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NBA Finals 2018: Warriors among most dominant back-to-back NBA champions

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Almost exactly two years ago, I pre-wrote this article about the significance of winning back-to-back titles, which is no small feat. Now that the Warriors have an even more significant 3-1 lead, I dug back through the archives to post it now.

2018 NBA Finals - Game Four Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Apricot wrote a great piece after the Golden State Warriors won the 2015 NBA Finals about the difficulty of repeating as champions.

As he noted then, “The Bird-McHale-Parish Celtics never repeated. The Julius Erving and Moses Malone (RIP) 76ers never repeated. Magic Johnson, only repeated once. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, only one repeat. In the legendary 80’s with Bird, Magic and Dr. J fighting it out, repeating was unheard of...No NBA team has EVER repeated without one of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Isiah Thomas, Hakeem Olajuwon or George Mikan.”

Some have added elite coaching like Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach to the necessary conditions to repeat, but you probably get the point: perhaps you can luck into one championship; winning two in a row is something special.

And no matter how you look at it, the Warriors have just completed one of the most dominant two-year runs in NBA history. History will not count them among the super elite that have won three in a row, like the 90’s Chicago Bulls (twice) or the legendary Boston Celtics. Yet as a dominant back-to-back effort in the midst of a four-year run of dominance, this is something unparalleled.

The following is a list of every repeat champion in NBA history, going back to the inception of the league along with their two-year regular season record and win percentage. The Warriors fell one win short of the 1996 & 1997 championship Chicago Bulls, which was the team that won 72 games.

The NBA’s back-to-back champions

Team Repeat championship years Two-year regular season record (win %)
Team Repeat championship years Two-year regular season record (win %)
Golden State Warriors 2017 & 2018 125-39 (76%)
Miami Heat 2012 & 2013 112-36 (75.6%)
L.A. Lakers 2009 & 2010 122-42 (74.4%)
L.A. Lakers 2000-2002 (2) 123-41 (2001 & 2001) (75%)
Chicago Bulls 1996-1998 (2) 141-23 (1996-97) (85.9%)
Houston Rockets 1994 & 1995 105-59 (64%)
Chicago Bulls 1991-1993 (2) 128-36 (1991 & 1992) (78.0%)
Detroit Pistons 1989 & 1990 122-42 (74.3%)
L.A. Lakers 1987 & 1988 127-37 (77.4%)
Boston Celtics 1968 & 1969 102-62 (62.2%)
Boston Celtics 1959-1966 (6) 121-39 (1964 & 65) (75.6%)
Minneapolis Lakers 1952-1954 (2) 94-48 (1953 & 54) (66.1%)
Minneapolis Lakers 1949 (BAA) & 1950 95-33 (74%)
The NBA’s back-to-back champions, championship years, and win percentage from their top two seasons. via Sports List of the Day & Wikipedia

(In case you’re wondering, the Cavs became the 10th team to lose back-to-back Finals)

What we’ve just witnessed this season — this past two seasons — is extremely rare and quite arguably unparalleled when you consider that only the Miami Heat (2011-12), Chicago Bulls (1991-92), and Boston Celtics (1961-63) have ever repeated as champions and had a repeat MVP (and obviously nobody has had a unanimous MVP, however arbitrary that may be). And only two teams have ever won a Finals rematch: the 1998 Chicago Bulls and, now, the 2018 (and 2017) Golden State Warriors.

For now, we really need to just sit back and enjoy this moment, setting aside gripes with players, opponents, rotations, moronic 3-1 jokes (RIP 3-1 jokes), what will happen next or whether they can three-peat — and by three-peat, I mean four-out-of-five-peat.

Right now, at this moment, the Warriors aren’t just the champions, but among the greatest champions the league has seen in the modern era.

And I will never stop saying this: all of this makes the years of futility worth it, even if I had to wait two extra years to finally publish this article.

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