NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The NBA Conference Finals are in full swing with the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat all vying for the opportunity to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy after a grueling regular season.
Despite the glory and prestige that comes with being the last man standing at the end of the season, not all championship teams are created equally. There are champions and then there is the cream of that crop. These are teams that no matter who they faced in the finals the chances were that they were going to come out on top.
Unfortunately we dont have a time machine that would allow some of the greatest teams to face off in a Mortal Kombat style grand tournament, There are certainly teams that have been left off of this list that deserve mention.
San Antonio's 1999 team featuring Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Avery Johnson and Mario Ellie is one such team. The 1989 'Bad Boy' Detroit Pistons featuring one of the greatest back courts of Isaiah Thomas and Joe Dumars that swept the Lakers also deserves mention.
However the list is only seven teams long and sacrifices had to be made. This is the list of the seven greatest NBA championship teams of all time...
2012 Miami Heat
The 2011-2012 Miami Heat had a lot to prove. Lebron James and Co. had been bounced in the finals the previous year by the Dallas Mavericks. There had been a lot of hoopla surrounding James' arrival in South Beach and his legacy had taken a major hit following his team's unceremonious exit from the 2011 finals. Lebron showed up and then some in this series as the Heat trounced the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1. After averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game during an MVP winning regular season, James followed up with a playoff performance of 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game on his way to securing the finals MVP honors. When he arrived in Miami, James famously promised to win not two, not three, not four, not five... championships, this is the series that got the ball rolling on the "King's"legacy.
1997 Chicago Bulls
Forever judged against the 1996 Bulls championship team (more on them later), the '97 Bulls team didn't suffer a let down from the previous season's success. This team won 69 games on the way to defending their title from the previous season and served as the bridge for Michael Jordan's Bulls' second three peat as they beat the Utah Jazz in six games. This team truly was driven by Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Pippen and Jordan averaged 52.3 points during the series while only one other player averaged at least eight. (Toni Kukoc). The series featured the infamous 'Flu Game'. After the Jazz had won two straight games at home, the series was tied 2-2. With a critical game five in Salt Lake City that night, Jordan was found by his personal trainer sweating in the fetal position suffering from a stomach virus. After sleeping the entire day and waking up a couple of hours before tip off, Jordan scored 38 points and dished out five assists before being helped off the court by Pippen after having led the team to 90-88 victory.
2001 Los Angeles Lakers
The 2000-2001 NBA season was Kobe Bryant's coming out party. Previously considered a complimentary all-star to Shaquille O'neal's dominating presence down low, Kobe Bryant emerged as a legitimate superstar in his fifth NBA season. Bryant averaged 28.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists during the regular season and upped those averages to 29.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game during the playoffs. The Lakers only lost one game during the whole post season to their Finals opponent, the Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers sprinted through the Western Conference competition before beating a scrappy 76er team. The championship was also memorable for the lasting image of Mark Madsen celebrating at the Lakers victory parade in Los Angeles.
1991 Chicago Bulls
The 1991 Chicago Bulls was the team that finally got Jordan over the hump and into the winners circle where he belonged. Despite leading the league in scoring for the fourth straight season, Jordan had never made a trip to the finals thanks to his nemesis, the Detroit Pistons. Despite winning 50 games the season before, the Pistons beat the Bulls in five games during the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals en route to their second consecutive championship. In the second year of Phil Jackson's triangle offense, the Bulls finally bested the Pistons, sweeping them in four games during the Conference Finals before beating Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in five games to clinch the franchise's first championship.
1987 Los Angeles Lakers
How dominant were the 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs? They lost three games total during the entire tournament while outscoring their opponents by 203 points on their way to clinching the trophy over their storied rival, the Boston Celtics, in six games. Magic Johnson shined during the finals, averaging 26.2 points, 8 rebounds and 13 assists per game while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar chipped in with 21.7 points 7.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. The '87 Finals was memorable for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which was Magic Johnson's total domination of the Celtics. Magic was the embodiment of Showtime, running the Lake show with such precision that the Celtics -- the champs from the previous season -- looked helpless against the onslaught.
1986 Boston Celtics
Boasting what could possibly be the greatest front court ever assembled --Kevin Mchale, Robert Parish and Larry "Legend" Bird -- the 1985-86 Boston Celtics are easily one of the greatest championship teams of all time. The '86 Celtics came back as a team on a mission a year after losing to their hated rivals, the Lakers, in the finals. Bird won his third consecutive regular season MVP trophy that year leading his team to a 67-15 record. Despite facing Eastern Conference teams featuring future Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins, the Celtics breezed through the competition on their way to a finals showdown with the Houston Rockets. Bird averaged a legendary 26 points, 9.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game during their playoff run culminating in a 4-2 Finals victory over the Rockets. This team is easily one of the greatest of all time and would claim the top spot if not for...
1996 Chicago Bulls
Jordan returned to the Bulls in 1995 after a two year hiatus in which he played minor league baseball. After failing to lead his team to the finals that season, the 1995-96 Bulls were a team on a mission. Jordan clearly felt he had something to prove and he cemented his spot as the greatest player on the planet during that record setting campaign. The 96 Bulls went 72-10 during the regular season. The team led the league in points scored and points allowed, suffocating teams with the two best defenders in the league -- Jordan and Pippen -- while also working head coach Phil Jackson's triangle offense to perfection. The '96 Bulls outscored opponents by an unheard of 12.2 points per game. In the playoffs "His Airness" stepped his game up even higher, averaging 30.7 in the playoffs. The Bulls ran out to a 3-0 series lead in the finals before dropping two straight to the Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp led Seattle Supersonics. The Bulls eventually closed the series out, winning 4-2, and culminating what up to this point was the greatest season run in NBA history.