NBA Power Rankings: The 1986 Celtics, 1996 Bulls and the 10 Best NBA Teams Ever

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent IMarch 10, 2011

NBA Power Rankings: The 1986 Celtics, 1996 Bulls and the 10 Best NBA Teams Ever

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    19 Feb 1988:  Guard Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball as Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball during a game at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.   Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart  /Allsport
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls are the most storied franchises in the history of the NBA, but which team can say one of its dynasty teams was the best ever?

    Is the best team ever from a franchise not named the Celtics, Bulls or Lakers? Several teams have some compelling arguments.

    There's no question that the Michael Jordan-led Bulls, the Magic Johnson-led Lakers, and the Larry Bird-led Celtics were great teams, but how do they compare with each other?

    Each team was built differently but played in similar eras.

    We must not forget about the early days of the NBA as well. The championship teams of the two greatest players ever, centers Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, were among the most dominant teams of all-time.

    Let's look at the 10 greatest individual teams in NBA history, starting with the 2008 Boston Celtics at No. 10.

10. 2008 Boston Celtics

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    BOSTON - JUNE 17:  Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics celebrates with the Finals MVP trophy at the end of Game Six of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers on June 17, 2008 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defea
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    The 2008 Boston Celtics were a team on a mission. With their new Big Three of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett putting their egos aside in the quest for their first NBA title, the Celtics were a true team.

    Defense was the calling card of the 2008 Celtics, and Kevin Garnett was recognized as Defensive Player of the Year.

    Ray Allen's excellent sharpshooting and Paul Pierce's consistent offensive-and-defensive play were key to the Celtics playoff run.

    But the unique part about this team was its togetherness and willingness to improve. Pierce and Allen were never considered great defenders prior to teaming up in Boston, but they have since become two of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA.

    Boston's title dreams were realized in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, when they annihilated Kobe Bryant and the Lakers by 39 points for the championship.

9. 1970 New York Knicks

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    NEW YORK - APRIL 29:  Former New York Knicks coach Willis Reed arrives at the 10th Annual Arthur Ashe Institute For Urban Health SportBall And Awards April 29, 2004 in New York City.  (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
    Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

    The 1970 New York Knicks were not the most talented or dominating team on this list, but they were a great all-around squad.

    Led by the 1970 NBA MVP Willis Reed (Reed and Michael Jordan are the only players to win the league, All-Star and Finals MVP awards in the same season), the Knicks won 60 games in the regular season and beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

    In Game 7 of the Finals, Reed walked onto the court injured and made two shots in the opening minutes, but it was enough to help his teammates to victory in one of the most inspiring moments in NBA history.

8. 1991 Chicago Bulls

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    1 Nov 1991:  Guard Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls looks on during a game against the Philadelphia 76ers.  The Bulls won the game  110-90. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    This was Michael Jordan's first NBA championship-winning team after he failed repeatedly to overcome the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

    Jordan was the Finals MVP as he and Scottie Pippen beat the Los Angeles Lakers and Magic Johnson in five games.

    The Bulls steamrolled through the playoffs going 15-2, crushing the two-time defending champion Pistons in the Eastern finals.

7. 1997 Chicago Bulls

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    I3 Jun 1997:  Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls dribbles the ball as he is guarded by John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz during game six of the NBA Final at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Jazz 90-86..   Mandatory Cred
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    After the amazing 72-win season of 1996, the Bulls entered the 1997 season with the possibility of having a championship hangover.

    But the Bulls showed no such effects and coasted through the regular season with an astounding 69 wins.

    The Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals in six games, going 15-4 overall in the postseason.

    The Bulls were a deeper team in 1997 than in 1996 and never suffered a losing streak of more than two games all season.

6. 1999 San Antonio Spurs

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    1 Dec 2000:  David Robinson #50 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Spurs 103-100.  NOTE TO USER: It is expressly understood that the on
    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    This is the best Spurs team ever, but they are often forgotten because of the lockout, which shortened the 1999 NBA season.

    San Antonio started 6-8 but finished the next 53 games 46-7, including the playoffs, culminating with a five-game series win over the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals.

    This was one of the best defensive teams of all-time. With Tim Duncan and David Robinson anchoring the paint, the Spurs allowed just 84.7 points per game in 1999 and allowed opponents to score more than 90 points just twice in the playoffs.

5. 1965 Boston Celtics

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    PHOENIX - FEBRUARY 15:  NBA legend Bill Russell is presented with a birthday cake during the 58th NBA All-Star Game, part of 2009 NBA All-Star Weekend at US Airways Center on February 15, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Led by the greatest player ever in Bill Russell and his 21.3 rebounds per game, the Celtics dominated the regular season by going 60-20, and then beat the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.

    The NBA Finals trip was the ninth consecutive for Boston and it was its seventh straight championship in a row!

    Boston was led by multiple Hall of Fame players such as Tom Heinsohn, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones and Tom Sanders.

    Sam Jones, one of the greatest closers ever, was 9-0 in Game 7s during his career and he was an important part of the 1965 title team.

    The Celtics' strength was their bench, which was anchored by John Havlicek, who scored just over 18 points per game on the year.

4. 1987 Los Angeles Lakers

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    LOS ANGELES - 1987:  Magic Johnson #32 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball in the post during an NBA game against the Golden State Warriors at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, California in 1987. (Photo by: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The 1987 Lakers are the most overrated all-time team ever. What I mean is that they were amazing champions, but should not be so high on all these "greatest team ever" lists. 

