Welcome to the ultimate breakdown of the 11 worst NBA championship teams in league history. Almost every athlete/coach/team/fan lives by the old adage that "the only thing that matters is the 'W,'" and that, "a win is a win." And this is true!
Wouldn't you rather be the worst champion ever than the best runner-up ever?
I thought so.
But still, while the champs are still the champs, we can still speculate as to who was the worst of them all. In other words, if you were making a complete list of the best championship teams in NBA history, these teams would be at the very end of your list, making them the worst of the best.
Some ground rules before we begin:
The first rule of Fight Club is that you need to understand it's hard...really, really hard to decide who sucked more at winning.
It's also difficult to say with a straight face that any one of Bill Russell's back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-I-lost-count championship teams were one of the worst in NBA history, so you probably won't find too many of them on this list. It's also difficult to say Magic's Lakers or Jordan's Bulls or Kobe-and-Shaq's Lakers or Kobe-minus-Shaq's Lakers were one of the worst of all time, so you probably won't find them on this list. Actually, most teams that repeated probably won't be found on this list. Probably.
Now, compiling a list like this takes an expansive knowledge of NBA history, eras, players and attitudes, as well as a very in-depth statistical analysis of every player, team, and opponent...
None of which I provide.
I was born in 1985, and even if I had come straight out of the womb to watch the '85 Lakers beat the Celtics for the championship, I would still have missed 38 years of basketball.
Now that I've ruined all of my credibility...on to the list!
Runner-Up: Los Angeles Lakers
R-E-S-P-E-C-T...not from this sportswriter. The Pistons were the best of the worst. They assembled a great unit. They had chemistry, toughness, defense and rebounded as a team.
They still never should have won. Lakers coach Phil Jackson even said that the real problem was the inability of Gary Payton to guard Chauncey Billups. As a matter of fact, he couldn't guard anybody. Laker fans like myself believe the league didn't want the Lakers to win because of the Colorado disaster with Kobe Bryant, and you can't tell me otherwise. Actually you can, Kobe played terribly in this series. The whole team just imploded in this series, and if they were just more mature, and not a disgruntled dramatic bunch, they would have certainly won. The Pistons mopped the floor with the Lakers, and they never should have. Still, they are one of the worst champions in NBA history.
I know this is homerism, and I don't care. Trust me, I made up for it in the rest of the article. I truly believe that this was not a good championship team.
Runner-Up: Cleveland Cavaliers
You know why nobody remembers this series?
Because nobody wants to.
This championship series almost murdered basketball. I honestly can't remember a single highlight from this series. A very raw Lebron James and the Cavs worked their way through a terrible Eastern conference, only to be swept by what seems to be an always "aging," always "veteran" Spurs team (everyone is aging, but they always save this adjective for the Spurs). The Spurs have been a great team this entire decade, but this was their last championship, and by far their most unimpressive.
I know Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward ever, and Manu and Parker (Finals MVP) all make up a great unit, but seriously...they beat the Cavs.
Runner-Up: Dallas Mavericks
When a team wins one championship and falls apart, they probably belong on this list. Listen, I know Dwyane Wade put together one of the most unbelievable Finals performances of all time, but when you get calls like Jordan and live at the charity stripe, you're bound to start gunning into the lane. You don't charge to the basket for calls over and over and over again unless you're always getting them...or if your name is LeBron James.
It wasn't that the refs gave them the series (even though I just said that they did). Dallas has choked more than a handful of times, but this series was something else. Go look at the numbers and come talk to me (a new term called reverse psychology).
But again, when you win the championship one year and aren't even a factor the next year, getting swept out of the first round, you have to be on the list.
I do apologize to all the Miami Heat fans for defecating on their only title. This apology is only applicable, however, if you were a fan before "The Decision." If you bought your jersey this past July, then this apology is not for you.
Runner-Up: Washington Bullets
The Sonics were just one of those middle-men teams...just another team that made a couple of Finals appearances, winning one of them. They were an average team that won it just before the Lakers and Celtics rivalries of the '80s. There was nothing special about this team except for Dennis Johnson. He was incredible in every aspect every time he was on the floor.
Still, nobody every mentions the Sonics or the Bullets when it comes to the great championship teams. They were just the appetizer to the '80s.
Sure, I'm making judgements about teams I was never even alive to see, but it's pretty clear where this team stands. The same can be said about the Bullets, who beat the Sonics the year before for the title.
Maybe it's just me, but this team doesn't do anything for me. Basketball from the '70s just doesn't do it for me.
Runner-Up: Philadelphia 76ers
The only thing I know about the '70s is that if I had been there, I wouldn't remember it now. I do know that this was the year the ABA finally merged with the NBA, and sent Julius Erving (Dr. J) to the 76ers. Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas and the Blazers faced off against Dr. J, George McGinnis and the 76ers. Blazers coach Dr. Jack Ramsay even declared Walton the best player and competitor he had ever known. The team was good, and they don't belong on this list really, except for the fact that the ABA merger was very beneficial to the Blazers, and not so much for the Sixers.
The Blazers were a hybrid team of NBA/ABA players playing against a one-man scoring machine in Dr. J.
I don't want to say it was unfair, because it played out as a good series, but this team was certainly not one of the best championship teams ever assembled.
