30 Memorable NBA Teams That Failed To Win a Championship

Matt Ryan@Matlanta1989Correspondent IISeptember 25, 2010

30 Memorable NBA Teams That Failed To Win a Championship

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    SACRAMENTO, CA - MAY 04:  Point guard Mike Bibby #10 of the Sacramento Kings huddles with his teammates in game 1 of the 2002 NBA Western Conference semifinals against the Dallas Mavericks at ARCO arena in Sacramento, California on May 04, 2002.  The King
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    History is written by the winners. This is the case for any sports league such as the NBA whose history is defined by the legacies of great championship teams like the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers, 1983 Philadelphia 76ers, and the 1996 Chicago Bulls.

    While those teams are remembered for their winning and dominance, other teams are remembered for coming up short of that elusive title. Many of these teams had Hall of Fame talent in their lineups and talented players on the bench, but were unable to raise a championship banner the following year.

    Whether or not coming up short was due to bad luck, losing to a better team, injuries, or a conspiracy, these teams are still remembered for their talented players on the court.

    This article will focus on teams that had dominant runs and failed to win a title, as opposed to dominant teams that had to wait another season to begin a dynastic run such as the 1990 Chicago Bulls and 2008 Los Angeles Lakers, or teams that were in the middle of a championship run like the 1984 Los Angeles Lakers and 2006 San Antonio Spurs.

1968-1969 Los Angeles Lakers

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    INGLEWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 16:  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain sit on the court during Earvin 'Magic' Johnson's retirement ceremony from the Los Angeles Lakers on February 16, 1992 at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood,
    Ken Levine/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 55-27

    Coach: Bill VanBredaKolff

    The off-season trade for Wilt Chamberlain formed the Nixon era's version of Miami Thrice. The Lakers finished the regular season with the Western Conference's best record and had the best home record.

    The Lakers were so sure that this was finally their year to beta Boston, that their owner had already put balloons in the rafters before Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

    The Celtics prevailed in the end with another NBA championship in what was Bill Russel's final game. The Lakers would lose the 1970 NBA Finals to the New York Knicks in seven games, before finally winning their first title in Southern California in 1972.

1972-1973 Boston Celtics

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 68-14

    Coach: Tom Heinsohn

    The team of the 1960's continued their championship contention into the next decade, but with less success.

    The Boston Celtics finished with the best regular season record ever for a team that failed to make the NBA Finals. They lost a seven game series to the New York Knicks (a team with 6 future Hall of Famers on its roster) in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    The core group of Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, Don Nelson, JoJo White, and Paul Silas would help the Celtics win the 1974 and 1976 NBA titles.

1976-1977 Philadelphia 76ers

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 50-32

    Coach: Gene Shue

    With the addition Julius Erving from the ABA's New York Nets, the 76ers finished first in the NBA's Eastern Conference. Dr. J, George McGinnis, and Doug Collins all made the All-Star game and help the 76ers make their first finals appearance in a decade.

    What this team will always be remembered for is blowing a 2-0 NBA Finals series lead to the Portland Trailblazers, losing games 6. Dr. J would have to wait six more years to finally

The 1980's

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    LOS ANGELES - 1987:  Magic Johnson #32 of the Los Angeles Lakers rebounds over Larry Bird #33 of the Boston Celtics during an NBA Finals game at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, California in 1987. (Photo by: Mike Powell/Getty Images)
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics would combine to win 8 titles during this decade and at least one of these teams made it to the NBA Finals in every year of this decade. Aside from the 1983 76ers and Chuck Daly's Bad Boys, a lot of great teams from this era were denied a title because of Magic and Larry.

1984-1985 Denver Nuggets

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    1980''s:  Guard Alex English of the Denver Nuggets shoots the ball during a game versus the Los Angeles Lakers at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 52-30

    Coach: Doug Moe

    The Nuggets play from the 1980’s was similar to that of the Suns of today, lots of scoring on both ends of the court. Led by Alex English and Calvin Natt, Denver made the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. They lost to the Lakers in five games with their four losses coming by more than 20 points a game. Denver would have to wait 24 years for another shot at the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

1985-1986 Milwaukee Bucks

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 57-25

    Coach: Don Nelson

    This is the first of several Don Nelson coached teams on this list. The Bucks easily captured the NBA's Central Division and won 50 or more games for the 7th consecutive season. Led by All-Star Sidney Moncrief, the original "point forward" Paul Pressey, and high scoring Terry Cummings; The Bucks made their third Eastern Conference Finals appearance in four seasons, but once again failed to get past the Boston Celtics. Milwaukee would have played the Houston Rockets in the 1986 NBA Finals, whom had eliminated the Lakers that year, which would have set up a matchup between small town underdogs. CBS was really glad that didn't happen as far as TV ratings are concerned. The Bucks from this era are easily one of the most underrated teams in NBA history.

