Contending for an NBA championship requires a lot of commitment and hard work on the part of the players and the organization as a whole.
It also takes acquiring players with several years of experience, those who have been hardened by playoff battles through the years, and have matured through those experiences.
Most championship teams have several veteran players on their roster who provide depth of wisdom and insight to give the team that extra edge in the postseason. For several years, the San Antonio Spurs rode the coattails of Tim Duncan and his aging squad until they won their fifth title back in 2014.
The Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls of the mid- to late-90s employed many players who were no longer in their prime, but they captured three straight titles along the way with their system, leadership, and veteran savvy.
A study of the oldest championship teams of all time yielded some expected and unexpected results. Rather than come up with our own formula for determining the oldest title teams ever, we decided to follow the weighted age formula.
Here is the premise for using weighted age in computing the age of title teams as well as how the formula looks like:
“It would be unreasonable to simply average the ages of the teams’ roster, because certain players play much more than others. What if a team has 5 players over the age of 35, but they each averaged less than 10 minutes a game? To calculate the age of a team, both the ages of the players and the number of minutes played for each player must be considered. So, the following formula will calculate the weighted age (WAGE) of a team:
“where minutes is the total number of minutes played by 1 player (note: playoff minutes were used to determine the age of a team as they made their title run). So, WAGE is calculated by multiplying the age and minutes played by one player together, taking the sum of this result for all players, and dividing that sum by the total number of minutes played by the entire roster.”
Based on the formula above and the results that followed from the study, we answer the question as to which teams in NBA history were the oldest to hold aloft the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the season.
Below is a sneak peek at each of the oldest teams to win an NBA title:
10. 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs
Weighted Age (WAGE): 29.617
Oldest Player: Tim Duncan (38)
Still reeling from their Finals loss to the Miami Heat the year before, the Spurs were on a mission to take back what they thought was rightfully theirs. On the first day of training camp, head coach Gregg Popovich warmed them up for their revenge tour by making his team watch Game 6 of the 2012-13 NBA Finals.
As a result, the Spurs finished the season with a league-best 62-20 record.
They encountered rough waters in the First-Round of the playoffs but they escaped with a 4-3 series win against the Dallas Mavericks. Their next opponents, the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder, were no match for the Spurs’ combination of elite offense and stingy defense.
A rematch in the Finals against the Heat became a reality after Miami defeated their Eastern Conference foes.
Despite the advanced age of many of their players, the Spurs played like youngsters as they bested the Heat 4-1 in a series that was one of the most one-sided in league history.
Though Tim Duncan (38 years old), Manu Ginobili (36) and Tony Parker (32) were the core players of the team, it was 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard who starred for the Spurs. Leonard won his first Finals MVP and his first-ever championship.
9. 1967-68 Boston Celtics
Weighted Age (WAGE): 30.033
Oldest Player: Sam Jones (34)
The Boston Celtics were 54-28 during the 1967-68 season, good for third-best in the league at the time.
Though he was already 34 years old with his best years behind him, Bill Russell was still a monster on the boards, averaging 18.6 rebounds per game.
In the Eastern Division Finals, the Celtics came roaring back from a 3-1 deficit to win against the Philadelphia 76ers and set up another Finals appearance. Once in the Finals, the Celtics brushed aside the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2, giving Russell his first championship as player-coach.
John Havlicek poured in 40 points in Game 6 to give Boston the title on a silver platter. He averaged 27.3 points per game in the series while playing 291 minutes, the second-most minutes ever in a six-game Finals.
The Celtics had four players at 30 years or older but they were still ready to gear up for another championship run the following season.
8. 2012-13 Miami Heat
Weighted Age (WAGE): 30.077
Oldest Player: Ray Allen (37)
Though the Miami Heat had nine players at 30 years of age or older, they won a franchise record 66 games during the 2012-13 season. They also had a record-setting 27-game winning streak that was the second longest in league annals.
Led by season MVP LeBron James, the Heat breezed through the regular season as though they were out to prove that last season’s championship wasn’t a fluke. Seeking to win their second straight title, the Heat demolished opponents through the first two rounds with ease.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers gave the Heat plenty of problems with a team that was versatile and big enough to be a title contender themselves. In seven games, Miami finally outlasted their opponent to advance to the Finals for the third straight season.
In the Finals awaited the Spurs who had denied James the title in 2007. Now playing on a team that was far superior to his 2006-07 Cavaliers, the four-time MVP put on a Finals performance that left no doubt as to his place in history.
The Spurs would rely on their veteran stars, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, to take them as far as they could, but James and his crew just would not let them lose.
Considered by some as perhaps the best Finals game in history, Game 6 showed the Heat’s championship heart as they came back from the brink of losing the title to resurrect their title hopes.
With only 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and the Spurs ahead by three, James would miss a three-pointer that Chris Bosh would rebound. Bosh then swung a pass to 37-year-old shooting guard Ray Allen who made a three-pointer to tie the game.
The Heat would win in overtime with a chance to win it all in Game 7 at Miami.
