It happens anywhere NBA fans congregate: "My team is better than your team." Eventually, the discourse evolves into the past successes of the teams involved. However, when the discussion becomes a debate on the greatest franchises in NBA history, there are only two teams that can be considered: the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.
So how do we define the greatest franchise in NBA history? Titles? Playoff appearances? Rivalries? Overall win/loss records? There are no standards for this sort of thing. No guidelines that indicate what should and should not be considered in the discussion of the greatest of all time. I think it would be best if all were considered. Disclaimer: I am an avid Lakers fan.
Most NBA fans are aware that the Celtics hold 17 NBA titles while the Lakers organization sits at 14 titles. At first glance, the edge here would go to the Celtics with three more championship rings. However, if you take a closer look, the bulk of their championships came in one fantastic time period with eight in row in the sixties. There is one crucial point that is often overlooked. Winning the initial NBA Finals championship—which was also their third straight title counting the two previous years in the NBL and BAA—began a run in which the Lakers would win five of the first six NBA championships. The Lakers franchise dynasty actually began before the Celtics dynasty emerged, contrary to popular (and reported) belief.
Including this season, the Lakers and Celtics have been staples in the postseason. The Celtics have made the playoffs 46 times in 63 seasons, an amazing 73 percent postseason appearance rate. They have been division champions 26 times, won 20 of the 31 Conference Finals they’ve appeared in, and currently rock a 17–3 finals record.
In comparison, the Lakers have made the playoffs in 56 of their 60 seasons, a 93 percent clip! The Lakers history (including the Minneapolis years) includes 28 division championships, 29 of 37 Conference Finals won, and a underwhelming 14-15 Finals record.
So with all these numbers crunched, it looks like we may still be knee deep in indecision. I think the final leverage comes in the definition of the word "dynasty." As defined by dictionary.com: "Dynasty—a family or group that maintains power for several generations." The Celts have maintained power at several different stages in their NBA history. The Lakers have maintained power at all stages in their NBA history. Every twenty years or so, the Celtics seem to have a re-emergence—the '60s, '80s, and possibly the 2000s. However, the Los Angeles Lakers were winning titles in the '40s, '50s, '70s, '80s, and 2000s. Granted. the Celts did win titles in ’74 and ’76. but they were hardly considered the dominant team of the decade. In fact, the only decade for which they can claim dominance is the '60s. On the other hand, the Lakers can claim the '50s, '80s, and arguably. the 2000s as "their decade."
With two teams so close in every way, it is definitely an argument that can go either way. In this author’s eyes, the Lakers are the greatest franchise in NBA history.