Top 10 NBA Champions in History

NBA Champions in History: The NBA, or the National Basketball Association, has been a major player in the sports world for over 75 years. It’s a big basketball league with 30 different teams, each aiming to be the best.

Winning the NBA championship is a tough challenge, and just one win doesn’t make a team the greatest. Every NBA team strives to win multiple championships to solidify their position.

NBA Champions in History

Now, let’s check out the top 10 NBA champions in history. These teams and players have excelled over the years, making a mark in the basketball world.

10. Milwaukee Bucks

  • Win: 2x (1971, 2021)
  • Loss: 1x (1974)
  • Apps: 3

Let’s begin our list with the Milwaukee Bucks, grabbing the number 10 spot with two championships.

NBA Champions in History
Image Source: NBA.COM

The Bucks started in 1968 as a new team in the NBA, part of the Central Division in the Eastern Conference. Their first NBA game was against the Chicago Bulls in front of 8,467 fans at the Milwaukee Arena. However, they had a tough start in the 1968-69 season.

It took until their sixth game for the Bucks to secure their first victory against the Detroit Pistons with a score of 134-118. Despite this win, they only managed to add 26 more victories in their debut season.

The Milwaukee Bucks have had some outstanding players in their lineup, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Bob Dandridge, Sidney Moncrief, Bob Lanier, Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

One unique achievement of the Bucks is being the only team to win championships in both the Eastern and Western Conferences. They also boast three NBA titles and 16 division titles.

In a surprising twist, the 2021 NBA Finals saw the Milwaukee Bucks making a comeback to win the series, securing their place in the history of the NBA.

9. New York Knicks

  • Win: 2x (1970, 1973)
  • Loss: 6x (1951, 1952, 1953, 1972, 1994, 1999)
  • Apps: 8

Tied at the number 10 spot with two league championships is the New York Knicks. The Knicks are part of the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference and are based in Manhattan, New York City.

NBA Champions in History
Image Source: NBA.COM

They were founded in 1946 by Ned Irish, one of the founding members of the Basketball Association of America (BAA), which later merged with the National Basketball League (NBL) to become the NBA.

The Knicks are special as one of the two original NBA teams still playing in their original city. In their early years, the team was successful and regularly made it to the playoffs.

The golden years for the Knicks were from 1967 to 1975 when they secured two NBA championships under the guidance of coach Red Holzman.

Some standout players in Knicks’ history include Willis Reed, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Patrick Ewing, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Amare Stoudemire.

Although the team has faced challenges since 2000 in reclaiming their past glory, they managed to clinch their first league title in 19 years during the 2012/13 season.

8. Miami Heat

  • Win: 3x (2006, 2012, 2013)
  • Loss: 4x (2011, 2014, 2020, 2023)
  • Apps: 7

Next up at number eight on our list is the Miami Heat, a dynamic NBA team based in Miami, competing in the Eastern Conference Southeast Division. They’ve secured three NBA championships.

NBA Champions in History
Image Source: NBA.COM

The Heat started in 1988 as an expansion team but faced a slow start, with only two playoff appearances in their first eight years. The game changed when Micky Arison, chairman of Carnival Cruise Lines, took over the team in 1995, and Pat Riley became both president and head coach.

Miami Heat has had some basketball legends in its lineup, including Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning, and Tim Hardaway.

One of their remarkable achievements was in the 2012-13 season when the Heat set the NBA’s third-longest winning streak, reaching 27 consecutive victories. Notably, four Hall of Famers have played for the Miami Heat since its inception, adding to the team’s storied history.

7. Detroit Pistons

  • Win: 3x (1989, 1990, 2004)
  • Loss: 4x (1955, 1956, 1988, 2005)
  • Apps: 7

Moving on to our number seven team, the Detroit Pistons, founded in 1937 as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, they’ve claimed three championships. These Pistons are part of the Central Division in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and call Detroit home, playing their games at Little Caesars Arena in Midtown.

