The Golden State Warriors’ Best Season: 2017

There is an old saying among hunters that “shooting a bear with a .22 will only make it angry.” For the Golden State Warriors after the 2016 NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers had just shot them with a .22, and boy howdy were they angry. They also say that the cure for what ails is a hair from the dog that bit you. But in Golden State’s case, this did not mean raiding Cleveland’s roster for talent ahead of the 2016-17 campaign. Instead, the team that blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals poached the best player from a team …

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The Detroit Pistons’ Best Season: 1989

The Boston Celtics had gone to four straight NBA Finals between 1984 and ’87, winning two, but their reign atop the Eastern Conference had started to show signs of coming to an end as Larry Bird‘s back and Kevin McHale‘s foot conspired to show the age of Boston’s core. But by 1988, it still took monumental effort to position a team to truly dethrone the reigning kings, and into that void stepped a Detroit Pistons team that put up a 54-28 record in the regular season, then got their revenge in six games in the East finals before falling to …

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The Denver Nuggets’ Best Season: 1985

Just about every team that was any good in the mid-1980s other than the Celtics and Lakers has been all but forgotten by NBA history. The Rockets made the 1986 Finals, sure, but that team got overshadowed eight years later when Hakeem Olajuwon won his two titles during the Michael Jordan interregnum—more on those Rockets teams when we get to them in this series. Likewise, the Dallas Mavericks had a great run of their own in 1988 that everyone forgets about because, like so many other Western Conference teams, they ran face-first into the Lakers. The same thing happened throughout …

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The Dallas Mavericks’ Best Season: 2011

Our journey through the annals of NBA history continues in Dallas today, as we take a look at the one time in 40 years of basketball history that everything came together and the team got all the way atop the league’s mountain. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, and the Mavericks got their title in 2011, avenging a five-year grudge against the officiating that many fans argue cost them the 2006 title against the Miami Heat and making LeBron James look like his career was going the way of Karl Malone—it wasn’t until the following season that LeBron finally got a ring. …

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The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Best Season: 2016

Not too long ago, Seth Rosenthal and the team at Secret Base put together a fantastic three-part documentary series about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ road from expansion team to savior of the city, from the franchise’s early playoff runs in the 1970s to the dreadful Ted Stepien years to Mike Fratello’s slowest teams in NBA history to the second nadir in the early aughts—any time Ricky Davis was involved with an NBA team, no good came of it—and finally to the fruits of that futility, the number-one overall pick in the 2003 draft that netted them LeBron James. The rest, as …

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The Chicago Bulls’ Best Season: 1996

Let’s face it. If you want me to talk about Bulls teams you haven’t heard about a thousand times, just scroll to the bottom—there’s some fun stuff for you there in Honorable Mentions. But I’m not here to be edgy, contrarian, or to show about as firm a grip on objective reality as a politician. We all know the 72-10, NBA champion, greatest of all time (thanks in no small part to Golden State choking away their case for that particular honor in 2016), glorious Michael Jordan‘s-back-and-you’re-gonna-be-in-trouble 1996 Chicago Bulls. So without further ado… The On-Court Record It’s hard to …

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The Charlotte Hornets’ Best Season: 1998

The Charlotte Hornets are, like the Cleveland Browns in the NFL, a team that has the odd distinction of owning the history of a team that relocated to another city and being able to apply that history and franchise record to its current expansion iteration. Which is a good thing, because the Hornets, since their reincarnation in 2004 as the Bobcats before getting their name back in 2014, have been almost as bad as the post-1999 Browns. The expansion Hornets have just three playoff appearances, no playoff series wins, and the worst regular-season record in NBA history (7-59 in 2012.) …

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The Brooklyn Nets’ Best Season: 2002

You’ve probably already objected to the headline. “Fox, you idiot, the Brooklyn Nets didn’t exist in 2002, they were the New Jersey Nets, didn’t you say you weren’t counting franchises that moved?” Ahem. About that. Moving a team that had been exiled to the swamp after the ABA merger because the Knicks threw a hissy fit about having a better team in their same market back to New York City proper to be the better team in their same market doesn’t count as changing cities. Sorry, East Rutherford, but this isn’t hockey. The Knicks are competing with one franchise that’s …

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The Boston Celtics’ Best Season: 1986

The Boston Celtics have, as a franchise, won 17 NBA championships, won at least 60 games 13 times, seen their franchise legends not just make the Hall of Fame but make a case for inclusion on the All-Time All-NBA list—Bill Russell at center and Larry Bird at small forward are at minimum Third Team and at best Second Team guys at their respective positions (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James are the best center and small forward ever, and you could make the case for Shaquille O’Neal and Scottie Pippen as second-best.) So it’s hard to choose just which season was …

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The Atlanta Hawks’ Best-Ever Season: 2015

Every NBA franchise, even the most long-suffering, has had a high-water mark where their fans felt like they had a real chance at winning the title. For the Atlanta Hawks, a franchise whose history since moving to Atlanta in 1968 has been one largely of futility, it took them 47 years to reach a level where they began to approach the level that the franchise had achieved in St. Louis at the butt end of the Eisenhower administration. You’ll notice that the year the Hawks did win the title—1958, when they got their one win in four tries against Bill …

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