Whether you’re a casual basketball fan or have followed the sport religiously for years, you know that some teams are, historically speaking, better than others. But what exactly sets these elite teams apart from the rest, and how did the best basketball teams get to where they are now?
In this post, we look at some of the greatest squads of all time, explore what made them so successful and take a closer look at the current crop of top NBA contenders to see how they measure up. Our list also includes teams dominating the EuroLeague and squads you’re likely to see during March Madness.
Read on to learn more about some of the best basketball squads ever assembled.
First Among the Equals: The Best NBA Teams Today
Another NBA season has just started. The league is arguably home to some of the best basketball in the world, with top players and teams competing. While it can be difficult to predict the winner of the entire season this early, fans can’t help but speculate.
The NBA team rankings for the 2021–22 season paint the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks, and Phoenix Suns as potential favorites to win the title. Let’s start with a team that has undoubtedly made NBA history in the past decade, Steph Curry’s Warriors.
1. Golden State Warriors
Best season: 2015-16 (league-leading 73-9 score)
Coach: Steve Kerr
Notable current players: Stephen Curry
The Golden State Warriors are currently the best basketball team in the NBA. After winning the 76th franchise season, it sure seems like there’s no stopping these guys. They hold the record for the best regular season in NBA history with a phenomenal 73–9 during the 2015–16 season.
The Warriors have a deep bench, so besides stars like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, they also boast fantastic young talent like Jordan Poole providing valuable minutes. It all revolves around Stephen Curry, though, a man considered to be one of the best shooters in the league’s history. This well-rounded team is poised to have yet another great season.
2. Miami Heat
Best season: 2005-06 (won the NBA championships)
Head coach: Erik Spoelstra
Notable current players: Jimmy Butler
The Miami Heat are considered one of the best basketball teams in the 2022–23 season. Led by the fantastic Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, and with a mix of veterans and young and talented players, this team made it further last season than anyone expected. They ended the season by losing the Eastern Conference Finals, 3–4, to the Celtics.
Notably, the NBA Sales and Marketing Team of the Year Award for 2022 went to the Miami Heat. The prize is given to a business that has done a great job in areas like people, culture, and community impact.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
Best season: 2020-21 (won the NBA championships)
Coach: Mike Budenholzer
Notable current players: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton
In the 2020–21 season, the Bucks claimed their second championship title by defeating the Phoenix Suns. The Bucks’ fans waited patiently for a title that came 50 years after their first big win in 1971.
This year, the Bucks’ roster remains the same as the previous season, with Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of the league’s top players, carrying the team. Khris Middleton’s injury slowed them down last year, but he is on the road to full recovery.
Granted, Middleton will be missing the first couple of games in the 2022-23 season, but the Bucks know they can afford to start slow. Experts predict that the Milwaukee Bucks will have no problems making the playoffs.
4. Phoenix Suns
Best season: 1976, 1993, and 2021 (Western Conference titles)
Coach: Monty Williams
Notable current players: Cameron Johnson, Devin Booker (pictured, short hair, not the dog).
In 1968, the Suns entered the National Basketball Association as an expansion franchise. As of the end of the 2012–13 season, the franchise held the fourth-best all-time winning percentage in the National Basketball Association (NBA), having won 55% of its games.
In their 45 years of play, the Suns had 19 seasons with at least 50 victories and have qualified for the playoffs 29 times, which ranks third best after the Lakers and the Spurs (tied for 2nd best with San Antonio).
Additionally, this team made nine trips to the Western Conference Finals (tied for 5th best) and advanced to two NBA Finals in 1976 and 1993. As a result, based on their all-time win-loss ratio, the Suns are the team with the second-highest winning percentage to have never won an NBA title.
5. LA Lakers
Best season: 1972 (33-game winning streak)
Coach: Darvin Ham
Notable current players: LeBron James, Anthony Davis
One of the most iconic basketball teams in history, the Los Angeles Lakers have a storied tradition that stretches back over six decades. The Lakers were founded in 1947 and quickly became one of the best teams in the NBA, winning five titles in their first six years.