Runner-Up: Washington Bullets
Again, I don't know anything about the '70s, but I do know, kinda-sorta-not-really, that this was actually a really good team and that they upset the Bullets. Again, it's hard to pick at a champion, but when your best player is one of the biggest a$$holes in NBA history, it's easy not to like that team too much.
Rick Barry was a guy who once showed Bill Russell a picture of a younger Bill Russell and proceeded to ask...
"Who is that fool over there with that big watermelon grin?"
He did this on national television...as a guest broadcaster. You know who the co-commentator was, sitting right next to him?
Listen, I'm all for insulting Celtics, but even I have to say, "Wow!"
When the series shifted over to the Warriors' home floor, they had the option of choosing between two different arenas. Rick Barry was the guy who convinced his team to play at the arena that none of the Washington Bullets had ever played at, saying that the rims were better for shooters. I don't know if this is sneaky-good competitiveness or just plain sneaky.
Either way, this was still a good team, but definitely not a favorite...unless, you know...you like Rick Barry's underhanded free throws.
Runner-Up: New York Knicks
The funny thing is that this team should have been the most dominant team of the early '70s. They should have been good for at least three titles. They should have never seen the light of day on this list, and instead should have been one of the best championship teams ever.
The truth, however, is that a combination of Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain were never able to win the way they should have. West and Baylor lost to the Celtics in the late '60s, and even after the Lakers acquired Wilt the Stilt, they couldn't deny the Celtics' Bill Russell his 11th championship.
Even after Russell, they lost in the finals again in 1970, this time to the New York Knicks and a one-legged Willis Reed.
The Lakers suffered an array of injuries through the years, but c'mon!!
Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and Wilt Chamberlain only managed one title...against the New York Knicks in 1972. The sad part is that this statement isn't even entirely true. Elgin Baylor walked away that year, and the Lakers went on a 33-game winning streak and eventually won the title. One of the game's greatest players of all time left the game, never getting the ring he deserved.
Too many things had to go wrong for everyone else for them to finally win a title, like an out-of-action Willis Reed.
This team should have been great. They should have been a dynasty.
Runner-Up: Syracuse Nationals
This was the three-peat for George Mikan and the Lakers, and I know I said you probably won't find many repeat champions on this list.
But when one of the playoff teams in your conference folds and the first round ends up being a three-team round robin...
And the New York Knicks, who were the best in the East, were eliminated in that absurd round robin...
And there was no shot clock...
And the team you end up facing, the Syracuse Nationals, are dubbed by the media as the "bandage brigade" because they are so hobbled with injuries...
And it still takes you 7 games to beat them...
And there are players on the court nicknamed "Whitey" and "Big Cat"...
You have to be one of the worst champions in league history.
(Yes. That's two Laker teams in a row from a Lakers fan...a knife in the back, I know. I'm sorry!!!!)
Runner-Up: Chicago Stags
What do I know about the '40s?
I know about World War II, I know about the Holocaust, I know that Antarctica was discovered to be a continent, and I know that the St. Louis Browns baseball team had a one-armed outfielder named Pete Gray. You didn't know at least one of these things.
What do I know about the 1947 Philadelphia Warriors?
I know they beat the Chicago Stags 4-1 in the Finals to win the championship. I know there was no shot clock. I know that the Warriors' commercial flight going from Philly to Chicago tried to set a record for flight time and had to make an emergency landing because the plane filled up with black smoke, leading to one player retiring from the league (I'm serious).
I also know that if your power forward is 6'5" and 190 pounds and your shooting guard is 5'9" and 145 pounds, it means that there were a whole lot of white people on the floor.
Seriously, though, the first championship team after the Basketball Association of America merged with the National Basketball League to form the NBA had to be on this list. I would have ranked this team as the worst champion ever if anyone knew anything about them. I don't think any pre-shot clock team should be ranked as a formidable champion to be honest (except for the Lakers, due to extreme homerism).
If anyone really thinks this team could beat any other NBA champion, or if anybody knows somebody who knows somebody who knows anything about this team to make me a believer...please let me know right now so I can forget it sooner.
Runner Up: Seattle SuperSonics
The 72-10 Chicago Bulls were, without a doubt, the worst championship team in NBA history!
If you haven't closed your browser already...
I was just kidding.
And the worst champion in history is....drumroll...(click next!)...
Runner-Up: New York Knicks
Let me make this very simple: If Michael Jordan hadn't left basketball at the peak of all his powers, the Houston Rockets would have never won the championship.
And since Jordan should have never left, this team should have never won a championship. Simple...I told you.
Now I know the worst argument to make is a hypothetical one, and any debate you start with "if" is doomed to be a failure, but since I ruined all of my credibility in the introduction, I don't really care.
The 1993-1994 Chicago Bulls were only one unbelievably terrible Hue Hollins call away from swinging the series against the Knicks. With Jordan, they would have beaten the Knicks and the Rockets, making it four titles in a row.
It's not that this team was bad. It's quite the contrary; they were a great team, with Hakeem the Dream, Robert Horry and Kenny "The Jet" Smith. They are just a victim of an unfortunate hypothetical situation. The Bulls would have won with Jordan. I know it...you know it...even the Rockets know it.
But none of this really matters, because like every athlete has said before...
"At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the W."