1986-1987 Atlanta Hawks

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    Forward Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks dribbles down the court during a game.
    Ken Levine/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record:57-25

    Coach: Mike Fratello

    Led by "The Human Highlight Film" and Doc River's 10 assists per game, the Hawks were able to end the Bucks reign in the Central Division and finished 2 games behind Boston for the #1 seed. Wilkins averaged 29 points per game and third year center Willis averaged a double-double. After  easily beating the Pacers in a four game 1st round series, this finesse team lost to a more physical Detroit Pistons in a five game 2nd round series.

1987-1988 Dallas Mavericks

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    Forward Mark Aguirre of the Dallas Mavericks in action.
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 53-29

    Coach: John Macleod

    After winning only 15 games during the 1980-1981 season as an expansion team, the Mavericks gradually built a championship contender through the decade. Led by Mark Aguirre’s 25 points per game, Rolando Blackman, and All-Star James Donaldson; the Mavericks took the Los Angeles Lakers to a Game 7 in the conference finals, but were unable to punch their ticket to the final round against the Pistons. After the season, the Mavericks began a gradual decline and would not be a title contender until the next millennium

The 1990's

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    1989:  Bill Laimbeer #40 of the Detroit Pistons sits on the bench in a game during the 1988-1989 NBA season.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    As the 1980's came to close, the Detroit Pistons were on top of the NBA with a team that featured two Hall of Game guards, an imposing front court, and depth at every position. Soon the Chicago Bulls wake take over the sports world and a new generation of teams would be denied of their title dreams, just as Boston and Los Angeles had done so the previous decade.

1991-1992 Golden State Warriors

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    1990-1991:  Guard Tim Hardaway of the Golden State Warriors in action with the basketball. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 55-27

    Coach: Don Nelson

    Once again Don Nelson makes the list. While this run and gun team was never a dominant playoff, NBA fans from this era still reminisce about the Warriors from Don Nelson's first coaching tenure in the Bay.The 1991-1992 season marked the beginning of the post Run-TMC era after trading Mitch Richmond to the Sacramento Kings for rookie forward Billy Owens. The team improved by 11 wins from the previous season to go 55-27 and lost to the Seattle Supersonics in a four game 1st round playoff series. They averaged 118.7 points per game during the regular season.

1991-1992 Cleveland Cavaliers

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    13 May 1993:  Center Brad Daugherty of the Cleveland Cavaliers goes up for two as a Chicago Bulls player covers him during a game at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bulls won the game, 104-85. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 57-25

    Coach: Lenny Wilkins

    The late 2000's was not the only time that Cleveland fielded a title contender on the hardwood. One aspect this team will be remembered for is the height of their starting front court. Daugherty, Nance, and Williams were all 6-10 or taller. Lenny Wilkin's team went 57-25 and made it to all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.The series was tied at two games a piece going into Game 5 at Chicago Stadium, but the Cavs lost the next two games. The Cavs continued to be a playoff contender throughout the 1990's, but failed to make another conference finals appearance until 2007.

1991-1992 Portland Trailblazers

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    Guard Clyde Drexler of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots the ball during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon.
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 53-29

    Coach: Rick Adelman

    The Portland Trailblazers made the NBA Finals in 1990 and looked to get back their after losing to the Lakers in the Playoffs the previous season. Clyde Drexler was named All NBA First Team and was the leader of a talent starting five in Oregon. The Blazers were tied with the Bulls at two games a piece in the NBA Finals, but could not prevent a repeat for Chicago after losing Game 6 97-93. This would not be the first a Rick Adelman would lose a playoff series to Phil Jackson.

