Outside of a Golden State Warriors dynasty, the league saw seven different teams win the NBA championships, which was culminated by the Milwaukee Bucks winning their first title in 50 years. The last decade saw a lot of firsts with Toronto and Cleveland winning their first-ever championships as well.
The Miami Heat and Warriors both won multiple championships, while the Spurs won their fifth title in a span from 1999-2014. Although they all can share this incredible accomplishment of being an NBA champion, not all championship teams are created equally. Some are among the best teams in league history, while others might have been lucky enough to corral the moment. Let’s take a look at who owns the best championship team in the last decade of champions.
10. Milwaukee Bucks - 2020-2021
Regular Season: 46-26
The fact that Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered his promise to the city is an incredible accomplishment. His 50-point game in Game 6 makes him one of seven players to ever accomplish this, but let’s just state the facts. The Bucks took advantage of an opportunity of luck being presented to them.
The Bucks weren’t even the best team in the regular season. They were lucky to play against the Hawks in the Conference Finals and not the 76ers. The Phoenix Suns made the NBA Finals without Anthony Davis, nor Kawhi Leonard. The Bucks had one of the easier opponents in NBA Finals history. Giannis was a matchup nightmare for the smaller Suns. The Bucks will always be champions, but there have been nine other championship teams in the last decade.
9. Los Angeles Lakers - 2019-2020
Regular Season: 52-19
The pandemic has touched parts of the last two seasons and that isn’t the full reason for the last two champions being listed here, but it does have a part. All teams were affected by the pandemic, but the bubble makes an extra variable added to the pile. The Lakers should be applauded for their ability to win a title despite dealing with a pandemic and the death of Kobe Bryant. However, we are measuring overall teams.
The combination of LeBron James and Anthony Davis was too much for teams to stop, but realistically the Lakers had a big three of those two and Rajon Rondo. Of the 10 title teams, we can measure star power in comparison and these remaining teams have more to offer than this Lakers squad.
8. Miami Heat - 2011-2012
Regular Season: 46-20
The first LeBron championship team was in Year 2 of the regime of LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. It was also in the midst of a shortened season, where they were the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. By no accounts were the Heat a dominant team in the playoffs either.
The Heat needed seven games to beat the Boston Celtics in the Conference Finals. Then, their opponent was a young Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Young teams do not fare well when winning a championship. The Suns are a perfect example of this in 2021. The Heat did all the right things to win, but this version of the Heat was still not at their best.
7. Toronto Raptors - 2018-2019
Regular Season: 58-24
It traditionally takes teams years to build around a star player. The Raptors struck lightning in a bottle by building a team around Kawhi Leonard in one season. Kyle Lowry was already a four-time All-Star. Pascal Siakam grew to be the league’s Most Improved Player. Marc Gasol, a former Defensive Player of the Year, was the missing piece, and the Raptors were one of the best defensive teams in the league.
In the playoffs, Leonard and Lowry were clutch all series long. In Game 7 of the semifinals, Leonard’s game-winning shot will go down as one of the greatest postseason finishers of all time. In the Finals, the Raptors dethroned the mighty Golden State Warriors, who were in their fifth straight Finals. With that said, it should be noted that the Raptors had a little bit of luck as Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were both injured in the Finals.
6. Golden State Warriors - 2017-2018
Regular Season: 58-24
The Warriors repeated as champions this year as Kevin Durant won his second straight NBA Finals MVP. It was also the Warriors’ third championship in four years. While their playoff record is impressive, there are a few concerns with making this team one of the best overall championship teams in the last 10 years.
The Warriors were 8-2 in the first two rounds but needed seven games to defeat the Houston Rockets. Had Chris Paul not injured his shoulder and played with an injury, the Warriors might have been taken down. Next, the Cavaliers made the NBA Finals for a fourth straight season, but this was one of their first teams. Plus, it was their first year without Kyrie Irving. With no Irving, the Warriors easily swept the Cavs 4-0. The East was no match for the rest during this year and it clearly showed in the end.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers - 2015-2016
Regular Season: 57-25
This is where the getting gets good. The Cavaliers were not just great in the regular season, but they were the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers went a perfect 8-0 in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Then, the team took care of Toronto in six games, including a Game 6 clincher on the road.
In the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers won their first-ever championship over a Golden State team that won an NBA record 73 wins in the regular season. This Finals run by LeBron James was historically one of the best we have seen from a stat performance. Who can ever forget his game-sealing block on Andre Iguodala in the final moments of Game 7, as well as Kyrie Irving’s game-winning three?
4. Golden State Warriors - 2014-2015
Regular Season: 67-15
The 2014-2015 season was the first year of the Warriors dynasty. Steph Curry won the MVP, while Klay Thompson emerged as the league’s second-best shooter, only to his teammate Curry. The “Splash Bros” were formed, while Draymond Green emerged as one of the best defenders in the league. From top to bottom, this Warriors team was well-rounded.
Outside of their 2016 championship, the 2014-2015 Cavaliers team might have been their best overall team to make the Finals. Plus, what LeBron did in this Finals was legendary. He averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists. The Warriors were able to slow him down and take their first championship as a group of young stars.
3. San Antonio Spurs - 2013-2014
Regular Season: 62-20
The Spurs group had already made the NBA Finals in 2013 but were taken down by the Miami Heat. The team was veteran-laden. It was not their first rodeo either. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili were meant for this stage. With a young Kawhi Leonard, who eventually won Finals MVP, the Spurs took down the Heat in five games and might have been a prime reason for LeBron leaving the Heat and returning to the Cavaliers.
What makes this Spurs team even more incredible was that the Heat was in Year 4 of their regime. This group was on a mission to secure the league’s first three-peat since Shaq and Kobe in Los Angeles. The Spurs showed incredible ball movement, and flat-out played the Heat.
2. Miami Heat - 2012-2013
Regular Season: 66-16
Everyone loves a good seven-game series in the NBA Finals and that is what the Heat and Spurs gave us in the championship. While Ray Allen’s legendary shot in Game 6 will go down in Finals lore, everything about this team screamed winner.
LeBron and Wade were outstanding, while Allen was the ultimate complementary piece. They hit big shot after big shot throughout the playoffs and in the regular season, which is why they owned the best record in the league. Even role players like Chris Anderson, Norris Cole, and Mario Chalmers had big moments. They managed to take down the Pacers in a seven-game series, and then the Spurs in a seven-game series. That takes grit and a winning culture.
1. Golden State Warriors - 2016-2017
Regular Season: 67-15
This Warriors team is easily the greatest NBA championship team in the last 10 years. We can talk about the core of Curry, Thompson, and Green getting an added hand in Kevin Durant. Durant added a third “Splash Brother” to the team, while Green won Defensive Player of the Year. The Warriors didn’t win 74 games but did mow down every playoff opponent, losing just one time to the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
If all of these players played together the last two seasons, would we be talking about LeBron’s fourth championship? Had they not gotten hurt in the 2019 Finals, would the Raptors have won in six games? What about this year, where injuries hampered the West? Chemistry issues broke this team up in 2018. Had this team stuck together and it worked financially, the Warriors might have more than three championships since 2015.