There was no turning back for the Heat the next game as they finished off the Spurs in the final minute to capture their third championship in franchise history with a 95-88 win. James won his second consecutive Finals MVP and second title in as many years.
7. 1998-99 San Antonio Spurs
Weighted Age (WAGE): 30.090
Oldest Player: Jerome Kersey (36)
The 1998-99 season was the first lockout-shortened season in the NBA. Each team played only 50 games and, with Michael Jordan retiring for the second time in the decade, the title was up for grabs.
Led by perennial All-Star David Robinson and budding superstar Tim Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs earned home-court advantage throughout the playoffs with a 37-13 record. In the playoffs, the Spurs dispatched every opponent as though they were meant to win the title, losing only once heading into the Finals.
Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals featured one of the most memorable shots in Spurs history with the “Memorial Day Miracle.” With 9.0 seconds to go, forward Sean Elliott tip-toed over the sideline to knock down a 3-pointer, giving the Spurs an 86-85 win.
The Spurs would face a Patrick Ewing-less New York Knicks in the Finals, but that didn’t mean New York was simply going to roll over and hand San Antonio the trophy.
The Knicks became the first No. 8 seed to reach the Finals and were threatening to be the first eighth seed to win a championship as well.
But the Spurs just had too much firepower as they eliminated the Knicks in five games. 34-year-old Avery Johnson provided the finishing touches when he made an 18-foot baseline jumper with 47 seconds remaining to give San Antonio its first championship.
Duncan, a second-year forward at the time, was named Finals MVP as the Spurs became the first former ABA team to reach the Finals and win an NBA title.
6. 1995-96 Chicago Bulls
Weighted Age (WAGE): 30.526
Oldest Player: Dennis Rodman (35)
Perhaps the greatest team in NBA history, the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls were bannered by veteran All-Stars Michael Jordan (32), Scottie Pippen (30) and Dennis Rodman (34).
The Bulls were the first team ever to win 70 games (72-10) as they dominated the league in the regular season. They also hoarded the awards given out by the league this season.
Jordan, the league’s leading scorer once again at 30.4 points per game, won the All-Star Game, Regular Season and Finals MVP awards. He joined Willis Reed as the only two players to sweep all three MVP awards in the same season.
He and Pippen were on the First Team All-NBA and All-Defensive First Team as well. Rodman joined them on the All-Defensive First Team as he led the league in rebounding at 14.9 per game.
Toni Kukoc won Sixth Man of the Year and Phil Jackson won Coach of the Year.
In the playoffs, the Bulls virtually annihilated every team in their path leading to a matchup with the Seattle Supersonics who had the second-best record in the league at 64-18. Chicago won the first three games, lost the next two on the road, and then promptly dismissed the Sonics in Game 6 to win their fourth title in franchise history.
5. 2006-07 San Antonio Spurs
Weighted Age (WAGE): 30.72
Oldest Player: Robert Horry (36)
The 2006-07 Spurs were only the third seed in the West with a 58-24 record but they had some of the most experienced veterans in the league.
In the postseason, they showed their superiority over the competition, winning easily against their opponents, other than the Phoenix Suns, who gave them quite a scare in a six-game series in the Western Conference Semifinals.
In the first round, they gave the Denver Nuggets a gentleman’s sweep with a 4-1 series win.
After putting away the Suns in the second round, the Western Conference Finals was a cake walk against the Utah Jazz, who bowed out in five games.
But the easiest opponent that the Spurs faced was, ironically enough, in the Finals where LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers hardly put up a fight. Despite James’ dominance over the East, Tim Duncan and company showed the superiority of the West by overpowering the Cavs en route to beating them with a 4-0 sweep.
Though the Spurs’ roster was littered with veterans, it was 25-year-old Tony Parker who destroyed the Cavs with his lightning speed and quickness. Parker won Finals MVP honors to become the first European-born player to win the award.
This Spurs team may have been one of the oldest teams to win a title, but it probably had the easiest Finals win among the 10 on this list.
4. 1996-97 Chicago Bulls
Weighted Age (WAGE): 30.759
Oldest Player: Robert Parish (43)
After becoming the first NBA team to win 70 games or more in the regular season in 1995-96, the Bulls nearly replicated the feat with a 69-13 mark the following year.
43-year-old center Robert Parish, who played with another all-time great in Boston with Larry Bird, joined the Bulls for one season and he would not be disappointed.
Chicago’s road to the playoffs was almost as smooth as the season before, losing only two games heading into their first Finals matchup with the Utah Jazz. Led by Karl Malone and John Stockton, the Jazz were a solid ballclub that outlasted the best teams in the West.
In Game 1 of the 1997 Finals, Jordan nailed a game-winning shot at the buzzer. The series was tied after four games.
It would take a herculean effort from His Airness to play in Game 5 as he was suffering from a stomach flu that made him very weak. But Jordan mustered up enough strength to put his team on his back, dropping 38 points on the unsuspecting Jazz and giving the Bulls a 90-88 win.