NBA Champions in History
Image Source: NBA.COM

Initially, the Pistons were a semi-professional team until 1941 when they turned pro and joined the NBL. After the merger of the BAA and NBL, they became an NBA team. Despite having a loyal local fan base, the team faced challenges from the 1950s to 1980.

However, a turning point came in 1981 when Isiah Thomas joined as point guard, accompanied by Vinnie Johnson and Bill Laimbeer. The hiring of Chuck Daly as coach in 1983 further boosted the team’s fortunes.

Some standout Pistons players include John Salley, Dennis Rodman, Adrian Dantley, James Edwards, among others. Notable coaches like Chuck Daly, Doug Collins, and Larry Brown have also played significant roles.

The Pistons clinched their three NBA championships in 1989, 1990, and 2004. In 2020, the team made a strategic move by bringing in a new general manager, Troy Weaver.

6. Philadelphia 76ers

  • Win: 3x (1955, 1967, 1983)
  • Loss: 6x (1950, 1954, 1977, 1980, 1982, 2001)
  • Apps: 9

Now, at our number 6 spot for the best NBA champions, we have the Philadelphia 76ers, sharing the position with the Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat, each boasting three NBA championships. The franchise dates back to 1946 when it was founded as the Syracuse Nationals, making it one of the oldest in the NBA.

NBA Champions in History
Image Source: NBA.COM

Hailing from the Philadelphia metropolitan area, the 76ers compete in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division and play their games at the Wells Fargo Center.

Originally known as the Syracuse Nationals, the team joined the NBA in 1949 following the merger of the NBL and BAA. While still in Syracuse, they tasted success with their first NBA championship in 1955. After moving to Philadelphia in 1963, they secured two more championships in 1967 and 1983. The team also reached the NBA Finals in 2001.

The 76ers boast an impressive lineup of Hall of Famers, including Dolph Schayes, Hal Greer, Wilt Chamberlain, Chet Walker, Billy Cunningham, Julius Erving, Bobby Jones, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, and many more. Their rich history contributes to their standing as one of the top NBA teams.

5. San Antonio Spurs

  • Win: 5x (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014)
  • Loss: 1x (2013)
  • Apps: 6

Taking the fifth spot on our list of the best NBA champions with five titles are the San Antonio Spurs. Based in San Antonio, they compete in the Western Conference Southwest Division.

NBA Champions in History
Image Source: NBA.COM

Originally founded in 1967 as the Dallas Chaparrals, the team adopted the name San Antonio Spurs in 1973. They originated as an American Basketball Association (ABA) team and remained one of the few from the ABA to continue in the NBA after the ABA-NBA merger in 1976. Interestingly, the Spurs are the only former ABA team to clinch an NBA championship.

Over the last three decades, the Spurs have boasted the best winning percentages among major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada.

Their NBA championship victories came in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014. The franchise also holds the record for 18 consecutive 50-win seasons from 1999-2000 to 2016-17.

Noteworthy achievements include setting an NBA record for most consecutive playoff appearances in the 2018/19 season. The Spurs have seen outstanding players like George Gervin, Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginóbili contributing to their success.

4. Chicago Bulls

  • Win: 6x (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998)
  • Loss: 0 (-)
  • Apps: 6

Landing at the impressive number 4 spot on our list of top NBA champions are the Chicago Bulls, with a remarkable 6 NBA championships to their name. Established in 1966, they compete in the NBA as part of the Eastern Conference Central Division.

NBA Champions in History
Image Source: NBA.COM

The Bulls made their NBA debut in the 1966-67 season in Chicago, marking the city’s third NBA franchise. Despite starting with a 33-48 record in their first NBA season, they became the most successful expansion team in NBA history.

The Bulls hit their peak during the 1990s, playing a pivotal role in making the NBA a global phenomenon. Notably, they are the only team in NBA history to never lose an NBA Finals series and have won multiple championships.

