Are the Lakers or the Celtics the most successful NBA franchise of all-time? A rubric was developed to determine which team has been the most historically successful. The points rubric awards progressively more points the further a team went in the playoffs. The results suggest that the Lakers and Celtics are by far the most successful NBA franchises.
16 pts. – NBA Champions
8 pts. – Reached NBA Finals
4 pts. – Reached Conference Finals
2 pts. – Reached Conference Semi-Finals
1 pts. – Reached First Round of Playoffs
TOP 5 MOST SUCCESSFUL NBA FRANCHISES
1. Los Angeles Lakers – 451 pts.
The Lakers have had fairly consistent success throughout the decades. The franchise has won the NBA finals a 17 times in its record 32 appearances in the NBA Finals. The Lakers’ most recent championship came in 2020. The team won 5 championships in both the 1980’s with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and in the 2000’s with Kobe Bryant. In the early days of the NBA, it also won 5 championships with George Mikan.
2. Boston Celtics – 406 pts.
The Celtics have also won the NBA finals 17 times, with the nine of them coming in the 1960’s. In fact, Bill Russell won 11 championships with the Celtics, more than all but 2 NBA franchises. However, the team has only been to the NBA finals 22 times, 10 fewer times than the Lakers. The Celtics have also qualified for the playoffs in the last 8 consecutive years. The only decade the Celtics did not fair particularly well in was the 1990s.
3. Golden State Warriors – 208 pts.
The Warriors have won 7 NBA finals, with four coming recently in 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2022 with star Steph Curry and coach Steve Kerr. The team also went to the NBA finals five other times. It made the playoffs in the first six seasons of the BAA/NBA. However, for long stretches of the franchise’s history the team didn’t even make the playoffs. Between 1980 and 2010, the franchise had very little success.
4. Philadelphia 76ers – 197 pts.
The 76ers franchise has only won three NBA finals, two in Philadelphia and one in Syracuse. However the team went to six other NBA finals, most recently in 2001. The franchise was especially successful early in its history, making the playoffs in every year before 1970. During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Julius Erving (Dr. J) helped lead the team to three NBA Finals, but they only won one of them.
5. Detroit Pistons – 156 pts.
The Pistons are another franchise that has won only three NBA titles. However, the team went to the NBA Finals on four other occasions. Detroit won back to back titles in 1989 and 1990, behind stars Isaiah Thomas and Joe Dumars. Between 2001 and 2009, the team had a very good run as well, making the playoffs for 8 straight years. The Pistons are especially known for playing great defense, having defensive greats like Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace over the years.
Note: the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls have won more titles than the 76ers and the Pistons. However, these teams have not been consistently good throughout the decades. The Bulls really have only been good in the 1990s with Michael Jordan, while the Spurs have rarely made the playoffs in seasons where they did not have Tim Duncan.
For the full table of all NBA franchises ranked and a breakdown of success decade by decade please see:
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