After successfully recovering from his illness by Game 6, Jordan scored 39 points to bring the Bulls to the brink of a back-to-back title with only seconds to go. This time, however, it was Steve Kerr who delivered the dagger after Jordan passed him the ball in the final few seconds of the game.
Kerr calmly sank a 17-foot jumper from the top of the key, which gave the Bulls an 88-86 lead with five seconds to play. Scottie Pippen then made a crucial steal in the ensuing inbounds play by the Jazz and Toni Kukoc finished them off with a fastbreak dunk.
Jordan, at 34 years old, brought home his fifth Finals MVP and gave Chicago its fifth championship of the decade.
3. 1968-69 Boston Celtics
Weighted Age (WAGE): 30.790
Oldest Player: Sam Jones (35)
Bill Russell was the Boston Celtics’ playing coach in his final three seasons in the NBA with the 1968-69 season being his last.
The Celtics were only fourth in the East with a 48-34 record at the end of the season.
In the playoffs, however, Boston took down the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks on their way to another Finals meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers had acquired Russell’s longtime rival, Wilt Chamberlain, in a trade and looked ready to beat them.
The Lakers held home-court advantage, but they were even with the Celtics at 3-3 after six games, setting up a Game 7 at The Forum in L.A.
According to NBA.com, “[Lakers owner] Jack Kent Cooke had set up balloons in the ceiling to be released when the Lakers won it all.”
Unfortunately for Lakers fans, the Celtics escaped with a 108-106 win despite Jerry West’s 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. The only consolation for the Lakers was West being named Finals MVP, the first and only time in league annals that a player for the losing team won the award.
In the final game of his career, Russell (35) was limited to only six points on 2-of-7 shooting, but he grabbed 21 rebounds and dished out six assists in 48 minutes of action. Sam Jones (35), who also played his last game, scored 24 points in Game 7.
2. 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks
Weighted Age (WAGE): 31.607
Oldest Player: Jason Kidd (37)
Dirk Nowitzki had Finals experience and owned an MVP by the 2010-11 season, but he had never won a championship before. A grizzled veteran with 12 years of experience in the league, the 32-year-old Nowitzki’s time as an also-ran would finally come to a close.
With a 57-25 record, the Mavericks were only a third seed in the West, but they easily disposed of nearly every team they faced in the playoffs.
In the first round, the Blazers fell victim to the Mavs 4-2. In the Western Conference Semifinals Dallas surprisingly swept the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers 4-0. And in the Western Conference Finals, it was the Oklahoma City Thunder’s turn to be overwhelmed by Nowitzki’s squad, going down 4-1 in a lopsided series.
By the time the Finals rolled around, the Miami Heat were favored to win the title, once again at Dallas’ expense just like in 2006. But with a Mavericks roster filled with veterans who knew what it took to win, Dallas overcame the odds to win the title.
Aside from Nowitzki (32), they had the experienced Jason Kidd (38), who was playing in his 16th season, as well as Jason Terry (33), Shawn Marion (33), Brendan Haywood (31), and Peja Stojakovic (34).
The team’s leadership and their cohesiveness as a unit proved too much for the superstar-laden Heat, who were led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
More importantly, Nowitzki played like a champion as he powered the Mavs to a 4-2 win to capture the first and only championship of his career. He also won Finals MVP to cap off a season for the ages for Nowitzki and the Mavericks.
1. 1997-98 Chicago Bulls
Weighted Age (WAGE): 32.096
Oldest Player: Dennis Rodman (37)
The 1997-98 season would be Michael Jordan’s final year as a member of the Chicago Bulls. Bulls general manager Jerry Krause was hellbent on rebuilding the team regardless of the season’s final result.
At 35 years old, Jordan was no longer the high-flying marvel that he once was, but he could still take over games with his smarts and otherworldly ability to score.
Playing without Scottie Pippen, who had surgery on a sore foot that bothered him last season, until January, the Bulls struggled at the beginning before finding their groove. Chicago was the best in the East for the third straight season with a 62-20 record in the regular season.
The first two rounds of the playoffs were simply formalities as they dominated the New Jersey Nets and Charlotte Hornets. But waiting in the Eastern Conference Finals were the veteran-laden Indiana Pacers, who had Larry Bird as head coach.
The Pacers gave the Bulls everything they had, taking the Bulls to the brink of elimination with a winner-take-all Game 7 in Chicago. Though the Pacers’ Reggie Miller believed they had the better team, it was the Bulls’ experience and grit that gave them the win.
In the Finals, they faced the Utah Jazz for the second straight year. As good as the Jazz were compared to the year before, the Bulls had been hardened by their playoff battle against the Pacers.
Had it not been for a superhuman effort from Jazz star Karl Malone, who had 39 points in Game 5, the series would have been over in five games. Dennis Rodman, who was already 37 at the time, was a beast on the boards and on defense, but even he couldn’t contain Malone for long.
With a second chance to put away the Jazz in Game 6, Jordan carried his team on his back with a 45-point effort that culminated in a game-winning, 17-foot jumper. Chicago won its sixth championship in eight years and Jordan earned his sixth Finals MVP.