Top five favourite NBA teams: I’ve been an avid NBA fan ever since I could walk. I was lucky enough to have parents who would let me stay up late and take in all the games you could imagine (even the late ones).
I remember being only ten years old at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, watching a young LeBron James go off against the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. I’ve seen Vince Carter break Canada’s heart on a Friday night at what was then-called the Air Canada Center in Toronto. And after mediocre after mediocre season, I saw my Raptors win the freaking NBA Finals in 2018.
Along the way, I’ve watched teams that I miss to this day. There’s a certain time of nostalgia I feel when I think about them, and that’s why I had to write an article paying respect to each team.
Remember, these are my favourite teams of the last twenty years, not the best.
2009 Houston Rockets, 2010 Phoenix Suns, 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder
5. Lob City Los Angeles Clippers
The Lob City Clippers made the team relevant for the first time in franchise history. In fact, it made the Lakers take a backseat in Kobe Bryant’s final years in the league.
That’s how good they were. In 2011, the Clippers made a blockbuster trade for All-Star point guard Chris Paul. Factor in 2009 first overall pick Blake Griffin, big man DeAndre Jordan, and Lob City was formed.
For the next six years, the Clippers played one of the most exciting brands of basketball, best known for their fast-paced offense and insane alley-oop dunks. Jamal Crawford was magnificent off the bench, winning Sixth Man of the Year twice during this run.
I remember looking forward to every late game that involved this team. Give me the Lob City Clippers over the Kawhi Leonard/Paul George Clippers.
2013-2015 were the Clippers best years. They had 56, 57, and 56 win seasons, and Blake Griffin was turning into a superstar.
Somehow, someway, they never reached the Western Conference Final in any of those three seasons. Los Angeles was up 3-1 to Houston in the 2015 Western Conference Semifinals, and blew the next three games. This team never had the same swagger from that moment onwards.
4. 2009 Orlando Magic
Coached by Stan Van Gundy, the 2008-2009 Orlando Magic were a different breed of basketball. 23-year-old superstar center Dwight Howard was dominant, averaging 20.6 points per game, and leading the league in rebounds and blocks.
The Magic surrounded Dwight with shooters like Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Courtney Lee, and Mickael Pietrus. Youngsters J.J. Redick and Marcin Gortat came off the bench as role players, and went on to have very successful NBA careers.
In the playoffs, the Magic beat the Philadelphia 76ers in six games, then upset LeBron James and the favoured Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Magic came back from a 3-2 series deficit and defeated the defending NBA Champion Boston Celtics in Game 7 on their own home court.
The Magic went on to face an unbelievable Los Angeles Lakers team, who simply had more experience. Kobe Bryant was dominant and closed out the series in five games, but the Magic nearly won Game 2 and Game 4. They held their own, and this thing should’ve gone at least six.
It’s a shame this Magic core was in an era dominated by the Kobe and Pau Lakers, and the Big Three Celtics. Otherwise, I think this team wins a championship.
3. 2014 San Antonio Spurs
In 2013, the San Antonio Spurs suffered arguably the most heartbreaking NBA Finals loss when they blew Game 6 to the Miami Heat (thanks Ray Allen). The Spurs went on to lose Game 7 as well, and the choke job seemed like too much of a gut punch to come back the next season and avenge their sorrows.
Greg Popovich’s veteran team went 62-20 in the regular season, finishing first in the Western Conference. The Spurs had a bit of a hard time getting past the 8th seed Dallas Mavericks, with the series going seven games. But they blew past the Portland Trailblazers in the second round, and 37-year-old Tim Duncan led the way in eliminating Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games.
The Spurs were set for a Finals rematch with the Heat, and the series wasn’t even close. Other than Game 2 (which they lost 98-96), San Antonio beat Miami by 15 points or more and showcased the most beautiful basketball I’ve ever seen.
Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli turned back the clock, and 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard led the team in points in Games 3, 4, and 5. That along with his defence propelled Leonard to win Finals MVP.
2. 2008 Boston Celtics
The first season with the big three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett didn’t come with any growing pains. The Celtics finished the first month of the season with a record of 13-2 (8-0 at home). All three superstars shared the ball evenly, with no ego involved. They were willing to sacrifice personal numbers.
Boston finished with an incredible record of 66-16, with the veteran Detroit Pistons seven games back as the number two seed in the East. The Celts pretty much retired the Pistons club that consisted of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, and Tayshaun Prince, beating them in six games in the ECF. The Pistons haven’t gotten past the first round since.
The Celtics and Lakers faced one another in the Finals for the first time since 1987. Boston took a quick 2-0 lead, with 21-year-old point guard Rajon Rondo dishing out 16 assists in Game 2 at the Garden.
Boston made an insane comeback in Game 4 at the Staples Center, and took a commanding 3-1 lead. LA forced a Game 6 back in Boston, but that match was over by halftime. Allen and Garnett combined for 52 points en route to a 131-92 victory, clinching the Larry O’Brien trophy.
It felt like this team would end up winning at least another championship, maybe two. They came awfully close but it never happened. In 2012, a new big three was here with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Just like the 2004-2008 Detroit Pistons were finished, the 2008-2012 Boston Celtics run was over.
1. 2004 Detroit Pistons
This is the team that first got me into basketball. The 2004 Detroit Pistons didn’t have a single “All-Star” on their roster that year, but it didn’t matter. Led by legendary head coach Larry Brown, the Pistons were a true “team” by the postseason with a starting five of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace.
The Pistons were completely dominant on defense in the playoffs, allowing under 80 points in 11 games. This team got all the way to the NBA Finals but the “experts” didn’t give them a chance against the Shaq and Kobe Lakers.
The joke was on them because the Pistons not only won the series, but finished them in a quick five games. The young lanky Prince completely locked up Kobe, Ben Wallace was a beast on the boards, and Billups took home Finals MVP averaging 21 points and 5.2 assists a game in the series.
This Pistons team went on to make the next four Eastern Conference Finals. In 2005, they were one win away from repeating as champs. It was a hell of a run.