Without Top 50 All Time talent, most NBA teams are just searching
There is no trophy in sports harder to win right now than an NBA Title. Another way to say it is that the list of NBA Championship Teams is one of the most exclusive in sports.
For the last few years, since the Mavericks ripped my heart out, I’ve been fascinated by how few NBA teams have actually won an NBA title. So I started looking at the last 30 NBA Championship Teams.
What I learned was that 8 franchises have won all the titles since 1980. With the exception of Miami and Philadelphia, all the rest -L.A. Lakers (9), Chicago (6), San Antonio (4), Boston (4) Detroit (3), Houston (2)
By contrast, 8 Major League Baseball teams have won a World Series title since 2000, with the Boston Red Sox being the only team to repeat. 7 NHL teams have won titles since 2000 even with the cancellation of the 04-05 season.
Until recently, only a select few NFL Teams have been privileged to win titles. Between 1980-1999 nine teams won Super Bowls with the 49ers winning four, and the Redskins and Cowboys each winning 3 during that period. But now basketball is about organization more than any other.
So as we lament the loss of Brandon Bass and bait and switch of Marcin Gortat, as we celebrate the arrival of Shawn Marion, none of it really matters. In the NBA, what matters is which team is able to assemble the best talent at the top of their roster.
When the Celtics traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, pundits said they couldn’t win because they had 9 other non factors on their roster. Turns out the pundits were wrong and Danny Ainge was right.
When the Mavericks made their NBA Finals appearance in 2006, there was no doubt that Dirk Nowitzki was one of the Top 5 players in the league. He won the league MVP Award that year. The Mavericks window from winning an NBA title may literally have been one year.
Three seasons later, it’s a different situation. LeBron James, Carmello Anthony, Chris Bosh, and even Dwayne Wade were 3rd year players back then. They have all emerged as bona fide superstars.
In 2006, Dwight Howard was a second year player (drafted #1 in ’04) and Chris Paul was a rookie. These two All-Stars along with the aforementioned four made up half of the U.S. Olympic Basketball Team last summer.
In the NBA, you can make all of the shrewd moves, work hard as heck, and maybe even move from a 9th place team to a #3 seed. But if you aren’t fortunate enough to draft a difference maker -or trade for a great player still in their prime- then it doesn’t really matter.
The list of NBA Finals MVP’s is a who’s who of basketball history. Of the players to win the award between 1980-2000, all but two were on the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players List.
Let’s take it one step farther and look at the #2 player on a championship team. This will probably do more to show why the Mavericks won’t win a title anytime soon.
Let’s assume that the players who won the Finals MVP Award was the best on their team that year. Then look who had their back. Even the 2nd best players on these teams have been “All Time Top 50” types. So even if we assumed that Dirk was that type of player, who would be in parenthesis?
2009 Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers (Pao Gasol)
2008 Paul Pierce Boston Celtics (Kevin Garnett)
2007 Tony Parker San Antonio Spurs (Tim Duncan)
2006 Dwyane Wade Miami Heat (Shaq)
2005 Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs (Tony Parker)
2004 Chauncey Billups Detroit Pistons (Rasheed Wallace)
2003 Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs (Parker)
2002 Shaquille O’Neal Los Angeles Lakers (Kobe)
2001 Shaquille O’Neal Los Angeles Lakers (Kobe)
2000 Shaquille O’Neal Los Angeles Lakers (Kobe)
1999 Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs (David Robinson)
1998 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls (Pippen)
1997 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls (Pippen)
1996 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls (Pippen)
1995 Hakeem Olajuwon Houston Rockets (Clyde Drexler)
1994 Hakeem Olajuwon Houston Rockets (Vernon Maxwell)
1993 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls (Pippen)
1992 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls (Pippen)
1991 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls(Pippen)
1990 Isiah Thomas Detroit Pistons (Joe Dumars)
1989 Joe Dumars Detroit Pistons (Isiah Thomas)
1988 James Worthy Los Angeles Lakers (Magic Johnson)
1987 Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers (James Worthy)
1986 Larry Bird Boston Celtics (Kevin McHale)
1985 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Los Angeles Lakers (Magic Johnson)
1984 Larry Bird Boston Celtics (Robert Parish)
1983 Moses Malone Philadelphia 76ers (Julius Erving)
1982 Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers (Jabbar)
1981 Cedric Maxwell Boston Celtics (Larry Bird)
1980 Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers (Jabbar)