In the 1980s, the Lakers were once again the best team in the league. Legends like Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led them to five titles in nine years. In the 2000s, the Lakers cemented their legacy as one of the greatest teams of all time, winning three consecutive championships led by superstars Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
Today, the Lakers remain one of the most popular and successful teams in the NBA, with a devoted fan base that spans the globe.
The Lakers come into the 2022–23 season hungry and ready to show what they can do. Westbrook will be motivated to demonstrate that he is worth more than he showed last year, while Kendrick Nunn is finally ready for basketball after a year-long break due to injury.
The Lakers have a stronger roster compared to last season, although it is evident that their 3-point shooting game is still lacking. It will be a solid defensive team, though, if Davis and Bron stay healthy.
The projected starting five is Westbrook-Nunn-James-Davis-Jones, but we’ll see which lineup gels the best as the season progresses.
6. Dallas Mavericks
Best season: 2010-11 (won the NBA championships)
Coach: Mike McCarthy
Notable current players: Luka Doncic
The Dallas Mavericks play their home games at the American Airlines Center, which they share with the National Hockey League’s Dallas Stars. As of the 2019–20 season, the Mavericks have won three division titles in 1987, 2007, and 2010, two conference championships in 2006 and 2011, and one NBA championship in 2011.
Last season, the Mavs achieved more than anyone had hoped for. Kidd’s appointment as coach was met with surprise and displeasure among most Dallas fans.
They were proven wrong very soon. Before the deadline, Porzingis was traded for Dinwiddie and Bertans, which made fans angry again because they thought they could have gotten much more.
They were once again proven wrong, and with these moves, Nico Harrison entered the shortlist for the NBA Executive of the Year Award.
Paint defense and jump control were recognized as the most prominent weaknesses last year. Both are supposed to be handled by the expensive acquisition JaVale McGee, but he hasn’t really been doing all that great since the start of the season.
Wood, who was traded for a late first-round pick and the Mavericks’ scrap, will also be in charge of rebound control. He will have an even more critical role in the attack, where he’s expected to play a pick game with Luka.
The rest of the roster is the same as it was last year, and most of these guys are considered average NBA players. However, with Jalen Brunson leaving, it is clear that the Mavericks expect an additional step forward from Doncic and another attack by one of the league’s most dominant players on the MVP title.
7. Boston Celtics
Best season: 1985–86 (67–15 record)
Coach: Darvin Ham
Notable current players: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown
The Boston Celtics are one of the most iconic basketball teams in history. Founded in 1946, the Celtics have won a record 17 NBA championships, including eight in a row from 1959 to 1966. Some of the best basketball players in history, like Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett, made history with the Celtics.
Today, the Celtics have a new head coach, Joe Mazzulla, who is fairly young and it is difficult to predict how he’ll bear the weight of the role.
Success will, of course, depend on other factors, too, and the main one seems to be injuries. Robert Williams has already had knee surgery and will miss two to three months of the new season. Horford is a year older, and Brogdon also comes with a not-so-thin medical record.
The newly added Blake Griffin can seriously contribute to the team. Of the lesser-known players, the explosive JD Davison can provide some nice games if he gets some minutes in a very long season.
The Rings of Power: Best NBA Teams Ever
There have been 76 champions in the NBA. All of them have written their names in the history books, but a select few went a step further and will always be fondly remembered by basketball fans. We will break down the top teams we believe are the best in history.
8. The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls in the 1990s were undoubtedly the best basketball team in the world. They won six championships, and the 1995-96 team was the one that stood above the rest. The Bulls finished the season with a 72-10 record, an impressive feat considering the score stayed unbeaten for 20 years.
Michael Jordan, the NBA leader in career points per game, won the MVP, averaging over 27 points, five rebounds, and four assists per game in the finals. Scottie Pippen averaged 15.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists, and the team led the league in both offensive and defensive ratings.
9. The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors
On their route to matching the 67-15 regular-season record from 2014–15, the second-most victories in franchise history, the Warriors broke over 20 NBA records. Golden State ended up securing the top spot in the NBA Pacific division.
