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In every year since 1947, the NBA has crowned a champion. That’s 76 total titles, which have been spread among 20 franchises. As any Association fan knows, those trophies are not distributed evenly – a select few franchises are the most successful of all time and left the rest of the NBA in the dust.
These are those standing at the front of the line.
All records as of April 3, 2023.
The Most Successful Franchises in NBA History
1: Los Angeles Lakers
NBA championships: 17 (1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2020)
NBA Finals appearances: 32 (Losses in 1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1983, 1984, 1989, 1991, 2004, 2008)
All-time record: 3,500-2,418 (.591)
Playoff appearances: 61
All-time playoff record: 458-306 (.600)
Notable players: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant
With 17 rings and a league-record 32 appearances in the NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers are the most successful franchise in NBA history.
The Lakers began their success in some of the league’s earliest days. They won the third championship the league ever offered, so long ago that the NBA wasn’t the NBA – it was the Basketball Association of America (BAA) – and the Lakers were in Minneapolis.
The franchise won five titles in Minnesota before leaving for Los Angeles in 1960, where the winning continued. The Lakers have never gone longer than 18 years between titles and featured some of the most notable names in hoops history: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, George Mikan, Shaquille O’Neal. That’s just a small sampling of the basketball royalty that has donned the purple and gold.
2: Boston Celtics
NBA championships: 17 (1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1986, 2008)
NBA Finals appearances: 22 (Losses in 1958, 1985, 1987, 2010, 2022)
All-time record: 3,567-2,461 (.592)
Playoff appearances: 58
All-time playoff record: 396-303 (.567)
Notable players: Bill Russell, Larry Bird, John Havlicek
The Boston Celtics match the Lakers in championships but have been to a decade’s worth of fewer Finals, plus their success hasn’t been as evenly distributed. That’s enough to determine the difference for me.
The Celtics’ original coronation came in 1957, and it started a waterfall of wins. From that year through 1969, Boston claimed 10 championships and reached 11 NBA Finals, largely under the guise of Red Auerbach. The team picked up five more rings across the 1970s and 1980s.
Things haven’t been as consistent since. When the Celtics climbed the mountaintop in 2008, they snapped a 22-season title drought. Dating back to 1988, Boston has appeared in three NBA Finals and won one championship. Still, with how much the Celtics accomplished previously, especially in the 1960s, they’re clearly within the top two most successful franchises in NBA history.
3: Golden State Warriors
NBA championships: 7 (1947, 1956, 1975, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2022)
NBA Finals appearances: 12 (Losses in 1948, 1964, 1967, 2016, 2019)
All-time record: 2,920-3,099 (.485)
Playoff appearances: 33
All-time playoff record: 206-165 (.555)
Notable players: Steph Curry, Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry
In 1947, the Philadelphia Warriors beat out the Chicago Stags in five games for the first BAA championship. They did it again in 1956, but those would be the only titles the franchise claimed in the City of Brotherly Love. In 1962, the Warriors went west.
Initially the San Francisco Warriors before adopting the Golden State moniker in 1971, this franchise has had some wild highs and lows while on the West Coast. It appeared in two NBA Finals in the 1960s and pulled off one of the most notorious titles in the league’s history in 1975, sweeping the heavily-favored Washington Bullets to put the Warriors back atop the podium.
But the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s were not so kind to Golden State. The Warriors not only failed to feature in an NBA Finals in those decades, but they were also mostly terrible, often missing the playoffs entirely in those eras. It wasn’t until Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and head coach Steve Kerr came to town that the franchise dusted itself off. Dating back to 2015, Golden State has been the NBA’s most successful franchise, corralling four crowns and playing in six Finals.
4: Philadelphia 76ers
NBA championships: 3 (1955, 1967, 1983)
NBA Finals appearances: 9 (Losses in 1950, 1954, 1977, 1980, 1982, 2001)
All-time record: 3,051-2,804 (.521)
Playoff appearances: 52
All-time playoff record: 242-230 (.514)
Notable players: Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Allen Iverson
As the Syracuse Nationals, this franchise successfully reached the NBA Finals in three out of six seasons in the early 1950s, finally finishing on the right side in 1955 for its first-ever title. In 1963, the Nationals were off to Philadelphia as the new-look 76ers, and Wilt Chamberlain joined the relocated franchise’s ranks not long after. With him in the mix, Philadelphia conquered the NBA in 1967, the only time a team other than the Celtics won it all between 1959 and 1969.
The 76ers are now experiencing a title drought old enough to have teenaged offspring. The franchise returned to the NBA Finals in 2001 with Allen Iverson, but it couldn’t overcome the Lakers in the midst of one of their dynasties. That is the only NBA Finals appearance for the 76ers since their 1983 championship.
5: Chicago Bulls
NBA championships: 6 (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998)
NBA Finals appearances: 6
All-time record: 2,342-2,252 (.510)
Playoff appearances: 36
All-time playoff record: 187-162 (.536)
Notable players: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Derrick Rose
There is one team in NBA history that’s appeared in multiple Finals and come away with the confetti every time: the 6-0 Chicago Bulls.
It took the Bulls 25 years after their formation to win their first NBA championship in 1991, but once they did, the 1990s were theirs. Chicago produced one of the most influential dynasties in basketball history with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and a collection of other names that have cemented their legacies in NBA lore. The Bulls put together two sets of triple ‘chips, becoming a national sensation that still hasn’t fully worn off.
Otherwise, the Bulls have been to the playoffs a decent number of times, had some good teams, and showcased some good players. Still, most of their legacy is tied up in the Jordan teams. But those Jordan teams delivered enough iconic moments to make up for some mediocrity.
Honorable Mentions: San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks
San Antonio was a defining team of the 2000s with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili on the court and Gregg Popovich at the helm. The Spurs became a stalwart of sustained success for more than two decades, setting the NBA record for most-consecutive playoff appearances with 22 in a row from 1998 through 2019. During that run, they won five championships and reached another Finals. Also, David Robinson was cool.
The Pistons have three rings to their name and have been to the Finals seven times. Two of those trips came while the team was still in Fort Wayne, Indiana, back in the mid-1950s, but all of the championships happened in Detroit – back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 during the Bay Boys era with Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, and head coach Chuck Daly, then a return to glory in 2004 under Larry Brown, featuring one of the most dominant defenses in NBA history.
In 1970 and 1973, the Big Apple ran the Association. Head coach Red Holzman had the Knicks in three NBA Finals in four years and provided the franchise with its only two championships. In total, New York has won the Eastern Conference Finals eight times, most recently in 1999, and Hall of Famers such as Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, and Willis Reed have suited up for the Knicks.
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