The Washington Wizards’ Best Season: 1978

The Washington Wizards haven’t had much success since they dropped the name “Bullets” after the 1997 season. In point of fact, the Bullets/Wizards haven’t been any good since Wes Unseld—now the coach of the 2022 Wiz—retired in 1981. But during Unseld’s 13-year career, the Bullets were one of the NBA’s best teams throughout the 1970s, making four NBA Finals in nine years between 1971 and ’79. Trouble was, three of those Finals appearances resulted in losing to teams that peaked at the right time—two of those opponents, the 1971 Bucks and 1979 SuperSonics, had their best seasons in franchise history. …

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The Utah Jazz’s Best Season: 1997

The Utah Jazz enjoyed a 20-year run of success, making the playoffs every year from 1984 to 2003. For the second year of that run, they drafted John Stockton 16th overall. For the third, they drafted Karl Malone 13th. No team before or since has managed to grab Hall of Famers in the draft in consecutive years despite being locked in what is normally Mediocrity Hell; the Jazz went 45-37 in 1984 and 41-41 in 1985. 13 years later, the Jazz made consecutive NBA Finals to cap off the prime of their two long-standing superstars. And in 1997, Utah set …

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The Toronto Raptors’ Best Season: 2019

The Toronto Raptors seem to be in rebuild mode as the 2021-22 season begins, but if indeed that is the case and last year’s 27-45 record was a true sign of the franchise’s fall from grace, Raptors fans can look back fondly on a seven-year run from 2014 to 2020 that featured seven playoff appearances, nine playoff series wins, and a title. It is that championship in 2019—the franchise’s only ring and a sign of how a one-year rental on a player can go wonderfully right—that serves now as the high-water mark of the franchise. So let’s turn back the …

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The San Antonio Spurs’ Best Season: 2014

The San Antonio Spurs have been one of the NBA’s best franchises since they entered the league after the ABA merger in 1976. In 45 years, they’ve won five titles in the Gregg Popovich/Tim Duncan era between 1999 and 2014, reached the conference finals in three out of five years between 1979 and 1983 when George Gervin was their biggest star, and until 2021, when a 33-39 season broke the streak, had never missed the playoffs in two consecutive years. To choose a best season from all of that, especially the run as perpetual contenders in the aughts and most …

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The Sacramento Kings’ Best Season: 2002

Since moving from Kansas City in 1985, the Sacramento Kings have just eight winning seasons, which came all in a row between 1999 and 2006. In a franchise history that stretches all the way back to the Rochester Royals joining the BAA for the 1948-49 season and winning the franchise’s only title in 1951, the squad has 23 winning seasons in 72 tries. The team is so far underwater that they could go 82-0 in the next five regular seasons and still end up far enough under .500 in franchise history that they’d have to keep winning almost to Christmas …

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The Portland Trail Blazers’ Best Season: 1977

The Portland Trail Blazers, since 1977, have missed the playoffs just eight times. They were just two wins away from making three straight NBA Finals between 1990 and 1992, losing to Magic Johnson and the Lakers in six games in the Western Conference Finals in 1991. Other than a lost decade between 2004 and 2013 that featured just three playoff appearances sandwiched with a five-year playoff absence before 2009 and a two-year drought after 2011, the only year they missed the playoffs was 1982. “Since 1977” is the key to all of this. Portland missed the playoffs in each of …

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The Phoenix Suns’ Best Season: 1993

The Phoenix Suns and playoff disappointment go together like guns and ammo. You can’t have one without the other. The best regular season of the John MacLeod coaching era in the 1970s and early ’80s came in 1981, where they went 57-25…and lost to the Kansas City Kings, who had gone 40-42 that year. The Mike D’Antoni-coached, Steve Nash-directed Suns of the mid-aughts won 62 games in 2005 and 61 in 2007 and lost in the West finals in ’05 and the second round in ’07. And the 2021 Suns went 51-21 (a 58-24 82-game pace) made the playoffs for …

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The Philadelphia 76ers’ Best Season: 1983

The 1983 Philadelphia 76ers have perhaps the greatest honor anyone can bestow upon a basketball team. Kurtis Blow, in his classic rap track “Basketball”, name-checks “Dr. J and Moses Malone” early on. And considering that when Blow wrote the rap in question, it was during the 1983-84 NBA season, when Julius Erving, Malone, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones (all four men Hall of Famers) and the rest of the ’83 Sixers were the defending champions, having swept Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Now, granted, Malone was probably always going to get name-checked because not a …

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The Orlando Magic’s Best Season: 2009

To say the Orlando Magic got lost in the shuffle during an era of NBA history punctuated by the likes of the Celtics, Lakers, Cavaliers, and later the Miami Heat is a bit of an understatement. After all, in the teaser for this very article at the end of yesterday’s piece about the Thunder, I all but called out Nick Anderson, expecting to write about the 1995 Magic and their lost Finals to the Houston Rockets in the second and last year of the Jordan Interregnum. But, as is always the case in these features, I looked over the franchise …

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The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Best Season: 2012

The Oklahoma City Thunder have the odd distinction of owning the history of what most fans consider a completely different franchise, at least officially. Since moving from Seattle in 2008, the NBA considers the old SuperSonics to be merely the precursor to the modern Thunder, on the same level as the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers and Rochester/Cincinnati Royals/Kansas City/Sacramento Kings (phew!) for franchise continuity. But indeed, most fans—and this very publication—think of the Thunder more like the Baltimore Ravens in football or the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA. Their history is their own; their old home, should it get an …

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