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The Top 10 Teams Who Had The Toughest Path To An NBA Title Ever

Fadeaway World

Fadeaway World

Let's face it. There's nothing more difficult than winning an NBA Championship. We're talking about the greatest athletes on earth teaming up to try and write their name in history books, but 29 out of 30 teams fail.

However, some teams have it harder than others when it comes to going the distance. Either because injuries and even bad luck, but most of the time is because they have to go through the best teams to make it to the Finals.

Some fans and haters often put asterisks next to NBA Championships by claiming those teams didn't have to face tough competition to win their ring so, in order to put an end to that narrative, we've put together a list featuring the 12 teams that had to go throw the toughest paths to win their titles, as pointed out by HoopsHype:

10. Miami Heat (2006)


Opponents combined winning percentage: 65.2%

41-41 Bulls, 43-33 Nets, 64-18 Pistons, and 60-22 Mavericks

Led by Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal, the Miami Heat had to go through it all in 2006. They beat the Chicago Bulls in six games in the first round, then got rid of the Nets in five, and eventually got past the Pistons in six games.

Their most difficult task came vs. Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks, but they were able to overcome a 2-0 hole in the Finals by winning 4 straight, although some claim the referees had a lot to do with that.

10. Los Angeles Lakers (2009)


Opponents combined winning percentage: 65.2%

48-34 Jazz, 53-29 Rockets, 54-28 Nuggets, and 59-23 Magic

The 2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers were on a mission after losing the Finals the previous year, and Kobe Bryant wasn't going to be denied again. However, it wasn't easy at all, as they had to get past the Jazz in 5 games, then go to 7 games vs. the Rockets, and eventually face Carmelo Anthony in 6 games.

Last, but not least, an up and coming Magic team led by Dwight Howard waited for them in the NBA Finals, but they beat them in 5 games. Notably, that was the closest we had to a LeBron James-Kobe Bryant Finals, as the Magic knocked off the Cavs in the ECF.

10. Chicago Bulls (1998) 

Credit: PETER PAWINSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Credit: PETER PAWINSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Opponents combined winning percentage: 65.2%

43-39 Nets, 51-31 Hornets, 58-24 Pacers, and 62-20 Jazz

The Chicago Bulls knew that the 1997-98 season was going to be their last dance, so they took it personally to win their second three-peat and beat the odds despite being an older team than most of their rivals.

The Bulls swept the Nets in 3 games, then got past the Hornets in 5, and they struggled until late in the fourth quarter of Game 7 to beat Reggie Miller and the Pacers. If that wasn't enough, they had to face a better, tougher Utah Jazz team for the second straight year, but they got the job done in 6 games.

9. San Antonio Spurs (2014)

Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs pose for a photo with the Larry O'Brien trophy after the game against the Miami Heat in game five of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. The Spurs defeated the Heat 104-87 to win the NBA Finals. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Via USA Today Sports

Opponents combined winning percentage: 65.9%

49-33 Mavericks, 54-28 Trail Blazers, 59-23 Thunder, and 54-28 Heat

Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs couldn't sleep for a year thinking about the 2012-13 Finals and how they let it slip right through their fingers and next year they played with a chip on their shoulders.

They had to go to a Game 7 vs. Dirk and the Spurs in the first round, then beat the Blazers in 5 games, and finally Westbrook, and Durant in the WCF. Then, they put the icing on top of the cake by ending the Heat's dynasty in 5 games.

8. San Antonio Spurs (2005)


Opponents combined winning percentage: 66.2%

49-33 Nuggets, 52-30 Supersonics, 62-20 Suns, and 54-28 Pistons

The early 2000s were just different. The San Antonio Spurs were the new team to beat following the post-Shaq-Kobe era in the Lakers, and they surely had it done against some of the hardest teams we've seen in NBA history.

They handled the Nuggets in 5 games, then the Supersonics took them to 6. Later on, they beat the Suns in 5 games in the WCF amid several controversies, but their biggest obstacle was the defending champion Detroit Pistons, who took them to 7 games.

7. Dallas Mavericks (2011)

Dirk Nowitzki

Opponents combined winning percentage: 66.5%

48-34 Trail Blazers, 57-25 Lakers, 55-27 Thunder, and 58-24 Heat

Dirk Nowitzki is a legend for this playoffs run alone. He wanted a second shot at a Championship and wasn't going to let anybody stand on his way. They had one of the greatest underdog stories in sports history.

