SportsPulse: What was once thought to be an impossible task is now reality: The Toronto Raptors have won the NBA Championship, dethroning the Warriors. USA TODAY
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Larry O’Brien trophy now is in the hands of the Toronto Raptors, who on Thursday won the NBA championship and denied the Golden State Warriors a three-peat.
Yet the Warriors’ run of three championships in five years and five consecutive NBA Finals earns them a spot among the best five dynasties in NBA history.
The question is, where do the Warriors rank on that list? Here’s our list:
1. Boston Celtics (1957-1969)
No one smoked a victory cigar with as much flair and frequency as Celtics coach Red Auerbach. And no team has matched what his extraordinary teams did — win 11 NBA titles in 13 years.
Led by center Bill Russell, the Celtics’ place on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore goes unchallenged, is how Matt Zeysing, curator at The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Game, put it.
“It’s probably the one (team) you can never erase, in my mind,’’ Zeysing said. “But convincing a public that is more in tune with what’s happened in the last 10, 20 or 30 years might be a different argument for someone who is just into basketball since 1980.’’
We’re here to protect against that bias.
2. Chicago Bulls (1991-1998)
Michael Jordan smoked a mean cigar, too, especially after winning his first NBA title.
When the smoke finally cleared, the Bulls had won six NBA championships — a pair of three-peats — in eight years. And if Jordan hadn’t taken his two-year sabbatical and played minor-league baseball, it could have been eight titles in a row for the Bulls.
The Zenmaster, Phil Jackson, got the most out of a talent-rich roster. That included Steve Kerr, now the Warriors coach. Kerr played with the Bulls from 1993-99 and used his experience to help guide the Warriors during their stretch.
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3. Los Angeles Lakers (1980-1988)
With Magic Johnson serving as ringmaster, it was Showtime — the greatest NBA show on earth for almost a decade, with the Lakers hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy five times in nine seasons.
Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy were at times almost impossible to stop.
4. Golden State Warriors (2015-19)
If not for Kevin Durant’s calf injury and torn Achilles this postseason, the Warriors might have earned a spot higher on this list. But they certainly belong here thanks to five straight appearances in the NBA Finals.
Steph Curry is the centerpiece of a team that has played with a beauty, fluidity and joy previously unseen in the league.
Now the question is whether this is the end of the dynasty or simply a hiccup. Durant, Klay Thompson, Kevin Looney and DeMarcus Cousins are free agents and are all injured.
Durant will be out next year while he recovers and Thompson was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his left knee after landing awkwardly during Thursday’s Game 6. Cousins, who came back this season from a torn Achilles, tore his quadriceps and was not at full-strength in the Finals. And Looney suffered an injury to his rib area.
5. Boston Celtics (1981-1986)
Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish played foil to the Showtime Lakers and were an extraordinary show in their own right, hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy three times in six years.
Follow Josh Peter on Twitter @joshlpeter11