1992-1993 Phoenix Suns

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    18 Jun 1993: Guard Kevin Johnson of the Phoenix Suns moves the ball during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Suns won the game, 108-98.
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 62-20

    Coach: Paul Westphal

    The Phoenix Suns were a great team during the late 1980's and early 1990's, but did not become a true championship caliber until they traded for Charles Barkley, who won the MVP award for the 1992-1993 NBA season. Barkley finally had a supporting cast around him with great players like Dan Majerle, Kevin Johnson, and Tom Chambers. Seven Suns averaged at least 10 points per game. Under first year head coach and former Suns All-Star Paul Westphal posted the best record in the NBA and made it to the NBA Finals for the first time in 17 years. After winning an exciting seven game Western Conference Finals against Seattle, the Suns lost to the twice defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. This was the only time Charles Barkley played in the NBA Finals.

Michael Jordan Retires

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    Michael Jordan appears tearful during the press conference announcing his retirement from the NBA Chicago Bulls. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Michael Jordan's first retirement opened the window of opportunity for other teams to win the NBA title, which had only been won by 4 different teams in the previous 10 seasons.

1993-1994 Seattle Supersonics

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 63-19

    Coach: George Karl

    After losing to Phoenix in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals and the retirement of Michael Jordan, the Supersonics entered the 1993-1994 NBA season as on of the title favorites. They posted the best record in the NBA with the exciting young duo of Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton. Seattle also had a great supporting cast of players that included Detlef Schrempf, Kendall Gill, and Ricky Pierce. This team will always be remembered for their shortcomings by coming the first number one seed to lose a first round series in the NBA Playoffs. Despite, having a 2-0 series lead against Dikembe Mutombo and the Denver Nuggets, the Sonics lost the next three games and were denied of their best chance to win a title during the 1990's.

1993-1994 New York Knicks

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    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 57-25

    Coach: Pat Riley

    The retirement of Michael Jordan finally enabled the New York Knicks to make it to the NBA Finals in the Patrick Ewing era. They tied for the East's best record and sent three players to the All-Star Game. The road to the finals was far from easy after back to back seven game series with the Bulls and Pacers. The Knicks were down 2-3 in the series and came back to beat Indiana to make their first finals appearance in 21 years, after Spike Lee took on Reggie Miller. While O.J. Simpson evaded the LAPD, the Knicks won Game 5 on June 17th and took a 3-2 series lead over the Houston Rockets. John Starks had a game winning shot denied in Game 6 and shot 2-18 in Game 7, preventing the Knicks from winning a title to match the New York Rangers Stanley Cup championship from that year.

1994-1995 San Antonio Spurs

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    2 Dec 1994:  Center David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs takes a shot during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon.  The Spurs won the game, 95-91. Mandatory Credit: ALLSPORT USA  /Allsport Mandatory Credit: A
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 62-20

    Coach: Bob Hill

    Although the Rockets were the defending champions, they weren't the only NBA team in Texas with title aspirations. San Antonio had the best record in the NBA and MVP winner, two most common traits for championship caliber teams. Along the Admiral; Dennis Rodman, Sean Elliot, Vinny Del Negro, and Avery Johnson rounded out arguably the best starting lineup in franchise history (including the Tim Duncan era). The Spurs easily won playoff series against the Denver Nuggets (no 1st seed upset this time) and the Los Angeles Lakers. In a Texas Western Conference finals, San Antonio lost a six game series to the Houston Rockets. David Robinson would have to wait another four seasons to win a championship.

1994-1995 Orlando Magic

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    5 Jan 1996:  Forward Shawn Kemp of the Seattle Supersonics goes up for a shot against Orlando Magic center Shaquille O'Neal and guard Penny Hardaway during a game played at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida.  The Magic won the game, 115-93. Mandatory
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 57-25

    Coach: Brian Hill

    After drafting Shaquille O'Neal 1st overall in 1992 and selecting Penny Hardaway in 1993, the Orlando Magic looked like the NBA's team of the future. With the signing of Horace Grant in the offseason, Orlando looked like the Eastern Confrence favorite entering the 1994-1995 NBA season. They finished two games ahead of New York for the 1st seed and beat the Celtics, Bulls, and Pacers on their way to the Finals against the defending champion Houston Rockets. The Magic lost Game 1 in overtime 118-120, as Dennis Scott missed four consecutive free throws at the end of the game. Orlando lost by Game by three points and were swept in four games by the Rockets. Despite the sweep, Many thought this would be the first of many Finals appearances for Shaq and Penny with the Magic, but O'Neal signed with the Lakers in the 1996 offseason and soon after Hardaway suffered injuries that derailed a potential Hall of Fame career.