    On almost every one I see, they are in the top three, but I cannot put them there.

    The fact is (don't call me a homer...just think about what I am going to say) the Celtics team they beat was so banged up it was an embarrassment that Los Angeles didn't beat them in four games.

    The Celtics played a very competitive series with Kevin McHale playing the final three rounds on a broken foot, Robert Parish playing the East and NBA Finals with a severely sprained ankle and Bill Walton with a foot injury that would eventually end his career.

    The Lakers were healthy and much quicker than the aging-and-hurt Celtics and made the plays they needed to in order to win the title.

    Magic Johnson's winning hook shot in Game 4 of the Finals is one of the most memorable moments in playoff history and it was the turning point in the series as the Lakers took a 3-1 series lead.

3. 1996 Chicago Bulls

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    16 Jun 1996: Chicago Bull Michael Jordan kisses the NBA Championship trophy inside the Bulls Locker room at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls went on to defeat the Seattle Supersonics 87-75 to win the 1996 NBA Finals. This is the Bulls'' f
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The '96 Bulls won 72 games, won the NBA Finals and gave opponents almost no hope of beating them every single night.

    This is the best Bulls team ever, led by Michael Jordan in his full comeback season after playing minor league baseball.

    The Bulls led the NBA in both offensive and defensive efficiency, with Michael Jordan winning the league's MVP award.

    Chicago also outscored opponents by an average of 12.2 points per game.

    Why are they not higher on this list? Lack of real competition.

    The NBA was very weak in the mid-1990s, and the real competitors from the West were not close to what the West was in the 1980s.

    Jordan and the Bulls had no real rivals. The Magic, led by Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal, were a good team but not ready to win an NBA Finals series. 

    Out West, the Jazz, SuperSonics and Rockets were not contenders to be afraid of either.

    The lack of a solid center and a limited bench is also a reason I cannot put these Bulls any higher.

    There's still no denying that the 1996 Bulls were a great team, and it's very possible that no team will ever win 72 games again. 

2. 1983 Philadelphia 76ers

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    1985:  Moses Malone #2 (left) and Julius Erving #6 of the Philadelphia 76ers sit on the bench during the 1985-1986 NBA season.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The 1983 76ers were one of the most well-rounded teams ever. After failing time and time again to win an NBA Finals series, the 76ers acquired defending league MVP Moses Malone to shore up the paint.

    Malone was a dominant player for Billy Cunningham's team, helping Philly to a 65-16 record. 

    The squad was an all-around nightmare to defend with Dr. J as an athletic swingman, guard Andrew Toney as a lethal scorer and Bobby Jones as a lockdown defender coming off the bench.

    Malone gave the 76ers the bruising force they had craved for several years. He made Philly a very good scoring and excellent rebounding team.

    The 76ers boldly predicted they would sweep every playoff series saying "fo-fo-fo!" In the end, Philadelphia lost just one game in the playoffs and dismantled the defending champion Lakers in the NBA Finals, sweeping them and finally winning the title that eluded them for many years.

    Julius Erving put in a great Game 4 performance in the Finals, putting the team on his back and carrying the load offensively in the series-deciding game.

    The 76ers were a great offensive and defensive team and can match up with any style of basketball, whether it be a half-court, physical style or a fast-paced one.

1. 1986 Boston Celtics

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The 1986 Boston Celtics were the best basketball team of all-time, led by a video game-like frontcourt with four of the NBA's 50 greatest players ever: Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and Bill Walton.

    The Celtics won 67 regular season games, taking basketball to an art form with their nightly clinics, regardless of who they played.

    Larry Bird won his third consecutive NBA MVP award by averaging 25 points, 9.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists while playing with many Hall of Famers alongside, and he won the Finals MVP too.

    After sweeping through the East playoffs losing just once, the Celtics beat the Houston Rockets in six games in the Finals with a devastating rout in Game 6 at the Boston Garden.

    Bird had a triple-double in the clincher, leading the Celtics to their 16th NBA title.

    The team had many good guards as well. Recent Hall-of-Fame inductee Dennis Johnson was the starting point guard and an excellent defender and great clutch player.

    Magic Johnson said DJ played some of the best defense he's ever seen on him during the 1980s, and Bird said that DJ is the best player he ever played with.

    Shooting guard Danny Ainge was an excellent sharpshooter and ball-handler for the Celtics and he helped them stretch the floor.

    This Celtics team would beat any team ever because they had unbelievable size and skill in the paint, an excellent leader and scorer in Larry Bird, and a brilliant pair of guards who complemented each other perfectly.

Agree or Disagree?

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    EL SEGUNDO, CA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Kobe Bryant #24  of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles as he holds two NBA Finals Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy's as he poses for a photograph with teammates Pau Gasol #16 and Derek Fisher #2 during Media Day at the Toyota C
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Did I miss a team or place one too high or low? Let me know in the comment box.

    The 1996 Bulls were an epic team, but their lack of a bench, center and quality competition were reasons I did not put them at No. 1.

    The 1983 76ers are one of the most underrated teams ever, and I'd love to know how people think they'd match up against any of the great Bulls teams. Moses Malone would have his way with the Bulls bigs, that's for sure.

    I hope you enjoyed my list and my selection of the best NBA team ever, the 1986 Boston Celtics.

    Follow Nicholas Goss on Twitter: @nwgoss


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