Best Teams Ever bracket: NBA edition, Round 2

Yahoo Sports

Welcome to the Best Team Ever bracket series, where the greatest of all time have their most dominant seasons stacked up against each other until we ultimately crown a champion in each sport. The tournament will be decided by fan vote, so be sure to submit yours below! Check out the first round of voting right here. The second round of polling closes at noon ET on Thursday.

[Brackets: NFL | NBA | MLB | NCAAF | NCAAB | NCAAW | WNBA | Soccer | NHL | Nascar]

Best Teams Ever bracket: NBA edition, Round 2. (Yahoo Sports illustration)
Best Teams Ever bracket: NBA edition, Round 2. (Yahoo Sports illustration)

2017 Golden State Warriors vs. 2008 Boston Celtics

No. 1: 2017 Warriors

  • Best playoff record in NBA history (16-1).

  • Seventh-best regular-season record ever (67-15).

  • Started four All-Stars and two MVPs.

The regular-season record-setting 73-win Warriors added Kevin Durant, who was on a mission to prove himself as the game’s best active player. He did a fine job of it, too, outplaying LeBron James en route to the first of consecutive Finals MVP honors. That they may not have even needed Durant is a testament to their greatness, what with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green as his supporting cast. For those counting at home, that’s three of the best shooters ever and a generational defensive talent. It’s no wonder they had the most potent offense in NBA history and a top-two defense that year, too.

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No. 9: 2008 Celtics

  • Won franchise’s first title in 22 years.

  • Finished with a 66-16 regular-season record.

  • Outscored opponents by 11.3 points per 100 possessions.

Nine years apart and yet from another era. Few trios have complemented each other as well as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Surrounded by similarly tough-minded role players, including future four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo, they played as one, forming a defense that has not been outdone since. They would never go down without a fight, even in the face of greatness. The length and skill of KG vs. KD. The smooth strokes of Allen and Curry. The trash-talking of Pierce and Green. What a matchup.

— Ben Rohrbach


1986 Boston Celtics vs. 1987 Los Angeles Lakers

No. 2: 1986 Boston Celtics

  • Finished 50-1 at home in regular season and playoffs.

  • Featured 1986 MVP (Larry Bird) and Sixth Man of the Year (Bill Walton).

  • Led NBA in offensive rating and ranked third in defensive rating.

The game has never looked better than when a Celtics team starting Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge added Bill Walton off the bench. That basketball IQ, man. Future Coaches and Executives of the Year filled the rotation around Bird working on a third straight MVP. They were a juggernaut that never got its chance at revenge against the Lakers, who suffered a Western Conference finals upset, and no other team stood a puncher’s chance against such a stacked squad.

No. 7: 1987 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Fourth of five championships in 1980s.

  • Featured 1987 MVP (Magic Johnson) and DPOY (Michael Cooper).

  • Led NBA with a then-record 115.6 offensive rating.

Another brilliant basketball team covered in Showtime branding. It is a shame the best of Magic’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics never met in the Finals, since Boston limped into this one. Imagine Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the third-leading scorer on any team, even at age 39. Magic and “Big Game” James Worthy were putting on the show in 1987. They featured four more double-digit scorers, including Cooper and Klay Thompson’s dad. These Lakers just hit you in waves. What a dream matchup for basketball heads.

— Ben Rohrbach

1996 Chicago Bulls vs. 2001 Los Angeles Lakers

No. 3: 1996 Chicago Bulls

  • Fourth of six championships in eight seasons.

  • Highest net rating in NBA history (13.4 points per 100 possessions).

  • Set regular-season record of 72 wins that stood for 21 years.

Michael Jordan returned from his baseball hiatus at the end of the 1995 season only to see the Bulls fall short of the NBA Finals. It left some to wonder, did Jordan still have it? He had it. With the addition of Dennis Rodman and Toni Kukoc to the Jordan-Scottie Pippen core that had already secured three rings, the Bulls put together the finest season of their six-championship run and the best regular season in NBA history up to that point.

Who wins a Finals matchup featuring the two greatest shooting guards to ever play? (Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images)
Who wins a Finals matchup featuring the two greatest shooting guards to ever play? (Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images)

No. 11: 2001 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Shaq and Kobe hit their stride.

  • Dominant playoff run.

  • Dynasty in motion.

With Shaquille O’Neal at his peak and Kobe Bryant entering his prime, the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers represented one of the game’s all-time great one-two punches. Coming off the first of three straight championships, the 2001 Lakers put together a historic 15-1 playoff run that included a sweep of the rival San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals in which the average margin of victory was 22.3 points. Who prevails when Kobe and MJ go head to head on the game’s biggest stage?

—Jason Owens

1972 Los Angeles Lakers vs. 1971 Milwaukee Bucks

No. 4: 1972 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Third-best regular-season record in NBA history (69-13).

  • Longest winning streak ever (33 games).

  • Won the franchise’s first NBA title in Los Angeles.

Entering the 1972 NBA Finals, Jerry West had tallied 12 straight All-Star nods, seven NBA Finals appearances, a scoring title and a Finals MVP. But he didn’t have an NBA title to his name, thanks largely to the dominance of the 1960s Celtics (and yes, he won a Finals MVP on a losing team). But in his fourth season alongside Wilt Chamberlain, he secured his legacy as the Lakers made a 12-3 run in the playoffs that culminated with a 4-1 win over the New York Knicks in the Finals. The Lakers set a then-NBA record with 69 regular season wins that included a 33-game winning streak that still hasn’t been bested.

No. 5: 1971 Milwaukee Bucks

  • The last season of Lew Alcindor.

  • A champion in third year of team’s existence.

  • Oh, yeah — they had the Big O, too.

Lew Alcindor retired his given name with a flourish in 1971, securing an NBA title in just his second season while averaging 31.7 points and 16 rebounds rebounds per game. It was his only title before adopting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as his name and forcing his way to the Los Angeles Lakers. But he did so alongside another all-timer in triple-double machine Oscar Robertson on a 66-win team that stands up alongside the greatest teams ever assembled.

—Jason Owens


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