How Many True Dynasties Has the NBA Had in Last 30 Years?

Preston EllisContributor IAugust 29, 2019

How Many True Dynasties Has the NBA Had in Last 30 Years?

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    VINCE BUCCI/Getty Images

    In the past 30 years, just 11 teams have won all the NBA championships, but how many true dynasties were there?

    For a league top-loaded with superstar talent in the previous decades—think the Warriors, Kobe Bryant's Lakers, the Miami Heatles and Gregg Popovich's Spurs—there has been dramatic changeover from season to season.

    "It's hard for anybody to understand what these guys go through physically, emotionally and spiritually trying to defend the crown and trying to win the title and trying to stay on top of the mountain," Steve Kerr told Mark Medina of the Mercury News.

    Which teams possessed the fortitude to overcome those physical and mental hardships? Which teams dominated over a good three- or four-year period?

Michael Jordan's Bulls (1991-98)

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    This one is indisputable. 

    Equipped with perhaps the best player of all time in Michael Jordan, the '90s Chicago Bulls thrashed the competition—when No. 23 played the length of a season—winning six Finals in eight years.

    One of the strongest points in Jordan's "best-ever" argument is his 6-0 Finals record. Doing so without being forced to a single Game 7 should not go unnoticed, either. In the 24 playoff series during this six-year stint, the Bulls faced just two Game 7s, and only one came in the Conference Finals (Indiana Pacers, 1998).

    The Bulls flexed during both the regular season (78.9 regular-season win percentage) and the postseason (77.6 percent), highlighted by regular-season win totals of 72 (1995-96) and 69 (1996-97).

    The 72-10 1995-96 squad finished with a 15-3 postseason run, capped by a 4-2 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics. They'd finish first in both offensive rating (115.2) and defensive rating (101.8) in the regular season, per Basketball Reference.

    The Bulls' trio of Jordan, Scottie Pippen and one of Horace Grant or Dennis Rodman engineered and executed head coach Phil Jackson's triangle offense to perfection.

    Pippen was one of the best two-way wings of all time, MJ was a nine-time All-Defensive first-team selection and Rodman provided low-post defensive tenacity, giving Jackson a foundation for continued success despite outside distractions that often come with winning.


    Verdict: Jordan's Bulls deservedly carry the "dynasty" designation after the most impressive streak of postseason success in the past 50 years.

Kobe Bryant's Lakers with Shaquille O'Neal (2000-02)

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    As Steve Kerr referenced above, a three-peat is no small feat, and these Lakers became the second team to pull it off in nearly 40 years.

    Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and head coach Phil Jackson formed an elite trio en route to a three-peat beginning in 2000. The Lakers won 67 games in 1999-00, their second-highest total in franchise history.

    In 2000-01, the Lakers would win just 56 regular-season games but would nearly finish undefeated in the playoffs. It took one spectacular Allen Iverson performance to keep the Lakers from a perfect record.

    Their 18.3 adjusted point differential is the best postseason rate in NBA history. The Lakers would win two more titles some time after, but that was a completely different team.


    Verdict: The Lakers' run of three consecutive championships makes this team a dynasty. They are one of the greatest teams of our generation.

Tim Duncan-Gregg Popovich Spurs (2003-07)

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    Twenty-two consecutive playoff appearances make head coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs the most consistent winners in recent NBA history. Led by Tim Duncan, the Spurs captured five titles in six tries, falling just short of perfection after nearly defeating the 2012-13 Miami Heat.

    Duncan replaced "Admiral" David Robinson as the franchise's best player during a run that included 15 All-Star Games, 15 All-NBA selections and 15 All-Defensive team nods. The run included abbreviated appearances from Robinson at the beginning and Kawhi Leonard at the end and was vastly aided by Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. The pair would combine for eight All-Star nods, six All-NBA selections, one Finals MVP and one Sixth Man of the Year award.

    But many of these titles are spread over the course of two decades. Let's focus on three titles between 2003 and 2007, where the Spurs won every other year (2003, 2005, 2007), losing in the semifinals in 2004 (Lakers) and 2006 (Mavericks).