I'm Back

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Michael Jordan unretired midway through the 1994-1995 season and did not seem like the same player he was a few years back. The Rockets would win their second straight title that season, but the Bulls would continue denying the rest of the league of championships the following year.

1995-1996 Seattle Supersonics

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    3 Dec 1996:  Guard Gary Payton of the Seattle Supersonics looks on during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.  The Lakers won the game, 110-106.     Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 64-18

    Coach: George Karl

    After winning at least 55 games the previous three seasons and failing to earn a Finals berth, Seattle looked to finally breakthrough. Led once again by All-Stars Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, Seattle once again posted the best record in the Western Conference. After easily beating Sacramento and Houston in the first 2 rounds, Seattle needed seven games to get past Utah in the Western Conference Finals to earn their first NBA Finals trip in 17 years. Chicago won the first 3 games in the series, but Seattle managed to win games 4 and 5 to send the series back to Illinois. Seattle would lose Game 6, 87-75.  Seattle would continune to be a winning team during this rest of the decade, but were never as dominant.

1996-1997 Miami Heat

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    20 May 1997: Center Alonzo Mourning and guard Tim Hardaway listen to coach Pat Riley of the Miami Heat during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls won the game 84-77.
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 61-21

    Coach: Pat Riley

    During the previous season Pat Riley was able to acquire Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, which helped establish the Heat as a playoff team. The off season addition of Dan Majerle and a mid season trade for Jamal Mashburn turned Miami in to a championship contender. The Heat finished with the NBA's 3rd best record but needed five games to get past their in-state rival the Orlando Magic in the 1st round and seven games to dispose of their new rival the New York Knicks in the 2nd round. Miami was then eliminated by the Chicago Bulls in low scoring five games Eastern Confrence Final. They would continue to be a great team, but would have to wait until a new era of Heat players came along to win a championship.

1997-1998 Los Angeles Lakers

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    7 Nov 1997:  Forward Eddie Jones of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket during a game against the New York Knicks at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw  /Allsport
    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 61-21

    Coach: Del Harris

    Although the Lakers would begin the next decade with 3 straight championships, this was arguably their most talented team since the Showtime Lakers. Shaquille O'Neal, Eddie Jones, Nick Van Exel, and Kobe Bryant all made the All-Star game, which tied an NBA record for most All-Stars an one NBA team. They had a great bench that included Kobe Bryant in his 2nd year, Elden Campbell, Rick Fox, and Derek Fisher. This young Lakers made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, but were swept by the more experienced Utah Jazz. Two years later, Shaq and Kobe would begin their championship reign.

1997-1998 Indiana Pacers

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    25 Apr 1998: Rik Smits #4 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in action against during a game against the Indiana Pacers at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Pacers defeated the Cavaliers 92-86.
    Vincent Laforet/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 58-24

    Coach: Larry Bird

    Under Larry Brown the Indiana Pacers were dominant team, but it was not until Larry Bird became head coach that the Pacers ever challenged the Chicago Bulls. This Pacers team was not very flashy on the court, but they played great defense and could shoot the three pointer.  They took the Bulls to the a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals and made the 2000 NBA Finals with the same core group of players. Both times they came up short to more superior teams coached by Phil Jackson.

1997-1998 Utah Jazz

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    8 Jun 1997:  John Stockton #12, Karl Malone #32 and Bryon Russell #3 of the Utah Jazz during the Jazz 78-73 win over the Chicago Bulls in Game 4 of the NBA Finals at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr  /Allsport
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 62-20

    Coach: Jerry Sloan

    After finally getting to the NBA Finals the previous season, Utah looked to finally bring a championship banner to Salt Lake City. Malone averaged 27 points per game and John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek were once again one of the NBA's best backcourts. Utah posted the best record in the West by 1 game, but barely survived a 1st round series against Houston, their opponent from the previous season's Western Conference Finals. Utah won 8 of their next 9 games, earning them a rematch with the Chicago Bulls. After going down 3 games to one in the finals, Utah won a close Game 5 and looked to poised to win Game 6 at home. The rest is history as Michael Jordan allegedly pushed off of Byron Russel for the game winning shot to end his career (or so we thought). Karl Malone would win the MVP award the following season, but EnergySolutions Arena is still without a championship banner. 

