Winning an NBA title is the most important part of playing professional basketball. It is the end goal for every season and the reason players dedicate their lives to the game. Of course, it is also the most difficult part of basketball. That is why franchises scramble every season to build together the best possible team.
Looking at NBA history, only 19 franchises have ever lifted the championship trophy at the end of the year. That goes to show the chance of winning it all, and only the best teams with the best players have achieved this feat. By ranking all the NBA championships won by franchises into tiers, here is the official breakdown.
17 Championships - Los Angeles Lakers (32 NBA Finals), Boston Celtics (21 NBA Finals)
The Los Angeles Lakers made their 32nd Finals appearance last year and won their 17th NBA title. Of course, the record or 32 appearances is likely to never be broken especially when players such as LeBron James and Anthony Davis are on the roster. The Lakers have had some great all-time players including Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O'Neal lift trophies for the team.
The ultimate rival for the Lakers, the Boston Celtics also captured 17 NBA titles in only 21 Finals appearances. The latest victory was in 2008 thanks to the Big Three Celtics of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. The man who is mostly responsible for the majority of the Celtics rings is Bill Russell, arguably the greatest defensive center ever who won 11 championships with the franchise.
6 Championships - Golden State Warriors (11 NBA Finals), Chicago Bulls (6 NBA Finals)
In the second place, the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors have each won 6 championships. The Chicago Bulls are one of the most renowned franchises thanks to the great Michael Jordan who is easily the best player ever. Jordan led the Bulls to 6 NBA titles during 2 separate 3-peats and never lost a Finals appearance. A perfect 6-0 Finals record is what the Chicago Bulls have to their name.
The Golden State Warriors have had some dominant players including Rick Barry, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant who all won NBA titles with the franchise. The most recent wins came in 2015, 2017, and 2018 thanks to the dominance of Curry and Durant. The Warriors are one of the most widely regarded franchises ever because the team had great players such as Wilt Chamberlain and Chris Mullin even if they didn't win a title with the Warriors.
5 Championships - San Antonio Spurs (6 NBA Finals)
In third place, the San Antonio Spurs are alone with 5 NBA titles in 6 Finals appearances. The man mainly responsible for those championships is Tim Duncan, the greatest power forward of all time who won 3 Finals MVPs as well. The Spurs Dynasty led by Duncan and head coach Greg Popovich is one of the most dominant creations in basketball history and it is no surprise to see them alone in their tier.
3 Championships - Philadelphia 76ers (9 NBA Finals), Detroit Pistons (7 NBA Finals), Miami Heat (5 NBA Finals)
Winning 3 NBA championships isn't easy, but this is what 3 franchises have managed to accomplish. The Detroit Pistons won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 thanks to the Isiah Thomas-led "Bad Boy Pistons", and the Pistons won again in 2004 in arguably the biggest upset in Finals history. With Chauncey Billups capturing Finals MVP, the Pistons defeated Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in the Finals.
The Miami Heat also won 3 NBA titles thanks to the marquee draft choice of Dwyane Wade. Wade is the greatest Miami Heat player of all time because he won Miami's first NBA title in 2006 by defeating the heavily favored Dallas Mavericks. The Heat won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013 thanks to the Big Three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh which is the most talented trio of stars we have seen in the modern era.
The 76ers won 3 rings in 1955, 1967, and 1983. The Sixers have had some great players during their championship runs including Moses Malone who took home the Finals MVP in 1983. Moses was a man among boys during the last run by Philadelphia as he averaged 25.8 PPG and 18.0 RPG to outplay the Golden State Warriors.
2 Championships - New York Knicks (8 NBA Finals), Houston Rockets (4 NBA Finals)
With back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995 thanks to the brilliance of Hakeem Olajuwon. Olajuwon is one of the top-5 centers to have ever played the game and he captured both Finals MVP trophies during those years. Houston could not capitalize on their 4 total Finals appearances by losing 2 of them to the Boston Celtics in 1981 and 1986.
The New York Knicks, one of the most widely recognized franchises around the world, also captured 2 NBA titles. The Knicks have not had the amount of success they would have liked, however, losing 6 Finals appearances out of 8. The Knicks won the titles in 1970 and 1973 thanks to the brilliance of Willis Reed, but the last time they were in the Finals was in 1999 in a losing effort.
1 Championship - Cleveland Cavaliers (5 Finals), Atlanta Hawks (4 NBA Finals), Washington Wizards (4 NBA Finals), Oklahoma City Thunder (4 Finals), Portland Trail Blazers (3 NBA Finals), Dallas Mavericks (2 NBA Finals), Milwaukee Bucks (2 NBA Finals), Sacramento Kings (1 NBA Finals), Toronto Raptors (1 NBA Finals)
9 NBA teams have captured the NBA championship one time. The most recent team was the Toronto Raptors in 2019 thanks to the dominance of Kawhi Leonard. The Cavaliers shocked the world in 2016 by coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals thanks to LeBron James, while the Mavericks had one of the biggest upsets in Finals history in 2011.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the Bucks to the NBA title in 1971 after the team went 66-16 in the regular season, while the Sacramento Kings captured the title in 1951 as the "Rochester Royals". The Hawks, Wizards, Thunder (SuperSonics), and Trail Blazers all captured a combined 4 titles in 15 total Finals appearances. These franchises will be looking to improve their poor Finals records in the coming seasons to get out of this tier.
0 Championships - Utah Jazz (2 NBA Finals), Brooklyn Nets (2 NBA Finals), Orlando Magic (2 NBA Finals), Phoenix Suns (2 NBA Finals), Indiana Pacers (1 NBA Finals), Memphis Grizzlies (0 NBA Finals), Denver Nuggets (0 NBA Finals), Charlotte Hornets (0 NBA Finals), New Orleans Pelicans (0 NBA Finals), Los Angeles Clippers (0 NBA Finals), Minnesota Timberwolves (0 NBA Finals)
Of course, there remain 10 teams that have never won an NBA championship even if some of them have had Finals appearances. The most famous Finals failures include the Charles Barkley-led Suns, the Jason Kidd-led Nets, the Reggie Miller-led Pacers, and of course the superstar duo of Karl Malone and John Stockton with the Jazz. Even the Orlando Magic made the Finals twice thanks to superstar centers in Shaquille O'Neal in 1995 and Dwight Howard in 2009, but neither could get the job done.
The team most likely to break out of this tier is the Brooklyn Nets, followed by the Los Angeles Clippers. The Nets are very likely to make a Finals appearance this year because of their dominant trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. The Clippers have a dynamic duo in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but time will tell if they can get over the hump.