Based on regular season play, playoff (especially Finals) performance, star power, coaching, and level of competition, we’re here to narrow down the best teams of the 21st century down to just 5.
- 2015-2016 Cleveland Cavaliers
While the regular season wasn’t anything special for Cleveland, the postseason was where things really clicked for this LeBron-led team.
After sweeping the first two rounds against Detroit and Atlanta, the Cavs were rolling, and actually the last unbeaten team in the playoffs.
However, after falling 3-1 to the 73-9 Warriors, I don’t know what was said in that Cavaliers locker room, but whatever it was, it worked.
LeBron, Kyrie, Kevin Love, and the majority of the Cavalier-depth stepped their level of play drastically to force a Game 7. But this would be no ordinary Game 7.
With historical moments such as LeBron’s chase-down block or Kyrie’s fade-away three over Stephen Curry, this game saw the Cavs win their first-ever NBA title with LeBron delivering on his promise to bring a championship to his hometown.
Truly was poetry in motion, and a team basketball fans will never forget.
- 2013-2014 San Antonio Spurs
How could you have a “top teams” list and not include one coached by Gregg Popovich? If the list had gone on to 10-15, I’m sure we’d be seeing numerous Spurs teams, highlighted by Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan.
After falling to the Miami Heat the previous season, (foreshadowing), San Antonio was determined not to let their dynasty come to rest.
After a strong regular season, there were early struggles in the first round, where San Antonio got past Dallas in a lengthy seven-game series. However, there was no looking back after that.
The Spurs were back on the big stage vs Miami. Things went differently this time, as San Antonio flew past the Heat in five games. The Heat simply were outplayed and outcoached, leading to the eventual breakup of Miami’s “Big Three”.
A young kid by the name of Kawhi Leonard was able to secure the FMVP, by playing terrifically on the defensive end against the greatest player in the league, LeBron James.
Wonder what that kid would be able to do as the best player on his team in the future…
- 2012-2013 Miami Heat
Tired of hearing about LeBron James? Too bad.
A team led by The King is ultimately going to be a very solid basketball team, and this squad was nothing short of just that. After a 66-16 regular season, Miami coasted to the ECF, where they would eventually beat Paul George’s Pacers in seven games.
Here Miami was, versus Gregg Popovich’s Spurs in what was about to become the definition of a “classic”. It wasn’t until Game Six where things really started to “heat” up. See what I did there?
Anyway, down three with about 15 seconds left, Mike Breen on the call: “James catches. Puts up a three. Won’t go. Rebound Bosh. Back out to Allen. His three-pointer…BANG. Tie game with 5 seconds remaining!”
Ray Allen’s three to tie the game would eventually be known as the biggest shot of the century, and was a huge factor in LeBron winning his second of three NBA championships.
- 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers
While these Lakers weren’t necessarily the most intimidating team at this time during the regular season, they knew just how to win when it mattered.
That’s no exaggeration, whatsoever. With a 15-1 record in the postseason that year, the Lakers would finish with the best postseason team rating of 106.77, higher than the ‘17 Warriors, ‘96 Bulls, or literally any other team you can think of.
Shaquille O’Neal was making a case for himself as not only the best player in the league, but the most dominant player of all-time.
Oh yeah, and a young kid by the name of Kobe Bryant was making himself known throughout the league, being an absolutely essential piece to the Lakers three-peat that lasted from 2000-2002.
- 2016-17 Golden State Warriors
What else did you expect?
After signing former-MVP, Kevin Durant to their already STACKED lineup, there was almost no point in playing the season.
Although they only prevailed in 67 regular season games, (compared to 73 the year before), these Warriors ended up finishing with a 16-1 record in the postseason, only losing once to LeBron’s Cavs.
Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were two of the top 3 players in the world at the time. Klay Thompson was making a case for a top shooter of all time. Draymond Green had just capped off a DPOY season.
Of course, there’s always the possibility of a closer WCF series if Kawhi Leonard hadn’t fallen to injury, but there’s no changing the past.
Not only are the Warriors the greatest team of the 21st Century, but they might just be the greatest team of all-time.
Photo: USA Today