The Dream Team Era Ends.

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    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    With Michael Jordan retiring once again and a lockout nearly erasing an entire season, the NBA was seeing the end of an era dominated by MJ and his Dream Team teammates. A younger generation was beginning to take over the NBA led by a dynamic duo in Los Angeles and a big man in Texas.

1998-1999 New York Knicks

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    Latrell Sprewell aka: Predator
    Latrell Sprewell aka: PredatorElsa/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record 27-23 (lockout year)

    Coach: Jeff Van Gundy

    After making the 1994 NBA Finals the Knicks continued to win a lot of games, but were unable to get past of the likes of Chicago, Indiana, or Miami. New York retooled their roster by trading longtime Knicks John Starks and Charles Oakley, and bringing in the controversial Latrell Sprewell (who was suspended at the time for choking his former coach P.J. Carlesimo) and 3rd year big man Marcus Camby. The Knicks struggled during the regular season and were the 8th seed going in to the playoffs. New York became the 1st 8th seed to make an NBA Finals appearance after winning, a tough first round series against their division rival Miami Heat, sweeping the Hawks in second round, and beating Indiana in six in the conference finals. Going in to the finals agianst San Antonio, New York was without Patrick Ewing who had suffered Achilles tendon injury. His lost was huge as the Knicks lost to San Antonio in five games. Perhaps history would have been different if Patrick Ewing could have been there to take on David Robinson or Tim Duncan.

1999-2000 Portland Trailblazers

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    LOS ANGELES - JUNE 4:  Center Arvydas Sabonis #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers puts up a shot pressured by Brian Shaw #20 of the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals at Staples Center on June 4, 2000 in Los Angeles, Californi
    Tom Hauck/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 59-23

    Coach: Mike Dunleavy

    This Portland team is one of the the deepest teams in NBA history from 1-12. Their 2nd lineup could have been the starting 5 for a playoff team that season.

    Starting Lineup:

    C: Arvydas Sabonis

    PF: Rasheed Wallace

    SF: Scottie Pippen

    SG: Steve Smith

    PG: Damon Stoudemire

    2nd Team Lineup

    C: Jermaine O'Neal

    PF: Brian Grant

    SF: Detlef Schrempf

    SG: Bonzi Wells

    PG: Greg Anthony

    11th Man: Stacey Augmon 12th Man: Gary Grant

    Portland established itself a title contender entering the 1999-2000 season, after making a Western Conference Finals appearance the previous season. In the offseason Portland acquired Steve Smith and Scottie Pippen and looked like a better team than the year before. Portland easily made their way past the Timberwolves and Jazz to return to the 3rd round of the playoffs. Waiting for them was a 67 win Laker team led by MVP winner Shaquille O'Neal. Portland was down 3 games to one in the series, but easily won games 5 and 6 to send the game to the Staples Center for an epic game 7 showdown. The Trailblazers held a 15 point lead in the 4th quarter, but could not finish off the Lakers and lost the game 89-84. Portland may have had the advantage 1-12, but nobody in the league could match the 1-2 combo of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. This loss marked the beginning of the Jailblazer era in Portland.

2001-2002 Sacramento Kings

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    LOS ANGELES - MAY 31:  Chris Webber #4  walks upcourt with Mike Bibby #10 of the Sacramento Kings in Game six of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2002 NBA Playoffs on May 31, 2002 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Ca
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 61-21

    Coach: Rick Adelman

    Sacramento made the playoffs the previous three seasons, but this season marked their arrival as a team that could challenge the Lakers for NBA supremacy. They traded Jason Williams for Mike Bibby in the offseason, which gave the Kings the most balanced starting lineup in the league. Sacramento had the best record in the NBA and seven players that averaged at least 10 points per game. The Kings easily made it to the Western Conference Finals in match up against their instate rival and the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, that is still talked about today for multiple reasons. Sacramento raced to a 2-1 series lead and held a 24 point halftime lead in Game 4. The Lakers stormed back to win the game, that will always be remembered for Robert Horry's game winning shot. Sacramento held a 3-2 series lead going in to a Game 6 that is without a doubt the most controversial game in NBA history, due to the referee controversy involving Tim Donaghy. Los Angeles shot 40 free throws, 27 in the 4th quarter which was more free throws than Sacramento had attempted the entire game. Los Angeles won a road Game 7 at Arco Arena in overtime, in what was the de facto NBA Finals that season. The Lakers easily swept the Nets in the NBA Finals, eluding Sacramento from the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Sacramento would contend for a title in the next few seasons, but the franchise has yet to get over their shortcomings from that playoff series.

