Lakers vs. Celtics: Which Is the Greatest NBA Franchise?

Marcel SmithSenior Analyst IFebruary 22, 2009

The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers have the most championships in NBA history. The Celtics have won 17 titles and the Lakers have won 14 championships, while no other team in the league has won more than six.

They are without a doubt the two greatest franchises in the league's history, but which one has been more successful? 

Boston Celtics

The Celtics have seventeen NBA titles, twenty conference championships, twenty-six division titles, and forty-six playoff appearances, with a forty-seventh on the way this season. They also have a regular season winning percentage of .593.

They completely dominated the league in their first twenty-three seasons up until the 1968-69 season, as they won eleven titles in that stretch, including eight consecutive championships from 1958 until 1966. 

Since the end of the 1968-69 season, the Celtics have won six championships out of the forty seasons, while winning eight conference titles. Out of those forty seasons, they have made it to the playoffs only twenty-seven times, missing it thirteen times. They were solid during the 70's, as they won a title in the 1973-74 and 1975-76 seasons.

They were dominant during the 80's, as they won three championships and five conference titles. They made it to the postseason each year in the 80's, led by Larry Bird, one of the greatest players ever.

However, they were below average in the 90's, as they only had a .457 winning percentage during the decade, and made the playoffs only four of the ten seasons in the decade. 

So far in the 2000s, the Celtics have been pretty good, as they have won one championship (last season). The championship snapped a title drought of twenty-two years, which is by far the most in their history. They have a .530 winning percentage so far in the decade, and they've missed the post-season three times in the decade. 

The following are some of the greatest Celtics players in history: Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Kevin McHale, John Havlicek, Bob Cousy, Robert Parrish, Bill Sharman, Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn, Tiny Archibald, Dave Cowens, Bill Walton, Reggie Lewis, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Their best coach was Red Auerbach, who won nine championships and had a .667 winning percentage.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have won fourteen championships and an amazing twenty-nine conference titles, which is the most for an NBA franchise. Nearly half of the seasons the Lakers have been in existence, which is sixty-one.

They also have the highest winning percentage in not only the NBA, but in all three of the major sports in the U.S. with a .617 winning percentage. 

After this season, they would have advanced to the post-season an amazing fifty-six times out of sixty-one seasons, which is 91.8% of the seasons they played in.

They also have only had one occurrence when they missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons and that happened in the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons, respectively.

The Lakers have won a record thirty division titles, with a thirty-first on the way this season. The Lakers have been the most consistent franchise in not only the NBA, but all of the major sports in the U.S.

They were great in the late 40's and early 50's. While they didn't win a title in the 60's, they advanced to the Finals an amazing seven times.

During the 70's, the Lakers won two championships and three conference titles. Los Angeles was also the best team in the 80's, the most competitive decade in the league's history. They won four championships and seven conference titles in the decade, and helped revive the league with their great rivalry with the Celtics.

During the 90's, the Lakers were good, as they won one championship and two conference titles. So far in the 2000's, they have been arguably the most successful franchise; they have won two championships and four conference titles. The Lakers also have a good chance of winning two more in the next two seasons. 

The Lakers have also had arguably the best owner in professional sports in Jerry Buss. Since Buss bought the team in 1979, the team has won eight titles and fourteen conference championships along with having an amazing .660 winning percentage. They will have made the postseason twenty-eight out the thirty seasons under Buss after this season. 

They have also had a general manager as good as any G.M. in all of sports in Jerry West, who is the logo of the league. West helped create the Dynasty Lakers of the 80's and the three-peat Lakers of the 2000's, after he performed one of the greatest trades in history, acquiring Kobe Bryant from the Hornets for Vlade Divac. 

The Lakers have also had arguably eight of the twenty-five greatest players of all time in Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Kobe, West, Baylor, Shaq, Wilt, and George Mikan. You could make the case that the all time Lakers lineup would be as good as the all time lineup for the rest of the teams combined.

Other great Lakers were James Worthy, Gail Goodrich, Slater Martin, Jim Pollard, Vern Mikkelson, and Rudy LaRusso. 

The Lakers have also had two of the five greatest coaches ever in Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. Riley won four championships in the 80's and seven conference titles. He won one Coach of the Year Award with the Lakers in the 1989-90 season.

Phil Jackson has won three titles and five conference championships with the Lakers, and is currently the coach of the team favored to win the championship. 


Overall, the main perception by NBA fans is that the Celtics are the best and most successful franchise, because they have won the most titles, and have dominated the Lakers in the Finals.

However, I personally think the Lakers are the best franchise; they have been the most consistent, and they have had the most great players, as well as some of the best coaches and the best general manager. 

The Lakers have also won the most games ever, and have the highest winning percentage of any team in the league, the most playoff appearances, as well as the most division titles.

The Lakers also have made it to the Finals an amazing twenty-nine out of sixty-one seasons, which is just under half of the seasons in the league's history. Finally, they are also the most popular team in the league both on and off the court. 

Even Robert Parrish, the Hall of Fame Celtic, said: "When you talk about dominance, you have to talk about the Lakers."

Also, the long time commissioner of the league David Stern had this to say when asked what his dream NBA Finals match-up would be, "Lakers vs. Lakers." He also said "I'd be lying if I told you there wasn't a special fascination with the Lakers." 

I look forward to all of your comments about who you think is the best and why you think so, and I will enjoy responding to all those who disagree with me, especially you Celtics fans. 


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