Within the world of basketball, there is no higher showcase of the globe’s best talents in players and coaching than in the National Basketball Association, also known as the NBA. It is the commonly held belief of purists and die-hard fans that the long-term goal of any franchise within the league is to pursue a championship. However, this does not happen across the board.
Most franchises within the Association have never once won a ring, much less gotten to the Finals. Some owners simply own their franchises to profit year after a year off of ticket sales and television deals while fielding teams that are competitive enough to make the playoffs but not be in contention. In any given season, a number of teams will even be ‘rebuilding’ or ‘tanking’ to get future talent through high lottery picks.
In modern times, a handful of teams is in contention for a title, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors as evidenced by their recent rings. The San Antonio Spurs are certainly the gold standard over the last decade and a half with five championships, and the Chicago Bulls dominated the 90s with six rings across two ‘three-peats.’
However, across the overall history of the league, only two teams have truly gone through not only repeated championships but repeated championship runs. They are the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. Of the two, the Lakers are the franchise that gets to the Finals consistently and victoriously.
The history of Lakers championships begins not in sunny Southern California, but actually in Minnesota. This ‘land of 10,000 lakes’ is what gave the team its name. Their squads in the early 1950s were led by George Mikan, considered by many to be the dominant player in professional basketball at the time. He helped the franchise secure their first five championships.
The 1960s saw the franchise move to Los Angeles, but there was no championship success until 1972. The 1972 squad was notable for a number of reasons that resonated throughout basketball for decades after. Wilt Chamberlain lead the team from a talent standpoint, but their new coach Bill Sharman introduced the early-morning game day ‘shootaround’ now used throughout most of the league. This team ran off 33 straight wins, which was a record that stood for many decades, and their total regular season win record went untouched until the 1990s when the Chicago Bulls finally surpassed it. During this season, Chamberlain averaged an unthinkable 19 rebounds per game, winning the Finals MVP award.
Perhaps the most successful dynasty of the Lakers was under coach Pat Riley in the 1980s, where they famously feuded with the Boston Celtics teams featuring the legendary Larry Bird and other talented players like Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, and Robert Parish. While the Celtics won multiple titles themselves in this era, the Lakers took to the court with teams of multiple legends like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, with help from strong talents like James Worthy. The Lakers won five titles, half the championships of this decade! It is known as their “Showtime” era for their style of play and ability to win.
The most recent Lakers championship dynasty is possibly two different eras. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant paired together for a run of three championship victories together in the early 2000s. Shaq left the team after this for Miami, ironically going on to win another ring under Pat Riley who had moved on to coaching the Miami Heat. Kobe Bryant and former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson did win two more rings for themselves with the help of all-star Pau Gasol.
When it comes to the most dominant title runs or dynasties of all time, Celtics fans will proudly point to once having eight straight rings, and Bulls fans will never let anyone forget their pair of three-peats in a Hall-of-Famer driven decade of penultimate talent throughout the league. However, Chicago has not made the Finals since, and Boston has but a lone ring since the 1980s. The history of Los Angeles Lakers championships shows they are the model franchise when it comes to manufacturing multiple dynasties across the decades.