2002-2003 Dallas Mavericks

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    DALLAS - MAY 4:  (Left to Right) Steve Nash #13, Dirk Nowitzki #41, and Michael Finley #4 of the Dallas Mavericks celebrate in Game seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Portland Trail Blazers during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at American A
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 60-22

    Coach: Don Nelson

    Dallas finished the previous 57-25 and entered the season as one of the candidates to stop Los Angeles from winning a 4th straight NBA title. Led by the trio of Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, and Michael Finley, Dallas began the season with 14 straight wins and tied San Antonio for the league's best record. Despite their regular season record, in the first round of the playoffs the Mavericks nearly blew a 3-0 series lead to the Blazers and needed seven games to get past a Chris Webber-less Sacramento team in the second round. In the Western Conference Finalsfell behind by the Spurs 3 games to one and lost the series in six games.

2002-2003 New Jersey Nets

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    AUBURN HILLS - MAY 14: Jason Kidd #5 of the New Jersey Nets raises his arms in celebration as a foul was called against the Detroit Pistons in Game five of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals on May 14, 2004 at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Michigan. The
    Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 49-33

    Coach: Byron Scott

    It’s hard to mention a team that made back to back NBA Finals appearances even if the weaker competition in the Eastern Conference was a big reason for it. After getting swept by the Lakers in the finals, the Nets made on offseason trade for Dikembe Mutombo who they saw as their final championship piece. Mutombo would only play 24 games in an injury filled season, but the Nets won still won the Atlantic Division for a second consecutive year. After a six game first round series with Milwaukee, the Nets swept Boston and Detroit in the next two rounds to earn their 2nd consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. The series was tied heading in to Game 5, but the Nets were unable to stop MVP winner Tim Duncan for dominating the series. The Nets held a 72-63 lead in Game 6, but San Antonio came back to clinch the series with a 19-0 run. Byron Scott would soon be fired due to disputes with Jason Kidd and the Nets would begin a slow decline into mediocrity.

2003-2004 Indiana Pacers

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    INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 17:  Head coach Rick Carlisle of the Indiana Pacers talks with Reggie Miller #31, Jermaine O'Neal #7 and Ron Artest #23 during the game against the Boston Celtics on April 17, 2004 at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. T
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 61-21

    Coach: Rick Carlisle

    After failing to reach their potential under coach Isaiah Thomas, Larry Bird hired Pistons coach Rick Carlisle to lead the Pacers. The Pacers lost All-Star center Brad Miller in an offseason trade to Sacramento, but improved their record by 13 games to have the NBA’s best record. Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest (he was also the Defensive Player of The Year) both went to the All-Star game. After beating the upstart Heat in the second round, Indiana faced Carlisle’s former team in a defensive minded Eastern Conference Finals. Detroit won this low scoring series in six games. The next time these teams meet the infamous brawl occurred and Indiana quickly declined from their status as an Eastern Conference power.

2003-2004 Los Angeles Lakers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 2: (L-R) Los Angeles Lakers players Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Shaquille O'Neal watch from the bench during the game against the Golden State Warriors on November 2, 2003 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Californ
    Vince Bucci/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 56-26

    Coach: Phil Jackson

    After San Antonio dethroned the three time defending champions, Los Angeles looked primed for another title run with the additions of Hall of Famers Gary Payton and Karl Malone. While the Lakers were attracting a lot of attention for their star studded lineup, the Lakers season quickly became a soap opera. The feud between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant was at an all-time high, Bryant was on trial for sexual assault, and Phil Jackson’s retirement rumors made this a team that was truly scripted for Hollywood.  Los Angeles was able to win the Pacific division, but they never had great team chemistry as a result of the drama and team injuries. Karl Malone only played 42 games and Shaq and Kobe combined to miss 32 games. While this team had a lot of hype from the presence of their four futures Hall of Famers, they never would have made it to the finals without Derek Fisher’s miracle shot in Game 5 in the second round against San Antonio. Los Angeles lost the NBA Finals in five games to a Detroit Pistons team with much better team chemistry and balanced play. This Laker’s team did not have the Hollywood ending they were looking for.