The Mavericks got past Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge in 6 games, then swept Kobe and Pau in the second round, handled Westbrook and Durant in 5 games in the WCF. Last, but not least, Dirk beat Wade, Bosh, and LeBron in 6 games in the NBA Finals. It doesn't get better than that.

5. Los Angeles Lakers (2001)


Opponents combined winning percentage: 66.8%

50-32 Trail Blazers, 55-27 Kings, 58-24 Spurs, and 56-26 Sixers

Some argue that the 2000-01 ring was the easiest for the Los Angeles Lakers, considering Allen Iverson didn't have an elite supporting cast in the Finals. However, before beating him and the Sixers in five games, they had to prove they were the best team out of the West.

Shaq and Kobe swept a 50-win Blazers team in the first round in three games. Then swept the Sacramento Kings in 4, and finally went to 5 games with the San Antonio Spurs in the WCF. They beat 4 50-win teams in the playoffs and only lost 2 games. Talking about dominance, huh.

5. Chicago Bulls (1993)

PHOENIX - JUNE 20:  Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls celebrates winning the 1993 NBA Championship after defeating the Phoenix Suns in Game Six of the 1993 NBA Finals on June 20, 1993 at the America West Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Bulls won 99-98.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1993 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Via Getty

Opponents combined winning percentage: 66.8%

43-39 Hawks, 54-28 Cavaliers, 60-22 Knicks, and 62-20 Suns

The Chicago Bulls were always the team to beat for as long as Michael Jordan was on the court and 1993 was no different, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't difficult for them, as they had to beat a couple of 60-win teams in the road.

The Bulls swept the Hawks in 3 games and then the Cavaliers in 4, but Patrick Ewing and the Knicks weren't going to go out easily. They took care of business in 6 games and then had to go through reigning MVP Charles Barkley in the Finals. Once again, the GOAT delivered and they beat him in 6.

4. Los Angeles Lakers (2002)


Opponents combined winning percentage: 67.1%

49-33 Trail Blazers, 58-24 Spurs, 61-21 Kings, and 52-30 Nets

The Los Angeles Lakers were the best team in the world in 2002, coming off two straight championships. However, Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant were looking to replicate what Michael Jordan did and they had their eyes on the three-peat.

So, the Lakers got easily past the Blazers in 3 games in the first round before things got way more complicated. They beat the Spurs in 5 and then had to go to a Game 7 and some heroic and incredible shots to beat the almighty Sacramento Kings. Later on, they'd sweep Jason Kidd and the Nets in the Finals.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (2016)

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Opponents combined winning percentage: 67.4%

44-38 Pistons, 48-34 Hawks, 56-26 Raptors, and 73-9 Warriors

Most people think that the 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers had the toughest path to the NBA Finals but that's not it. As a matter of fact, the 73-9 Warriors are the ones that make those numbers add up to a 67.4% winning percentage.

The Cavs swept both the Pistons and Hawks, then beat the Raptors in six. Then they made history by being the only team ever to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, putting an end to the Warriors' historical season.

2. Chicago Bulls (1997)

(via NBA)

(via NBA)

Opponents combined winning percentage: 68.6%

44-38 Bullets, 56-26 Hawks, 61-21 Heat, and 64-18 Jazz

The Chicago Bulls were coming off their 4th Championship in 6 years but Michael Jordan wanted to keep proving that he was the best player on earth. The fact that he and his Bulls dominated that way in the playoffs vs. these teams just tells you how good they were.

The Bulls swept the Bullets in the first round, then the Hawks took them to five games, the same as Tim Hardaway and his Miami Heat. Then, he'd beat a hostile Utah Jazz team led by John Stockton and Karl Malone in six games.

1. Houston Rockets (1995)


Opponents combined winning percentage: 72.6%

60-22 Jazz, 59-23 Suns, 62-20 Spurs, and 57-25 Magic

Believe it or not, the 1994-95 Houston Rockets are the team that has had it more difficult to win an NBA Championship. The league was up for grabs when Jordan retired and Hakeem Olajuwon made sure that no one else got a shot at glory.

He had to go through Stockton and Malone in 5 games, then Barkley and the Suns took them to seven, and finally David Robinson and the Spurs in 6. Later on, he put the cherry on top of the sundae by sweeping a young Shaquille O'Neal and the Orlando Magic.


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