The golden era of the Bulls was led by Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, and Scottie Pippen, and coach Phil Jackson, guiding the team to all six championships. In the 1995-96 season, the Bulls made history by winning 72 games, setting an NBA record that held until the 2015-16 season.

Despite the presence of notable players like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and the iconic Michael Jordan in later years, the Bulls haven’t been able to recapture the momentum of their 1990s success.

3. Warriors of the Golden State

  • Win: 7x (1947, 1956, 1975, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2022)
  • Loss: 5x (1948, 1964, 1967, 2016, 2019)
  • Apps: 12

Tied with the Chicago Bulls for the number 3 spot, the Golden State Warriors have claimed 6 NBA championships and earned the third-most Finals appearances. Competing in the NBA’s Western Conference Pacific Division, the franchise is the second most valuable in the NBA and ranks as the sixth highest-valued sports franchise globally, with an estimated value of 4.7 billion euros.

NBA Champions in History
Image Source: NBA.COM

Originally founded in 1946 as the Philadelphia Warriors, the team later moved to San Francisco and eventually became the Golden State Warriors in 1971. Starting as members of the BAA, they transitioned to the NBA after the merger and secured a championship in the league’s inaugural game in the 1946–47 season.

In the 2015-16 season, the Warriors made history by breaking the record, previously held by the Bulls, for winning 70 or more games in a single season.

Notable players from the franchise’s history include the Hall of Famer trio Paul Arizin, Tom Gola, and Neil Johnston. In more recent times, players like Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson have left their mark on the team.

2. Boston Celtics

  • Win: 17x (1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1986, 2008)
  • Loss: 5x (1958, 1985, 1987, 2010, 2022)
  • Apps: 22

Established in 1946, the Boston Celtics stand as one of the league’s original eight teams. Based in Boston, they compete in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division and hold a legendary status as one of the most successful franchises in NBA history.

NBA Champions in History
Image Source: NBA.COM

The Celtics have an impressive record of 17 championships, tying them with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most NBA championship wins. Their dominance started in the late 1950s, with head coach Red Auerbach and center Bill Russell playing pivotal roles in the Celtics’ ascent.

Claiming their first NBA championship in 1957, the Celtics went on an extraordinary streak, securing eight consecutive NBA championships from 1959 to 1966. The team included a roster of notable Hall of Famers such as John Havlicek, Tom Heinsohn, KC Jones, Sam Jones, Satch Sanders, and Bill Sharman. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also made significant contributions.

The Celtics-Lakers rivalry, heavily highlighted in the media during the 1960s and 1980s, is a significant part of NBA history. In their 12 meetings with the Lakers, the Celtics emerged victorious 9 times, adding another layer to their storied legacy.

1. Los Angeles Lakers

  • Win: 17x (1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2020)
  • Loss: 15x (1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1983, 1984, 1989, 1991, 2004, 2008)
  • Apps: 32

Topping our list as the number one team in the history of NBA champions is the highly successful Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers share the spotlight with the Boston Celtics, both boasting an impressive 17 NBA championships.

NBA Champions in History
Image Source: NBA.COM

Hailing from Los Angeles, the Lakers compete in the NBA’s Western Conference Pacific Division. The franchise originated in 1947 as the Minneapolis Lakers and underwent a name change in 1960.

Starting in the NBL, the Lakers won the NBL championship in 1948 before transitioning to the BAA. Following their entry into the BAA, the Lakers secured five out of the next six championships.

The 1960s saw the Lakers reaching the NBA Finals six times, only to face defeat in all six encounters against the Boston Celtics, sparking one of the most iconic rivalries in sports history.

A transformative era began when Jerry Buss acquired the team, and the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson. This period brought five championships in nine years, including victories against their arch-rivals, the Celtics, in 1985 and 1987.

The Lakers’ storied roster features legendary players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and LeBron James.

The franchise secured its 17th NBA championship in 2020, with head coach Frank Vogel leading the way. This victory solidifies the Lakers’ standing as one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

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