Greatest NBA Team of All Time? Which Year? Why are They the Best?

Richard JTContributor IIIMarch 3, 2010

The 72 Lakers finished 69-13 and won an all-time professional sports record of 33 games in a row.

The '67 Philadelphia 76ers were 68-13 and won the title, while incidentally crushing the EIGHT-TIME DEFENDING champion Boston Celtics in a five game blowout in the Eastern Conference finals.

Those are probably the two best teams ever, as the league had not been watered down with a bunch of expansion teams and the league was also not littered with high school players. Only men needed apply for NBA roster spots in those days.

Wilt Chamberlain was the center on both of these teams—he always said that the 76er team was the better of the two...he said the Lakers were lucky in a lot of ways and things just fell into place for them...but that Laker team faced everyone in the playoffs that they did NOT want to play (i.e. the defending champion Bucks with MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the Knicks in the finals), and still won the title easily.

Either of these teams would destroy the '96 Bulls , as the Bulls would have had no way of matching up with those teams.

But I did love watching those Bulls teams! A lot of my friends who are Bulls fans were worried when they picked up Rodman, but I told them that MJ and Scottie wouldn't let Rodman become the destructive force he'd been on other teams...but even I had no idea that they'd win the title that easily.

Still, for one year, I'd go with the 76er team with Wilt at Center. The '86 Celtics were also a great, great team, and would also have destroyed the '96 Bulls. The '87 Lakers were also superior to any of the Bulls championship teams.

Heck, the '73 Knicks were better than the Bulls teams as well, as were the '74 and '76 Celtics. Dave Cowens did incredible work against both Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar...think he'd have any trouble going against Bill Cartwright or Luc Longley?? 

Pippen would be worn out by halftime chasing John Havlicek around the court... 

Let's see, Bill Cartwright or Willis Reed? Hmmmm...tough one there...

And man, it would just be too funny watching Steve Kerr try to guard Earl Monroe!!!

The '72 Lakers also benefited from expansion that year...going 9-0 against first yr. Cleve & Port. but a great team none the less. Yes, and Wilt himself preferred the '67 team (in part because he himself was five years younger). 


Was 1995-1996 Bulls the greatest team ever? No.

There are several key reasons why the 1996 Chicago Bulls are not the greatest team of all time. For starters, the league expanded from 23 teams to 29 teams from 1989-1996, and combined with a series a very shallow draft classes (almost no good players picked after No. 3 or No. 4), and the league was not particularly strong.

In addition, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen both strongly benefited from the shorter three-point line, as the two set career highs in three-point shots, three-point makes, and three-point percentage, allowing them to expand their game as they reach their 30s.

Yes, they won 72 games, but they did it in what was arguably the weakest era's ever, the watered-down 1990s.

Would they have come close to 70+ wins in the 1980s? How would they have fared against the great Celtic dynasty of the 60s? 

Keep in mind, there were six more teams in 1996 than there were in 1986. That's another 72 players that otherwise wouldn't have even made it to the NBA. 

They did have probably the two best players in the league at the time, plus one of the greatest rebounding forwards ever. But beyond that, who did they have?

How would the '96 Bulls do against teams like:

'86 Celtics (Bird, McHale, Parish, DJ, Walton)
'87 Lakers (Kareem, Magic , Worthy)
'83 76ers (Dr. J, Moses, Cheeks, Toney)
'72 Lakers (who won 69 games)
'71 Bucks (Kareem and Oscar)
'67 76ers (Wilt, Cunningham, Greer)
'60s Celtics (Russell, the Jones, Havlicek, numerous HOFers)



The 90s being weak is not an excuse—it's a FACT

1. Never in the history of the NBA has a player been as coddled by refs than Michael Jordan. The guy was allowed to travel and do just about anything he wanted to do, despite the rules that everyone else played by. The league tried its best to HELP Jordan score more points in order to sell tickets.

2. Jordan didn't develop an outside game until later in his career. He was mostly a slasher and a decent shot inside of 12 feet. The league even moved in the three-point line to the college level in the 90s to help players like Jordan.

3. There's no way in hell ANYBODY on a Michael Jordan-led team is going to average 28 points with Jordan hogging the ball. Jordan ain's giving up his shots to anybody—including Shaq.

4. Each team had maybe one to two good players and a bunch of mediocre players, thanks to expansion. The league added six teams within an eight year period, thereby diluting the quality of the teams. That's 72 players now playing that otherwise wouldn't have made it.

And what do the ratings have to do with the quality of the teams? All that says is the league had one hell of a marketing machine.

5. Jordan had one of the leading rebounders (Charles Oakley) on his team, plus a 20+ PPG scorer (Woolridge). I thought Jordan made everyone around him better (like Bird and Magic). Why didn't Jordan make them HOFers???

6. Wilt had to play against the greatest dynasty in sports history. 

7. Thanks to the influx of European players, the talent has caught up with the expansion. I agree, players are less fundamentally skilled.

8. Easy...the more you shoot, the more you will score. That's been Jordan's philosophy his whole career.

Even Dennis Rodman, the main reason behind the Bulls success that year, has said they wouldn't have come close to 70 wins, had they played in the 1980s against REAL competition.

You gotta believe the '80s Lakers and Celtics would have LOVED to have played teams like Vancouver, Minnesota, and Toronto a bunch of times each season! Easy, easy wins!! It would be like having the night off, except you get a win for it.

What's the difference between a 60 win team and a 70 win team? Yup...Minnesota, Vancouver, and Toronto.

Except I think the '96 Bulls would have had a hard time winning even 60 games in the 1980s.The Lakers and Celtics were by far the best teams at that time, and their win totals were usually low-mid 60s...the Bulls wouldn't have done that well.


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