Just like the Bulls in the 90s, the Warriors were dominant in the 2010s. That success on the court made it the second-highest-valued team in the league.
The 2015-16 season saw the Warriors break the all-time win record, but they fell short in the finals. That changed in 2017.
Adding Kevin Durant meant that Golden State had four all-stars, two MVP-caliber players, three of the best shooters, and good all-around support players. The team could easily be the best NBA team ever assembled, but failed to beat their own season record from last year.
Still, unlike that season, they went 16-1 in the playoffs and cruised to another NBA title, taking revenge on the Cleveland Cavs with a dominating 4-1 win in the grand final.
10. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers
That Lakers team was formed by Hall of Famers who were hungry for success. Wilt Chamberlain broke multiple records but had only one title. Gail Goodrich and Jerry West, who was the only person to win MVP, were looking for their first title.
Even though the team lost another Hall of Famer, Elgin Baylor, early in the season, they went on a record 33-game winning streak and finished with a 69-13 record during the season, followed by 12-3 in the playoffs, topped off with a 4-1 win against the Nicks in the NBA finals.
11. 1985-86 Boston Celtics
Some argue that the 1985–86 Boston Celtics were the best team in the 80s, and they might have a point. Larry Bird was a three-time, consecutive MVP. With the addition of Bill Walton, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish, it’s hard to argue that this team wasn’t something special.
The Celtics won 67 games during the regular season and lost only three in the playoffs. They led the league in defensive rating and rebounds and were second in assists. On top of that, all five starters averaged double figures in scoring.
12. 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers
It had to take a special team to win against Larry Bird’s Celtics, and who better to take the challenge than their fiercest rivals, the LA Lakers. In the 1986–87 season, we saw the rise of Magic Johnson, who took the wheel from an aging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and became the league’s MVP.
The team led by Johnson won the title, beating the Celtics 4-2 in the finals. The Lakers won 65 games in the regular season and went 15-3 in the playoffs, leading the league in offensive rating. Seven players averaged double figures in scoring that season.
Baby Steps: Best College Basketball Teams
For many people, college basketball can be as exciting as the NBA. College players do not get paid, and their motivation is to turn pro, earn scholarships, and just enjoy the game.
This series of men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments is put on by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). March Madness is as well-known and watched as any professional sporting event.
We take a look at some of the best NCAA basketball teams over the years.
13. The 1972 UCLA Bruins
UCLA, under John Wooden, was unstoppable. They won multiple championships and had back-to-back 30-0 seasons. During the 1972 season, UCLA beat their opponents by over 30 points per game and, at one point, enjoyed an 88-game winning streak. The team is also famous for winning 11 March Madness championships from 1939 to 2022, which is one of the reasons why UCLA warranted two entries on our list.
Future NBA MVP Bill Walton was leading the team. He was famously upset when UCLA won the championship because the team won by only five points, and he thought he should’ve played better.
14. The 1996 Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats had a roster that could well play in the NBA. And they did, as several players such as Antoine Walker and Ron Mercer made big NBA careers. The team went 34-2 in 1996, including a school record of 27 wins, and won the championship convincingly.
15. The 1968 UCLA Bruins
The Bruins lost one game that season and finished 29-1. Beyond that surprising loss, they dominated teams and won by over 20 points per game in the championship run, including the final.
UCLA was led by Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,) who averaged 26 points and 16 rebounds per game and had one of the most dominating presences in college basketball.
16. The 1976 Indiana Hoosiers
In 1976, the Hoosiers went 32-0, beating opponents by over 17 points per game. In the semifinals, the team beat the national champions, UCLA.
Scott May averaged 23.5 points and 7.7 rebounds and won the NCAA Player of the Year award.
17. The 1992 Duke Blue Devils
In 1992, Duke went 34-2 and became the first back-to-back champions since UCLA. The team was an unstoppable talent powerhouse, crushing Michigan Wolverines 71-51 in the season’s final game.
The game-winning point, also known as “the shot,” against Kentucky in the Elite Eight is still talked about today.
