The NBA isn’t so historically different from the other major U.S. sports in how it tends to swing between championship parity and championship dynasties. Each season, fewer than half of NBA teams have a realistic chance at the title, but historically, only a handful of franchises have made a habit of claiming championships with regularity.

It’s an ideal time to revisit the teams that have been successful all the way through the NBA playoffs to the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Teams With the Most NBA Championships 

18 Titles: Boston Celtics

The arrival of coach Red Auerbach in 1950 changed the Celtics’ fortune, riding on the prowess of legendary Hall of Famer Bill Russell. With the franchise’s first championship under its belt in Russell’s rookie season (1956-57), they went on to win eight consecutive titles between 1959 and 1966 – a level of dominance that hasn’t been seen since.

After two more championships in the 1960s under the leadership of Russell, they earned another two with John Havlicek carrying the mantle in the 1970s. Toward the end of the decade, the Celtics welcomed a sensational talent in Larry Bird, who, along with Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, went on to capture three championships in the 1980s.

Since then, the Celtics have added two more trophies to their cabinet. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen teamed up with Paul Pierce and young point guard Rajon Rondo to lead the Celtics to a commanding 2007-08 season and a Finals victory over Kobe Bryant’s Lakers. Following years of heartbreaking playoff defeats, general manager Danny Ainge traded Garnett and Pierce, among other players and draft picks, to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013 in exchange for an immense package of players and picks. Two of these selections were used to draft Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, transitioning the Celtics from one era of championship-level basketball to another.

Prior to the 2023-24 season, general manager Brad Stevens made vital trades acquiring proven stars Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis in moves similar to Danny Ainge 16 years earlier. The two All-NBA talents immediately thrived playing alongside these new acquisitions. Then, led by 35-year-old head coach Joe Mazzulla – the sixth-youngest coach to win an NBA title and the second-youngest for the Celtics behind Russell as a player-coach – the Celtics went on a dominant postseason run that included a 16-3 record and was capped against the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals in five games.

17 Titles: Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers tied up with the Celtics with a 17th title in 2019-20 season, and it remained that way for four years. Their 32 appearances in the NBA Finals are a record, and their franchise has been home to some of the most recognizable players and MVPs – from George Mikan, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson to Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and LeBron James in more recent years.

The Lakers were the first team in NBA history to complete a three-peat – winning three titles between 1952 and 1954 when they played in Minneapolis. They won five championships before their franchise’s move to Los Angeles in 1960.

A dry spell followed in the 1960s due to the Celtics’ dominance, but the Lakers went on to win two titles in the 1970s before the Magic-Kareem era brought them five more in the 1980s. The 1990s was a dry decade for the Lakers until the very end, as they were named champions in the 1999-2000 season – the start of their second three-peat led by Shaq, Kobe and memorable role players Derek Fisher and Robert Horry.

After the three-peat and Shaq’s departure, Bryant teamed up with Gasol to add two more trophies to the cabinet and further the Lakers’ legacy.

Seven Titles: Golden State Warriors 

The Golden State Warriors are another renowned franchise, having won the first NBA (known as BAA – Basketball Association of America at the time) title in 1946-47 as the Philadelphia Warriors, led by Hall of Famer Joe Fulks. The Warriors won another title while in Philadelphia (1955-56), before moving to San Francisco in 1962 as the San Francisco Warriors. 

An 18-year championship drought stretched until the 1974-75 season. Rick Barry and Jamaal Wilkes were the team’s pillars in the 1975 NBA Finals as they pulled off a surprise sweep against the Washington Bullets. A tough stretch followed for the franchise, but the generational talent of Stephen Curry turned the tide in their favor.     

It took the arrival of head coach Steve Kerr to see the potential of Curry and exploit it to bring the franchise back to relevance. Curry’s deep game caused numerous problems for opponents, as they went on to win three titles between 2015 and 2018. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and eventually Kevin Durant played a crucial role in that effort as well – going up against a LeBron James-led Cavaliers team in the Finals in all four of those seasons. 

The Warriors then put some separation between themselves and the Chicago Bulls by winning the 2021-22 title over the Boston Celtics in six games. Curry was yet again a dominant force as the Warriors won their seventh NBA title. 

Six Titles: Chicago Bulls 

Despite winning 11 titles fewer than the Lakers and Celtics, the Chicago Bulls’ success in the league is held in very high regard. They’re the only franchise with more than one title to remain unbeaten in the NBA Finals – a 6-0 mark. 

The arrival of Michael Jordan through the 1984 NBA Draft put them on that path. While it took some time for Jordan’s Bulls to reach the NBA Finals, once they did there was nothing to stop them. The duo of Jordan and Scottie Pippen helped the Bulls bag three consecutive titles from 1991-93. 

Following the ’93 title run, Jordan chose to retire and fulfil his father’s ambitions for him – playing baseball. He returned to the Bulls late in the 1994-95 season and they were beaten by the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

Chicago made the necessary adjustments in the offseason and another three-peat followed while also becoming the first team to reach the 70-win mark in the 1995-96 regular season.

Five Titles: San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs are the team closest to the Bulls’ unbeaten record in the NBA Finals – losing in just one of their six appearances. Since their first NBA season in 1976-77, the Spurs have had big names like George Gervin and David Robinson helping them make regular playoffs appearances. 

But the franchise saw the biggest swing in their success when Gregg Popovich took over as head coach midway through the 1996-97 season. Although they missed the playoffs that season, they went on to make the playoffs in the 22 that followed while finally missing the postseason in 2020.

The Spurs won their first title in the 1998-99 season with Robinson and Tim Duncan leading the charge. The Spurs then brought in some international talent with Tony Parker from France and Manu Ginobili from Argentina that helped propel them to three more titles the following decade (2003, ’05 and ’07). 

The Spurs lost some close series in the playoffs in the seasons that followed, but the emergence of Kawhi Leonard helped them make a push in 2012-13. They were served their first defeat in the NBA Finals, coming in seven games at the hands of a LeBron- and Dwyane Wade-led Miami Heat. But San Antonio was quick to get its revenge in the 2014 NBA Finals by beating a similar Miami team in five games for its fifth title.

Three Titles: Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers

Two Titles: Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets and New York Knicks

One Title: 10 Teams

The following teams have one NBA title each: Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder (as Seattle SuperSonics), Washington Wizards (as Washington Bullets), Atlanta Hawks (as St. Louis Hawks), Sacramento Kings (as Rochester Royals) and Baltimore Bullets. 

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