Shaq and Kobe Split

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    LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 22:  Shaquille O'Neal #34 and Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers laugh during the NBA game against the Chicago Bulls at Staples Center on November 22, 2002 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 86-73.  NOTE TO USER: User
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The 2004 Pistons won the title and the NBA saw the end of the dynamic duo of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat, Los Angeles would miss the playoffs the following season, and other teams took over the Western Conference. The Lakers would be out of title contention for several seasons, but the future looked bright for several franchises who had been denied a title because of the Shaq and Kobe Lakers.

2004-2005 Phoenix Suns

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    MILWAUKEE - JANUARY 22:  (L-R) Amare Stoudemire #1, Steve Nash #13, Shawn Marion #31 and Leandro Barbosa #10 of the Phoenix Suns celebrate late in the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center on January 22, 2008 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 62-20

    Coach: Mike D’Antoni

    After going 29-53 the previous season, the expectations for Phoenix were low entering the 2004-2005 season. The free agent signings of Steve Nash and Quentin Richardson, along with returning starters Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, and Joe Johnson would form one of the most exciting offensive teams in NBA history. The Suns made a 33 game improvement as Nash won his first NBA MVP award and Stoudemire and Marion made the All-Star game along with Nash.  The Suns averaged over 110 points per game and implemented a fast break offense that helped them post the NBA’s best record. Their lack of a defensive mindset came back to haunt them as they were beaten by the Spurs in a five game Western Conference series. Phoenix made it back to the Western Conference Finals the following season without Amare Stoudemire who only played in 3 games during the 2005-2006 season. They would lose to Dallas in six games.

2006-2007 Dallas Mavericks

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    DALLAS - JUNE 20:  Jason Terry #31 and Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks react to a foul in the final seconds of the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat in game six of the 2006 NBA Finals on June 20, 2006 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, T
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 67-15

    Coach: Avery Johnson

    After blowing a 2-0 NBA Finals led the previous season, Dallas entered the season with a vengeance to win the championship that slipped away from them. They posted the league’s best record and Dirk Nowitzki became the first European born players to win the NBA MVP award. In the first round, the Mavericks faced off against a Golden State Warriors team led by their former coach Don Nelson.  Under Avery Johnson, the Mavericks became a much more defensive oriented team and struggled to play against the “small ball” mentality of the Warriors. The series was tied entering Game 3, but Dallas lost the next two games and eventually fell to Golden State in six games. Dallas had the 2nd best regular season record ever for a team that failed to make an NBA Finals appearance.

2008-2009 Cleveland Cavaliers

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    ORLANDO, FL - MAY 30: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the hoop against Dwight Howard #12 and Rashard Lewis #9 of the Orlando Magic in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 30, 2009 i
    Pool/Getty Images

    Regular Season Record: 66-16

    Coach: Mike Brown

    After making a final appearance in 2007 and a disappointing second round loss to Boston in 2008, Lebron and company looked to finally bring a Larry O’Brien trophy to Ohio. Lebron James won his first MVP award and offseason addition Mo Williams made an All-Star appearance for a team that was nearly unbeatable at home with a 39-2 record in the regular season.  There was a lot of hype for a potential Kobe/Lebron matchup in the NBA Finals, but their Nike puppet commercials never materialized to a matchup on the court. Dwight Howard and the Magic beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, preventing the league from its ideal matchup. Cleveland won 61 games the following season, but once again failed to make it to the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Miami Thrice and The Future

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    MIAMI - JULY 09:  LeBron James #6, Dwyane Wade #3 and Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat show off their new game jerseys before a press conference after a welcome party at American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    The creation of the Big 3 in the Miami has shifted the balance of power in the NBA and effected the championship window for teams such as the Magic, Bulls, and Thunder. Miami will certainly be contention for titles in the next decade and other franchises will field great teams. One way or another, there will be more dominant and memorable teams to come whom will fail in their quest to win an NBA title.

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