bulls to their sixth title of the 1990's.
1998 Chicago Bulls: 62-20 (1) beat Utah Jazz 62-20 (1) 4-2
The Bulls of the 1990s never once had to go a full seven games to win a title. This series was close, though.
Every game, except for a Game 3 blowout, was very close in the Finals. The Bulls also were tested in the Eastern Conference finals, where the Indiana Pacers extended them to seven games.
The Jazz team that Chicago faced in the Finals was very good, but the Bulls also had experience beating them from the year before.
The regular season was fantastic. It just wasn't quite as impressive as some of the other Bulls' runs were. At this point in the slideshow there's little room for critique of these teams.
It's not that the '98 Bulls weren't fantastic. It's just that they were not quite as impressive as some of Jordan's other teams.
2001 Los Angeles Lakers: 56-26 (2) beat Philadelphia 76ers 56-26 (1) 4-1
Why is this 56-win team in the top five?
The 2000-2001 Lakers didn't really click in the regular season. Once the playoffs started, everything suddenly clicked.
Los Angeles entered the finals with an 11-0 postseason record. On their way to the Finals L.A. defeated both the one and two-seeded western conference teams in dominating series sweeps.
In the Finals, the Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant duo played the best basketball they would ever play together.
Shaq was the real standout. Facing off against a 76ers team that featured both the MVP (Allen Iverson) and defensive player of the year (Dikembe Mutombo) Shaq left little doubt as to who the best player on the court was. Look at these totals:
Game 1: 44 points 20 rebounds
Game 2: 28 points, 20 rebounds, 9 assists, 8 blocks
Game 3: 30 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks
Game 4: 34 points, 14 rebounds
Game 5: 29 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks.
All of this was accomplished with the Defensive Player of The Year guarding him.
The 2001 Lakers won by an absurd average margin of 12.8 points per game in the playoffs. That's why a 56-win team is in the top five.
1997 Chicago Bulls: 69-13 (1) beat Utah Jazz 64-18 (1) 4-2
Don't get Michael Jordan angry.
The year 1997 was one where Jordan led the league in scoring and guided his Bulls to 69 wins—one of the best records in NBA history. Yet MVP voters decided to hand Karl Malone the MVP award.
Jordan's Bulls ripped through the Eastern Conference playoffs with an 11-2 record, then faced off against the Utah Jazz, and MVP Malone in the Finals.
When Malone missed key chances to win games, the Bulls took advantage. Then Jordan got a bad stomach flu in Salt Lake City.
A clearly-ill Jordan produced a 37-point masterpiece in leading the Bulls to one of the more impressive wins in NBA history. It was one of Jordan's greatest games on one of his greatest teams.
1991 Chicago Bulls: 61-21 (1) beat Los Angeles Lakers 58-24 (3) 4-1
Not only was this the first ring for Jordan, but one could make the argument that this was the best opponent the Bulls faced in the Finals.
The 1991 Lakers weren't as good record-wise as some of Jordan's other finals' opponents, but unlike the Blazers, Suns, Sonics and Jazz, the Lakers had plenty of experience actually winning a title.
Magic, Worthy, Byron Scott and A.C. Green were all key parts of the 1980s dynasty, and they were all still playing major roles in 1991 as well.
With that type of experience, a Game 1 win should have given L.A. a huge advantage going forward. It didn't.
The Bulls ran off four straight wins, including three on the road. The closest margin of victory for the Bulls was eight points. In other words, it was a blowout. That's what the entire postseason was for the Bulls.
Chicago was 15-2 in the playoffs, and won by an average of 11.6 points per game. The Bulls were able to take advantage of the aging stars of the 1980s, and they took full advantage.
The last nine postseason games the Bulls played in 1991 were against the teams that had won the last four NBA Finals. They swept Detroit, and then ran over the Lakers. The Bulls beat the best, to become the best.
1987 Los Angles Lakers: 65-17 (1) beat Boston Celtics 59-23 (1) 4-2
The Lakers were coming off a season in which they were upset in the Western Conference finals by the Houston Rockets. Then Magic had to sit and watch as the Boston Celtics won yet another NBA Title and Larry Bird won his third consecutive MVP award.
Magic returned with a fury. Johnson took home the MVP and guided his Lakers to one of the all-time greatest seasons in NBA History.
Keep in mind just how loaded the league was at this point.
There were stars everywhere, and the league had only 23 teams. No star shined brighter than Magic Johnson, though. His Lakers were dominant in the regular season, beating opponents by an average of 9.3 points per game. That's an absurd number in a talent-rich league over an 82-game stretch.
Once the playoffs started, the team only got better. First they ripped through the West, losing only one game on the road to the Finals. It took a superhuman 51-point burst by Eric "Sleepy" Floyd of the Warriors to beat L.A.
Then in the finals, L.A. faced off against the defending champion Boston Celtics. The Celtics were banged up.
The Lakers took advantage by blowing out Boston in the first two games. When the team most needed a lift, it was Magic Johnson who stepped up and hit one of the biggest shots of his career to win Game 4.
The Lakers beat opponents by an average of 11.4 points per game on the road to the first of several back-to-back titles in 1987.
1996 Chicago Bulls: 72-10 (1) beat Seattle Sonics 64-18 (1) 4-2
Yes, the NBA added six new teams to the mix between the 1987 Lakers and the 1996 Bulls.
Yes, that diluted the talent level. No, that doesn't mean the 1996 Bulls weren't amazing.
This was when everything clicked for the Bulls, from the opening tip of the first regular season game until the final buzzer on the 96 Finals.
Chicago was a machine. Jordan wasn't even needed as a superhuman player on this squad. He still won the MVP award and was the best player on the planet, but he didn't need to bail his team out of close games.
That's because there really weren't too many close games. The Bulls won by an average of 12.2 points per game over the regular season, then suffered only a minor drop-off in the playoffs where they won by an average of 10.6 points a night.
Phil Jackson figured out how best to harness the talents and personality of Dennis Rodman, who sported oddly colored hair but pulled down 14.9 rebounds per game in the regular season and 13.7 in the playoffs.
The Bulls were 15-3 in the playoffs, but two of those losses came in the Finals only after Chicago had taken an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the series. Then, for some odd reason, the Bulls actually played some of their worst basketball of the whole year.
The problem was quickly remedied, and the Bulls won in six games, becoming one of the greatest teams of all-time, and the best of the last 25 years.