As I watched the Lakers stroll through the NBA Finals I couldn’t help but wonder if they were actually all that good. I couldn’t shake the feeling during the playoffs that the Lakers were a product of an injured Celtics team, a weak Western Conference, and LeBron James having a supporting cast comparable to that on ALF. My gut feeling says they weren’t that good – the litmus test? Comparing them to previous NBA champs.
2008 Boston Celtics – They beat pretty much the same Lakers team in 6 games. If you want to say that Trevor Ariza and Shannon Brown would have made the difference please go ahead – I won’t be listening. Celtics win in 6.
2007 San Antonio Spurs – This isn’t easy because I absolutely hate the Spurs but this was a San Antonio team that still had a peak Duncan, Parker and Ginobili and surrendered only 90 points a game. Parker would have absolutely man-handled Fisher and Farmar while Bowen would have still been able to give Kobe fits. Also if things were going poorly Robert Horry could have just pulled some thug move to fix everything. Spurs win in 6.
2006 Miami Heat – Probably one of the closer match-ups out there as both teams had a great guard, a great big man, and a bunch of role players. Since this is one of the years where Shaq still gave a damn (averaging 20-9) I’ll go ahead and say they have a big edge in the front court. Negatives? The 3rd and 4th leading scorers on the Heat were White Chocolate and Antoine Walker. Yikes. But with Gary Payton, Derek Anderson, Zo Mourning, and James Posey I feel like Miami had a big depth advantage. How about Heat in 7?
2005 San Antonio Spurs – Pretty much the same as the ’05 Spurs except Duncan was even younger and more spry. They also had Glenn Robinson – and if there is one thing I’ve learned in my life it’s that you never bet against the Big Dog (Antoine Carr and the clothing line also apply to this rule). The main factor working against the Spurs was that they had Sean Marks – and if SoD has taught you anything it’s that Sean Marks sucks. Spurs in 6.
2004 Detroit Pistons – Balanced and tough defensive team allowed just 84 points per game and featured 4-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace when he was still in his prime along with Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace. I was never all that impressed with the Pistons but I’ve heard defense wins championships or something so that plus Darko on the roster = Pistons in 7.
2003 San Antonio Spurs – This version of the San Antoino Jerks (get it?) was even better than the other two. Duncan was at his absolute prime (24-12 domination) and they still had The Admiral hanging hanging around. Parker and Stephen Jackson held down the backcourt along with Bruce Bowen while a mishmash of veterans (Steve Kerr, Danny Ferry, Kevin Willis and Steve Smith) made up the bench. They were so good that Ginobili played only 20 minutes a game off the bench. Spurs in 6.
2002 Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe probably could have guarded Kobe and Shaq was still averaging 27-12 as a star big man in his absolute prime. I’d say the ’09 Lakers stood a chance but I couldn’t really make the case – the stars were better and the bench was deeper. Lakers in 5.
2001 Los Angeles Lakers – See 2002 Lakers and throw in the awesomeness of Horace Grant, Ron Harper and Isiah Rider. No seriously Isiah Rider. Lakers in 5.
2000 Los Angeles Lakers – They won 67 games, dominated the league and cruised to Shaq and Kobe’s first title together. This was also the year Shaq won his lone NBA MVP. They also had Glen Rice as a reliable 3rd scorer at 16 points per game. Most of the same vets as 2001 but also add in A.C. Green – and where A.C. Green is you know the women are following. Lakers in 4.
1999 San Antonio Spurs – This might be the one. Duncan and Robinson were a strong twin towers presence – both averaging double-doubles – but the back-court consisted of Sean Elliot (one kidney down), Avery Johnson, and Mario Elie. I don’t really see anyone on this roster that could even test Kobe and while the front court would crush the Lakers I don’t know whether it would be enough. Let’s say Lakers in 7.
1996-98 Chicago Bulls – No.
I think they probably could have beaten the 1995 Rockets but before then I could probably go on all day making cases for how the Lakers would lose in 6 or 7 games to somebody – and I’m just crazy enough to do it.