Winning an NBA championship might be the hardest accomplishment of all team sports. Winning just one title makes a team special, but being a repeat NBA champion makes a team legendary.
Since 1980, only nine franchises have won NBA titles. The Miami Heat have accomplished the most difficult task possible in winning the title, now their task is to repeat. The Heat this season are not playing up to the standard they set for themselves in the last two years and face questions about whether they can again reign as champions.
Very few repeat title teams had the same amount of regular season success the year after winning the championship. Looking back into NBA history at the last teams that have been repeat NBA champions, it’s clear that the panic button is being pushed too easily and the chances for the Heat to repeat are strong.
Los Angeles Lakers 2009-10
2008-09 record 65-17
2009-10 record 57-25 (Key Addition: Ron Artest)
The 2008-09 Lakers played the entire season as a team determined to avenge themselves from a letdown performance in the 2008 NBA Finals. Favored to win the title before the season began they played that way the entire year leading the West for most of the season.
The 2009-10 regular season was more of a struggle for the Lakers to win the West. Instead of finishing 11 games ahead of second place as they did in 2008-09, in 2009-10, the Lakers finished two games ahead of the field. The playoffs saw the Lakers in closely contested series with Oklahoma City and Phoenix en route to the Finals. In the championship round against the Celtics, the Lakers were one game away from elimination down 3-2 heading home. The Lakers saved their best performances for the final two games winning their 16th NBA title.
Los Angeles Lakers 2000-01
1999-2000 record- 67-15
2000-01 record- 56-26 (Key Addition: None)
2001-02 record- 58-24 (Key Addition: None)
The 1999-2000 Lakers were one of the most dominant teams in NBA history, racing to 67 wins and featuring one of the most dominant MVP performances ever by Shaquille O’Neal.
The 2000-01 version of the team saw Kobe Bryant rise to stardom but the team struggled in contrast to the previous season. O’Neal and Bryant bickered, the defense was not near the level it was in the previous season and the Lakers finished second in the Western Conference.
From looking at the way how the team played in the regular season it was easy to conclude that the Lakers were not going to repeat as champions. But the Lakers instead had arguably the most dominating postseason run ever with a 15-1 record, with the one loss coming in overtime.
The Lakers followed up the 2001 championship performance with a more consistent regular season finishing 58-24 in 2001-02. The Lakers would finish second in the West to the Sacramento Kings, who were three games ahead.
The Lakers and Kings would engage in a classic back-and-forth Western Conference Finals. The Kings took a 2-1 lead in the series with Game 4 in Los Angeles, where the Kings came close to winning before Robert Horry’s buzzer-beating 3 won the game for LA. The Kings won Game 5 to go ahead 3-2 before losing an explosive Game 6 that featured several controversial referee calls.
In Game 7 in Sacramento, the Lakers proved their championship mettle by beating the Kings in overtime and then going on to sweep the New Jersey Nets to win their 14th NBA championship and third in a row.
Houston Rockers 1994-95
1993-94 record 58-24
1994-95 record 47-35 (Key Addition: Clyde Drexler)
The 1993-94 Houston Rockets started out the season with a NBA record 15 straight wins en route to winning their first title.
The 1994-95 season for the Rockets was filled with turmoil. Starting guard Vernon Maxwell’s behavior led to his banishment from the team. In danger of missing the playoffs, the Rockets shocked the NBA by trading forward Otis Thorpe to the Portland Trail Blazers for All-Star and Houston native Clyde Drexler. The Rockets finished the season in sixth place in the West. Houston’s road to the championship saw them twice face elimination in the first and second rounds before coming back to win both series. Hakeem Olajuwon then took over in the final two rounds with dominating performances against rival centers David Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal that sealed his claim to being the best center in the league.
The Rockets became one of the most unlikely teams to ever win a championship and the only team to win a title by defeating three teams that won at least 59 games.
Detroit Pistons 1989-90
1988-89 record 63-19
1989-90 record 59-23 (Key Addition : None)
In 1988, the Detroit Pistons were one bad foul call away from the winning championship in six games.
The following season the Pistons came out firing on all cylinders, losing only two games in the playoffs on the road to their first title. The path to the title in the 1989-90 season was not as easy as it was the previous year.
The Pistons lost starting forward Rick Mahorn to the expansion draft and went through lineup changes before settling on Dennis Rodman as a starter. The Pistons started out 26-14 with Rodman on the bench, but with Rodman as a starter they went 33-9.
In the playoffs the Pistons had a much tougher time, being pushed to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Chicago Bulls. The Pistons won the NBA Finals in five games; with the exception of Game 3, all the games in the Finals were close.
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