The 2012 NBA Finals are now in full swing. The Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder are playing in the NBA Finals match-up. Soon, our 2012 NBA champion will be crowned. Legends are made during this time, and teams are forever enshrined into glory. It is what the fans have been waiting for, albeit a lockout-shortened season. Most importantly, memories are made during the playoffs and finals which stick with many of us throughout our lifetime.
I have decided to name seven NBA championship teams that I believe personally stand above the rest.
1. 1973 New York Knicks
Yes, I am a Knicks fan, and this was our last championship team. It featured Finals MVP Willis Reed and Earl Monroe. This team raised the bar that we are still trying to reach. The Knicks are getting back to the glory days where we ruled the court. We are still the NBA’s largest media market, but still have the 1973 Knicks as our benchmark.
2. 1988 LA Lakers
I hate the Lakers as much or more than I love the Knicks. However, they and the Boston Celtics dominated the 1980s. Urban audiences paid attention to the Lakers in the 1980s. They featured Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy. They just ran you roughshod all over the court and the league was just exciting, albeit a two team race (them and the Boston Celtics featuring Larry Bird, Robert Parrish, and Kevin McHale). The 1988 team was my favorite of that dynasty because it was the final championship with that group. Magic, Kareem, and Worthy were still together, Pat Riley was still coaching and they got one more before the decade ended.
3. 1990 Detroit Pistons
It’s hard not to like the back to back champion Bad Boys with a young Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars, John Salley, and even Isaiah Thomas. That team was a special one and a gritty one. They had their own style of play and came to win. This bunch was also controversial. They were sandwiched in between the Lakers of the ’80s and the Chicago Bulls teams that preceded them. Therefore, often they are forgotten but their style of play helped transcend the NBA.
4. 1996 Chicago Bulls
They were easily the best team in NBA history to date. Just like all of the present day Heat, Celtics, and Lakers fans, seemed everyone was a Bulls fan in the 1990’s. Once Jordan returned from his first retirement with Scottie Pippen, Rodman, Ron Harper, and Toni Kukoc, there was no stopping them. They dominated the regular season with 72 wins and then only lost three playoff games en route to the championship. They were destined to win every time they hit the hardwood and had a swagger unmatched before or after. Not to mention they had one of the greatest coaches in Phil Jackson who coached on Kobe’s championship teams.
5. 2004 Detroit Pistons
It appeared at the time the whole world expected Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe to restart another dynasty as they added veterans and rookies alike to their all star palette. However coach Larry Brown and his team of underdogs had other ideas. Led by Big Ben Wallace, Finals MVP Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, and rookie Tayshaun Prince, the 2004 Pistons lacked flash and style. However, they played with grit and heart. They not only beat the Lakers, they did it in five games. Billups elevated himself to a second tier point guard, and the Pistons were once again on the map.
6. 2008 Boston Celtics
This franchise went from dominant, to mediocre, to the basement. However, they gave their young point guard Rajon Rondo and holdover Paul Pierce some much needed weapons in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Suddenly, a new Big Three was born. This team went from worst to first in one year, one of the quickest turnarounds in NBA history. They have been in the chase for the title every year since.
7. 2011 Dallas Mavericks
This was another team and owner in flamboyant Mark Cuban that received a long overdue NBA title. Like the 2008 Celtics, the 2011 Heat were supposed to dominate the league and win it all with their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. However, Dallas, led by Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, had other plans. They caught fire in their bellies, took advantage of LeBron’s historic poor fourth quarter play, and captured the championship. The Mavs were denied in 2006 by the Heat, but not this time. They shined when no one else expected them to, like other teams on this list.
So there are my seven favorite NBA champions. The jury is still out as to whether the 2012 Heat or 2012 Thunder would crack this list. The Heat of course have LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Thunder have a young, hungry, explosive team with Kevin Durant at the centerpiece, Russell Westbrook as a rising star at point guard, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, and James Harden with his bizarre hair and beard.
The series has been and will be a toss up. I’m going for the 2012 Heat to win it and for LeBron to finally get that first championship. The Thunder seem like the better team, but the Heat have more at stake. They have been here before, this team was built to win it all, plus the Thunder are still young and may struggle as the series moves to South Beach for a week. I am predicting Miami, but they cannot allow the Thunder to win two of three games in their arena. I do not see the Heat making a dramatic comeback in this series. This is their time, and they must realize it, as these seven other champions did.