Common Threads of Every Repeat NBA Champion
Can the Miami Heat do it again? NBA success is self-perpetuating, and though repeating as a title winner is a difficult feat, it does have some precedent. Magic Johnson pulled it off in the '80s, then Isiah Thomas at the turn of the decade. Michael Jordan had a double three-peat. Kobe Bryant has been a part of consecutive titles in two different eras.
Now it's LeBron's turn, if only the Miami Heat can defy convention somewhat. This team is smaller, more versatile than the typical championship winner. A majority of the other repeaters were tall, lumbering teams, not so inclined to bet on the side of rained three-pointers, slung by a slew of six to eight guys.
This doesn't make a Miami title more or less unlikely. It just means—much like Detroit's point-guard fueled attack—the Heat would be a championship repeater unlike any other.
1. Defense Wins Championships
It's not just a platitude. The only modern (after the '70s is how I arbitrarily draw that line) repeat title winner to succeed with a mediocre defense were the 2001-2002 Lakers. They trundled through their 56-26 repeat season with the 21st-ranked defense. This was staggering, considering that the 2000-2001 team had the first-ranked defense.
Looking back, one has to wonder if this drop was indicative of how Shaq drove Kobe nuts. O'Neal's effort was likely a large factor in why the Lakers were underperforming in the regular season. Obviously, it worked out in the end for the repeat winners. It's difficult to argue with results, even if they're achieved via sporadic effort.
2. You Need Your Wings
As Pusha T might say, "You can't fly without your wings." Much like the current Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls, early 2000s Lakers and late 2000s Lakers all boasted an offense run through a creative wing.
The Pistons were unique in that their offense ran through point guard Isiah Thomas. The Lakers had another PG-run offense, but Magic Johnson's size enabled him to defy positional restrictions. He was a wing in a point guard's body, if not a point guard in a center's body. As the NBA moves toward a more versatile era, wings perhaps are becoming all the more essential.
3. Repeat with a Duo
First off, I apologize to poor Chris Bosh for not getting any spotlight in the above picture. Today, "big threes," are all the rage, and I really do encourage any team to run out there and get three superstars if they can. The "if they can" is the hard part, of course.
Secondly, this "You need a duo" advice probably applies to most championship contenders—but it's also applicable to repeaters. Dirk can carry a title team once, but twice is pushing it. Magic-and-Kareem, Michael-and-Scottie, Shaq-and-Kobe, Kobe-and-Pau. Historic combos come in pairs.
All the more credit to Hakeem Olajuwon for pulling off a near-solo repeat.
4. Be the Lakers
This thread might be tough for some teams out there, but the Lakers sure have a gift for sequels. The Boston Celtics actually have the most repeat titles in league history, thanks to their domination of the '60s, but the Lakers have done it three times in the last 30 years, twice in the 2000s. The Celtics haven't repeated since that aforementioned '60s era.
Perhaps it's something about the warm weather that sustains a title winner and perhaps it's completely arbitrary (I'm leaning toward the latter). Why am I leaning toward the latter? Well, it's because the Bulls hold the record for most repeats since the '90s with four. We're dealing with small sample sizes here.