Champs or chumps? Warriors legacy in doubt

Well, well, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are in a pickle. The Dubs set an NBA record with 73 victories, but unless they are able to stage a miracle comeback against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals, they’re toast.

And if they lose to the Thunder (or somehow make the Finals and lose to Cleveland), the Warriors will have no claim…none… to the title of NBA’s best team ever. It happens. In 2007, the New England Patriots finished the regular season unbeaten at 16-0 and yet lost to the Giants in Super Bowl 42. In 2001, the Seattle Mariners won 116 games, tying the 1906 Cubs for the most in MLB history. The Mariners were knocked out by the Yankees in five games in the ALCS. And the Cubs lost the 1906 World Series to their crosstown rivals, the White Sox, aka the Hitless Wonders.

In the NBA, teams with outstanding regular season records generally go on to win the championship. The 1996 Bulls (72-10), 1972 Lakers (69-13), 1997 Bulls (69-13) and 1967 76ers (68-13) were all crowned champs. The best team not to win a title was the 1973 Celtics (68-14), who lost to the Knicks in a seven-game, Eastern Conference Final.

The Warriors won the NBA title last year following a 67-15 regular season, tied for seventh best all-time. The 1986 Celtics, 1992 Bulls and 2000 Lakers all won championships after finishing 67-15. The 2007 Mavericks and this year’s Spurs also went 67-15, but were knocked out before the Western Conference Finals. The Washington Capitals were 49-11 in 1947, the NBA’s first season, but lost in the semifinals.

In the NFL, the 1984 49ers and 1985 Bears both finished 15-1 and won the Super Bowl. But three others teams, the 1988 Vikings, 2004 Steelers and 2011 Packers, were beaten before reaching the Super Bowl.

In addition to the Mariners and Cubs losing the World Series, the 1954 Indians (111-54) and Philadelphia A’s (107-45)  in 1931 were also upset.

The Canadiens set an NHL record with 132 points in 1977 and won the Stanley Cup in the midst of a four-year championships run. But the 1996 Red Wings, with a record 62 wins and 131 points, were derailed by the Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals.


Celtics-Lakers Make History Again

Bill Russell and Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics combined to win seven NBA Finals against the Lakers.

Two years ago, the SportsLifer previewed the 2008 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers with a look back at their history in championships matchups.

Well the Celtics won that series in six games, their 17th NBA title overall and first in 22 years. Paul Pierce was named Finals MVP.

The Lakers responded in 2009, returning to the Finals for the sixth time in 10 years. Kobe Bryant led the way as Los Angeles beat Orlando in five games to won its 15th championship.

Now the two clubs who have combined for more than half of all NBA championships are meeting for the 11th time, with the Celtics holding a 9-2 advantage in previous meetings.

They’re the Lennon and McCartney of basketball, the Rogers and Astaire of hoops, the Batman and Robin of the hardwood.

They’re the Celtics and the Lakers. These two trademark NBA fantasies have combined for 30 championships, 16 by the Celtics.

They’ve clashed 10 times in the NBA Finals, beginning in 1959 when the Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers in four straight to start Boston’s run of eight straight titles.

The Celtics won the first eight matchups; four went the full seven games. The Lakers took the final two, the last in 1987, each in six games.

In 1962, Frank Selvy of Los Angeles had an open jumper with a chance to beat the Celtics in Game Seven. He missed and Boston won in overtime behind 30 points and 40 rebounds from Bill Russell. In that Series Laker forward Elgin Baylor scored an NBA playoff record 61 points to lift his team to a Game 5 win at the Boston Garden. However, with a chance to win the championship on their home floor, the Lakers lost Game Six, and the combatants returned to the Boston Garden for the finale.

The following year, Boston’s Bob Cousy dribbled out the clock in the final game of his historic career as the Celtics once again triumphed, this time in six games.

In 1966, the Celtics held on for a 95-93 win in Game Seven to complete their run of eight straight titles. Boston coach Red Auerbach retired after the game, with Russell assuming player-coach duties.