Beyond the US: Best European Basketball Teams
Besides the NBA, there are many great basketball leagues rich in talented players and sports moments worth remembering. After all, many past and current stars, such as Dirk Nowitzki and Nikola Jokic, came from overseas.
Our list focuses on the best international basketball teams that play in the EuroLeague. Here are the top picks:
18. Anadolu Efes
Anadolu Efes is the most decorated club in Turkish basketball. The team won the 2020–21 EuroLeague, the European equivalent of the NBA title, and then repeated its success the next year, defeating Real Madrid in the finals.
The current roster includes Rodrigue Beaubois, Will Clyburn, and Vasilije Micic, the league’s MVP for the 2020–21 season.
19. PBC CSKA Moscow
CSKA Moscow is one of the most successful teams in Europe. They’ve won the EuroLeague eight times and only missed a spot in the Final Four in 2022, having qualified on a regular basis since 2012. When you add 51 home league championship titles, it’s not difficult to see why they are labeled as one of the best European clubs.
Some of the most important names in the world of basketball who played for PBC CSKA Moscow include Sergei Belov, Theo Papaloukas, and Milos Teodosic. The team’s current roster boasts star players like Alexey Shved and Nikola Milutinov.
20. Real Madrid Baloncesto
Real Madrid holds the record for most EuroLeague titles with ten, the latest of which came in 2018. That year, the team won the title against Fenerbahce, and future superstar Luka Doncic won the MVP at only 19 years old.
Real Madrid also won 36 titles in the Spanish basketball league and took home the league and cup trophies in the same year on 18 occasions, making it one of the most decorated teams in Europe.
21. FC Barcelona Bàsquet
While the team has won only two EuroLeague competitions, they have been runners-up six times and made the Final Four 16 times since 1988. At home, the squad has made it to the top of Liga ACB 19 times, three of which in the past ten seasons.
Barcelona has a talented team, with Nicolas Laprovittola, Cory Higgins, and Jan Vesely.
22. Maccabi Tel Aviv
Maccabi Tel Aviv is a powerhouse in Israel. They won 55 Israeli Basketball Premier League championships and 45 Israeli State Cup titles. The team has won the EuroLeague six times, behind only Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow, with the most recent title in 2014. The year also marks the last time the club made it to the playoffs, as they haven’t been doing so well lately.
With such a remarkable track record, however, and a loyal fan base, Maccabi Tel Aviv is sure to make a comeback to the very top of European basketball sooner or later.
Basketball is a thrilling and fast-paced game, which is why it is the #1 sport for many of the 150 million Americans that watch live sports.
Not all teams are the same, and only some get to write their names in the history books. Whether it be the 2017 Golden State Warriors, the 1996 Chicago Bulls, or maybe the NCAA’s UCLA of 1968 or 1972, they all earned their spot on the list of the best basketball teams ever.
Who has the best basketball team?
There are multiple leagues played around the world, and quite a few teams can fight for that title. At the moment, in the NBA, the champion team is the Golden State Warriors, and in the NCAA, it is the Kansas Jayhawks.
The 1996 Bulls, the 2007 Warriors, or 1968 UCLA, or 1996 Kansas in the NCAA, are all contenders for the best all-time team in the US, while numerous European sides like Real Madrid can claim to be the best that Europe has ever seen.
Who is the best NBA team right now?
The Milwaukee Bucks are the 2020–21 NBA Champions and on top of the NBA team rankings going into next season. We believe they’re the best team right now, alongside last year’s champions, Golden State.
Who is the worst NBA team of all time?
The Charlotte Bobcats hold the record for the worst NBA record. In 2011–12, the Bobcats finished with a 7–59 record, for a winning percentage of 0.106, making them the worst team in NBA history.
The Philadelphia 76ers hold the other record with single-digit wins. In 1972-73, the team finished with a 9-73 record.
Who is considered the best college basketball team of all time?
While we can’t point to a single greatest team, we will share our top five picks:
- 1972 or 1968 UCLA
- 1996 Kentucky
- 1976 Indiana
- 1992 Duke
All of these teams are among the best basketball teams of all time, at least when it comes to college ball.