Winning an NBA title is nothing close to easy, as you have plenty of teams with the same goal that won’t doubt to crash you on their way to the big prize. We have seen franchises that no matter how good their squads were, they couldn’t win a ship or even make it to the Finals. If that’s something difficult, imagine how hard is to win not one, not two but three consecutive titles.
Of course, there have been teams who have done it like the Jordan’s Chicago Bulls or the 2000s Los Angeles Lakers, but these squads were something else. In the association, we have witnessed teams with huge hopes to win three straight titles and broke down on the way to win their third ring.
We may be seeing another case with the Golden State Warriors this season, but before that, we’re going to take a look at some other teams that were on the verge to win a three-peat and failed at it.
Minneapolis Lakers (1950/51)
Even though things weren’t much different for the then Minneapolis Lakers after this season, they would have reached a historical milestone if they had won the three-peat. The year before the Basketball Association of America merged with the National Basketball League to create the National Basketball Association, the Minneapolis Lakers were dominating the BAA.
They won that last season after defeating the Washington Capitols in six games, the following year they did the same against the Syracuse Nationals in the inaugural season of the NBA and when everything pointed out they were going to do the same again, something terrible happened.
In 1951, the came back to the playoffs after registering a 44-24 regular season record. Nevertheless, their biggest figure George Mikan got injured before the Western Division Finals and Minneapolis lost three games to one to eventual NBA champion Rochester. Mikan would come back the next season to take the Lakers to win a three-peat, giving the franchise five titles in six seasons. Still impressive.
Boston Celtics (1969/70)
The Boston Celtics had the best moment of their history during the 60s and the 70s, dominating the league every year and being a recurrent visitor to the NBA Finals. After two consecutive years defeating their archrivals, the Los Angeles Lakers in the last two Finals, the C’s started the 1969/70 season expecting to win their lusted three-peat.
Things didn’t look very well for Boston from the beginning. Bill Russell had retired from the professional basket at the end of the prior season and that marked the future for the team. They went from starting Russell at the center to sending out Henry Finkel. Without their maximum figure, the Celtics looked lost and they confirmed that throughout the season, as the winners of the last 11 of the 13 previous NBA titles missed the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, going 34-48.
Los Angeles Lakers (1988/89)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson created one of the best duos in the history of the league during the 80s, winning five NBA titles together and creating one of the biggest dynasties in the history of the league by playing their run-and-gun style of basketball that earned the nickname of ‘Showtime’.
They won two straight titles in front of the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons in 1987 and 1988, respectively, and everything looked set for them to win the third one the next season, but a team hungry for revenge would stand on their way and would brush them off the court. The Bad Boys Detroit Pistons showed absolutely no mercy in front of the Lakers and swept them to mark the end of an era, taking revenge for the controversial lost they suffered the prior year.
Detroit Pistons (1990/91)
Just like they did with the Lakers, the Detroit Pistons were also prevented from not winning a three-peat right after they end Los Angeles’ dreams. They had won two consecutive titles in 1991, the aforementioned against the Lakers and one more in front of the Portland Trail Blazers. Things were going just fine for them, but a young team was eager to take it all and defeated the Pistons to become the biggest force in the league.
The Bad Boys landed in the Eastern Conference Finals for a fifth consecutive season trying to get their desired three-peat, but their attempt to make a fourth consecutive Finals was perturbed by Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls, who swept the Pistons in a great fashion, ending their reign and defeating the Lakers in the Finals to start their successful three-peat run, unlike the two prior aspirants.
Houston Rockets (1995/96)
The Houston Rockets, led by the best center of all time, Hakeem Olajuwon, went to win two NBA championships in a row against the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic that counted with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway within their ranks, in 1994 and 1995, respectively.
They landed in the 1995/96 season with big hopes to complete the three-peat and it looked like they were going to pull it off after sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs; sadly, they were eliminated by Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and their Seattle SuperSonics in the next round, ending the dreams of the Rockets and the good times they had in the league at that time.
Los Angeles Lakers (2010/11)
Being one of the most successful teams in the league, it is obvious that the Los Angeles Lakers would have had plenty of chances to win a three-peat. It all started when they still were in Minneapolis, continue with their showtime and at the beginning of the century, the Purple and Gold found themselves on the quest to win another three-peat after defeating the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic, respectively.
Phil Jackson was on the quest for an unprecedented fourth three-peat as a coach but it ended up the worst way for the coach and his team after the surprising Dallas Mavericks swept them out the court and the series in the second round. That Lakers team didn’t make big signings that year and that cost them the chances to complete their lusted three-peat. Dallas would go on to defeat the Miami Heat and win their first and only NBA title in history.
Miami Heat (2013/14)
When LeBron James decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and join the Miami Heat alongside Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, people started to think how many titles these three would win together. Yes, they made it to the finals in fourth consecutive seasons but ultimately won two titles against the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.
It was the Spurs who got revenge on Miami in 2014 after the dramatic 2013 Finals. Few people expected San Antonio to come back stronger after that painful loss, but they did it without any competition in the West playoffs or the Finals. San Antonio demolished Miami in 5 games with Kawhi Leonard becoming the MVP of the series and finishing LeBron James’ time in South Beach.
This was the latest case of a team trying to win a three-peat before the Golden State Warriors won the last two NBA titles against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Perhaps they will join this list in the near future if they don’t beat the Toronto Raptors, who are led by Kawhi Leonard, curiously.