The Celtics won another seven-game showdown with the Lakers in 1969, although Jerry West, right, was the MVP of the Series, the only player from a losing team to win the NBA Finals MVP. West, whose 29.1 playoff scoring average ranks third to Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson, had 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in Game Seven, but Boston prevailed 108-106 at the Los Angeles Forum.

Lakers’ owner Jack Kent Cooke was already planning his victory celebration as he ordered thousands of balloons suspended from the Forum rafters.

The Celtics and Lakers resumed their rivalry 15 years later as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, right, squared off for the first time in the playoffs. And the Celtics again won in seven games, Bird averaging 27.4 points and 14 rebounds per game to win MVP honors.

The next year, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the Finals MVP and the Lakers finally beat Boston, 4-2, after eight straight playoff losses. And in 1987, Magic Johnson was the Finals MVP, his “junior sky hook” proving to be the turning point of the series, giving the Lakers a 3-1 lead on the way to a six-game triumph.

And they haven’t played since. The Celtics haven’t won an NBA title since 1986, The Lakers won the title again in 1988, beating the Detroit Pistons. Los Angeles last won in 2002, completing a three-peat with a sweep of the New Jersey Nets.


Believe It: No Celtic Has Ever Led The NBA in Scoring

Incredibly, no Boston Celtic has ever won the NBA scoring title

The Celtics, along with the New York Knicks, are the only original NBA teams dating back to the Basketball Association of America (BAA) which began in 1946. The Philadelphia Warriors, who moved to California to become the Golden State Warriors in 1962, were also part of that inaugural BAA season.

Just before the start of the 1948-49 season, four teams from the National Basketball League (NBL) joined the BAA — the Fort Wayne (now Detroit) Pistons, Indianapolis Jets, Minneapolis (now Los Angeles) Lakers and Rochester Royals (now Sacramento Kings).

Before the 1949 season, the six remaining NBL teams — Anderson (Ind.), Denver, Sheboygan (Wis.), Syracuse Nationals (now Philadelphia 76ers), Tri-Cities Blackhawks (now Atlanta Hawks), and Waterloo (Iowa) — joined the BAA, along with the new Indianapolis Olympians, and became the National Basketball Association.

As for the two other original teams, the Knicks have had one scoring champion, Bernard King in 1985. The Warriors have had a number of scoring champs, including Joe Fulks, right, in 1947, Wilt Chamberlain (6), Neil Johnson (3) and Paul Arizin (2). However the Warriors have not had a scoring champ since Rick Barry averaged 35.6 points per game in 1967.

BTW, Lakers who led the league in scoring were George Mikan, three times with Minneapolis beginning in 1949, Jerry West in 1970 and Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.

Related NBA reading: Celtics-Lakers Would Be Historic NBA Final


The Ring-Leaders: Champions of Championships

Do the math. The Boston Celtics have won 16 NBA titles, the Los Angeles (nee Minneapolis) Lakers 14. When the 62nd NBA Finals are completed in a few weeks, the Celtics and the Lakers will have combined for 31 titles, exactly half of the 62 championships. This is their 11th meeting in the finals, another NBA record.

What about the other sports?. Who are the champions of championships?

It starts with the New York Yankees, the king of champions. The Yankees have won 26 World Series, the most in any of the North American team sports. That’s more than double the number of championships won by the St. Louis Cardinals (10) and Philadelphia-Oakland A’s (9).

In the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers have each won five Super Bowls. The Green Packers have won nine total NFL titles and the Chicago Bears 7 since the first NFL championship game in 1933.

In hockey, the Montreal Canadiens, Les Habitants, are far away the ring-leaders with 23 Stanley Cups. The Habs are followed by the Toronto Arenas-St. Pats-Maple Leafs with 13 and the Detroit Red Wings with 11, including this year’s Stanley Cup.

UCLA has won 11 NCAA basketball championships and Kentucky seven since the advent of the NCAA tournament in 1939. Kentucky also won a national championship in 1933.

Notre Dame is the king of college football with 13 national championships, including nine since the polls were first instituted in 1936. In the so-called “early years” of college football (1869-1935), Yale won 18 championships and Princeton 17. All told, Alabama and USC have each won 10 total football championships, seven apiece since 1936.