The Golden State Warriors have come a long way from decades of mediocrity, misery, and being the utter laughingstock of the NBA, sweeping the overrated LeBron James (more on that in a future column) and the Cleveland Cavaliers to win back-to-back World Championships and, more importantly, a third title in four years that cements their status as a bonafide dynasty.
It’s somewhat surprising that media critics and fans alike aren’t putting up much of a debate regarding the Warriors’ dynasty title given the endless bitterness and hatred that’s been directed towards the World Champs on TV shows, editorials and social media.
So what constitutes a sports dynasty? According to Merriam-Webster, the closest definition of the term “dynasty,” when related to sports, is “A powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time.”
And that begs the question of what “a considerable time” is for a dynasty.
In sports, prior to the salary cap era, typically a dynasty constituted a team exerting its dominance on an entire league for a span measuring a decade. Think of the 1960’s Boston Celtics, the 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers, or the 1980’s San Francisco 49ers.
Since the implementation of the salary cap, it’s become considerably more difficult to maintain a consistent roster and keep the core of a championship team together. That’s what makes the Warriors’ roster that includes four all-stars all the more impressive, and further evidence that great dynasties nearly always begin with a steady streak of great drafts.
So the general consensus for a dynasty in the modern era is a minimum of 3 championships over a dominant 5+ year run. This excludes such great teams as the 1987-1990 Detroit Pistons, 1994-1996 Houston Rockets, 2010-2014 Miami Heat and the 2007-2010 Los Angeles Lakers.
There really haven’t been that many dynasties in the NBA. Yet the Warriors now consider themselves a part of this elite company:
Minneapolis Lakers (1948-1954). The Lakers won five championships over a six year span in the early years of the league, and they won a sixth title in 1948 that the NBA doesn’t count since they were playing in the NBL. Given there were only 10 teams in existence at this point, this is probably the weakest of the dynasties, yet they still deserve recognition for their dominance in the early days of the association.
Boston Celtics (1956-1969). There’s probably never going to be another run of such dominance like this in the NBA, and it was led by the greatness of Bill Russell. They won 11 championships in 13 years, including an incredible 8 consecutive titles and 10 straight NBA Finals appearances.
Los Angeles Lakers (1979-1991). Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and head coach Pat Riley led this dynasty as they introduced the world to Showtime. Featuring a run-and-gun style of offense that revolutionized the game while entertaining the masses thus presenting the NBA as a mainstream sports league. The Lakers won 5 World Championships during this span, including an incredible nine NBA Finals appearances.
Boston Celtics (1980 – 1987). This is the only period where two dynasties co-existed in the NBA, a sign of just how powerful a rivalry the Lakers and Celtics were in the 80’s. Larry Bird’s Celtics won three World Championships during this span and reached the NBA Finals five times, including four consecutive appearances from 1984-1987. They would face the Lakers three times in the Finals, winning once.
Chicago Bulls (1990 – 1993, 1995 – 1998). Michael Jordan’s Bulls dominated the NBA for nearly an entire decade, save for the two years Jordan decided to try his hand at professional baseball due either to a forced suspension for gambling activities, or simply because of retirement.
Jordan, Scottie Pippen and head coach Phil Jackson were the constants of the team, with Horace Grant playing a pivotal big man role for the first three championships, and Dennis Rodman contributing his elite defense and rebounding to the second trifecta of World Championships. Many regard this dynasty as the greatest in NBA history.
San Antonio Spurs (1999-2016). Greg Popovich and Tim Duncan represent the constants for the Spurs’ five World Championships spanning the longest-tenured dynasty in NBA history. The one knock on these Spurs teams is that they never repeated as World Champions. Popovich continues to lead what is considered, at least until recently, the gold standard for professional basketball organizations.
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Los Angeles Lakers (1998 – 2004). If Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal didn’t allow their egos to split the two superstars, this dynasty would’ve probably churned out countless more titles and challenge every other team as the greatest ever. Alas, Bryant and O’Neal couldn’t get along, and despite the rare three-peat, the Phil Jackson-led Lakers had a mini-dynasty that left plenty of “what if’s” for critics and fans to speculate on.
Golden State Warriors (2013 – ?). The Golden State Warriors won 67 games in the 2014-2015 season, shocking nearly everyone while their core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andre Igoudala defeated LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers to win their first World Championship in 40 years.
The following year they broke the single-season wins record, compiling a 73-9 mark and beating head coach Steve Kerr’s 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls’ regular season wins record by a single game before falling in the NBA Finals thanks, in large part, to the NBA inexplicably suspending defensive star Draymond Green for game 5 after they took a commanding 3-1 series lead.
The Warriors have since acquired superstar Kevin Durant and completed a sweep of the Cavaliers for back-to-back World Championships, thus cementing the 2018 World Champions’ status of a bonafide dynasty.