    Verdict: The Spurs were consistent winners, but they never defended their title. They might not be a "dynasty" because of how spread out their success was, but their consistency and championship mettle deserve respect. The Spurs were (and are) amazing for their fundamental execution, their attention to detail and their blue-collar approach to every game.

Kobe Bryant's Lakers with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom (2009-10)

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    After falling to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 Finals, an untimely divorce would separate Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, and the franchise would sputter until Pau Gasol's arrival in 2008. Gasol, Bryant and Lamar Odom would then win two titles in 2009 and 2010 after falling to the Boston Celtics in 2008.

    Bryant would enter his name in the greatest-ever conversation in Lakers lore with 18 All-Star appearances, 15 All-NBA finishes, 12 All-Defensive team placements, one MVP and two Finals MVPs. Most important to his legacy, however, was winning a title without Shaq, who had claimed each of the three Finals MVPs during the Lakers' previous stint.

    But this squad's success was short-lived. After three Finals appearances, the group fell in the semifinals in consecutive seasons. So, does this squad's achievements merit a place among the NBA's greats in the past 30 years?


    Verdict: Nope. Despite going back-to-back, these Lakers had two unimpressive playoff exits in following years before dissipating.

LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh-Ray Allen Heat (2012-13)

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    The Heat would win back-to-back titles in 2011-12 and 2012-13, dismantling Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka first. In 2012-13, the Heat would complete one of the most exciting Finals comebacks in NBA history, using Ray Allen's step-back three in Game 6 to eventually overcome the Spurs' 3-2 advantage.

    The superteam of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh may have fallen short of their lofty ambitions during their introduction (not six, not seven) in Miami. But they still embraced the "bad guy" label better than anyone outside of the "Bad Boy" Pistons, were the hottest ticket in the NBA and instituted a new form of small ball with Bosh as a stretch 5.

    Between 2011 and 2014, James punched a ticket to the Finals with the Heat every season, but detractors will ask, "Why just two titles in Miami?" With three soon-to-be Hall of Famers in their prime, shouldn't LeBron have overcome at least the Dallas Mavericks and earned one if not two more titles?

    "I thought it would be easy because I was teaming up with some real players," James said on HBO's The Shop.

    Not exactly.


    Verdict: The Heat won consecutive titles but may be remembered for their collapse at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 as much as Ray Allen's three-point shot in 2013.

LeBron James-Kyrie Irving-Kevin Love Cavaliers (2015-18)

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Could this team be considered a dynasty on the strength of knocking off the seemingly invincible Warriors in 2016? Don't forget, this team made four straight Finals and may have won it all more than once if not for those aforementioned Golden State teams.

    As LeBron said on HBO's The Shop after winning it all: "I was like, that one right there made you the greatest player of all time. Everybody was talking how they [Warriors] were the greatest team ever assembled, and for us to come back the way we came back, I was like, you did something special."

    That's debatable, of course, but we're talking about teams here, not individual greatness. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were high-level players, but this team never had a dynastic feel.


    Verdict: You can probably tell, but this is an emphatic "no." It would have been closer with two titles over Golden State, but being blown out in two of the Finals also didn't help matters. Still, fans in Cleveland won't ever forget the remarkable 3-1 turnaround versus Golden State.

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green + Kevin Durant Warriors (2015-19)

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The rich got much richer after winning a record 73 games in 2015-16 before falling in heartbreaking fashion to LeBron James and the Cavs.

    This likely would have been a dynasty even if KD never came aboard...that's how stacked the team was with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and solid role players like Shaun Livingston and Andrew Bogut, among others.

    With a healthy KD, it wasn't even fair, and the Warriors steamrolled their way to consecutive titles in 2016-17 and 2017-18. They were only tested once during that stretch: in the 2017-18 Western Conference Finals versus the Houston Rockets.

    If not for injuries to KD and Klay (plus a hobbled DeMarcus Cousins), it's likely the Warriors would have won it all again last season versus the Toronto Raptors. But even with that loss, five straight Finals and three emphatic wins speaks for itself.


    Verdict: This is an easy one. No 21st-century team could come close to matching Golden State when healthy. The 2016–17 squad went 16-1 in the playoffs and is one of the best teams of all time.