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 here and the second round of voting here. Final Four polls will close at noon ET on Saturday.
The first round of the NBA’s Best Team Ever bracket produced just two mild upsets — the eighth-seeded 2008 Boston Celtics over the ninth-seeded 1967 Philadelphia 76ers and the 11th-seeded 2001 Los Angeles Lakers against the sixth-seeded 1983 Sixers — and Round 2 produced all chalk. The top four teams based on our custom G.O.A.T. Grade algorithm comprise the NBA’s greatest Final Four.
Gone are LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, among other all-time greats. The best of these best are left: Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant’s Golden State Warriors; Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish’s Celtics; Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s Chicago Bulls; and Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain’s Lakers. The four teams feature 12 Hall of Famers (not including Golden State’s future inductees) who combined to win 18 titles.
2017 Golden State Warriors vs. 1972 Los Angeles Lakers
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.
Few five-man units have complemented each other so well as Curry, Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. That’s a Finals MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year and three of the deadliest shooters ever, including a pair of MVPs. They are the death lineup, only deadlier, outscoring opponents by 22 points per 100 possessions on a record-setting playoff run — the pace-and-space era’s standard.
No. 4: 1972 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.
On the other side of the ball is Jerry West, the legendary executive credited with keeping the Splash Brothers together and pitching Durant on joining them. He partnered with one of the other 10 greatest players ever, Wilt Chamberlain, a 7-foot-1 athletic specimen the likes of which the NBA has never seen — a center for whom the Warriors may not have an answer. These Lakers are the only team to win more consecutive games than the 73-win team Durant joined, so it is only fitting they meet here on this road.
1986 Boston Celtics vs. 1996 Chicago Bulls
No. 2: 1986 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.
Take five minutes to watch Bird and Walton make magic together to see how beautiful this game can be. As Walton said, “Playing basketball with Larry Bird was like talking science with Albert Einstein.” Throw in Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson (one of three Finals MVPs on the roster) and a couple more of the greatest minds the NBA has ever seen, and these Celtics nearly defied the laws of physics.
No. 3: 1996 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 scored 63 points in a playoff game against the 1986 Celtics. That was two years before his Bulls added Scottie Pippen and a decade before Hall of Fame dirty worker Dennis Rodman joined the greatest wing tandem the game has ever seen for the last three of their six championships together. The Celtics swept the ‘86 Bulls, but what happens when the G.O.A.T. brings reinforcements to the rematch?
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