The Milwaukee Bucks are having one of the best seasons in their – and NBA – history. They arguably have the NBA’s top player now in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Furthermore, they have the best defense and best win record in the league right now. All in all, they are the favorites for the championship, but it’s not guaranteed.
Even more impressive is that they’re on course to break the hallowed 70-win barrier. Only the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors and 1995-96 Chicago Bulls have achieved this. So with this in mind, let’s take a look at the best individual team seasons in NBA history. We’re only looking at completed seasons, so this year’s Bucks can’t be included just yet. Furthermore, not every team actually went on to win the championship. But they all had incredible regular seasons.
Check out the list below.
25. 1969-70 New York Knicks
The one and only Knicks installment on this list, this was a classic defensive side. Three of the squad made the NBA All-Defensive team. They put together the league’s best defensive rating, allowing 92.4 points per 100 possessions. They literally blew out all the competition.
An overall record of 60-22 isn’t the best on this list. However, when you factor in their NBA championship win – remember what that feels like, Knicks fans? – then you can see why they are on this list. To sum up, they were a defensive machine who won their first title.
The ’69-70 Knicks were a defensive machine, but this incarnation of the Lakers was an offensive beast. Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Byron Scott all managed to average at least 17 points per game. The ‘Showtime’ Lakers established a 65-17 record.
Johnson was definitely their top star in his greatest season. He averaged an efficient 23.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 12.2 assists per game, winning league MVP in the process. They cruised to the NBA Finals and proved to be an outrageously good team.
Regarded as one of the best defensive teams in NBA history, it’s a shame they couldn’t cap it off with a championship win. They won 30 out of 36 games after the All-Star break to finish the season with a franchise-best 64-18 record. This included a 14-game win streak between February and March.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year Gary Payton formed one half of ‘Sonic Boom’ with Shawn Kemp. They managed to make their way to the NBA Finals but fell short against the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. They were unlucky that they were up against arguably the greatest basketball team of all-time.
The Rockets have a curious history. They were the first NBA franchise to make the Finals with a losing record. 1986 saw them become the lowest-ever seeded team to win the title. So when they post the best regular-season results in history you’d think they’d win.
Sadly for Rockets fans, that’s not what happened. With an overall record of 65-17, they were in title contention. With James Harden leading the way anything seemed possible. But they lost out to the Golden State Warriors in the Conference Finals and are still seeking a title in the modern era.
The Mavericks had a cruel end to the 2005-06 year, falling short in the NBA Finals. So they hoped to improve the next year and they did, at least during the regular season. They went 67-15, claiming the top seed in the Western Conference. Things were looking good for the Mavericks.
After qualifying for the playoffs for the seventh successive season, the Mavericks were massive favorites to get past the Golden State Warriors. However, the Warriors pulled off a major upset. Some would argue that in the end, they flopped. But just going by their regular season, they’ve earned their place on this list. Today, they hope to exorcise the demons of that loss with the talents of current star Luka Donkic.
If Michael Jordan had stayed retired, then this could be a whole different situation. This was a classic Jazz side with the legendary Karl Malone and John Stockton in top form. But this wasn’t a two-man team, they were all fantastic but fell short of winning the biggest prize in basketball.
They won 64 games on the way to the Finals but lost to the Chicago Bulls. Don’t let that fool you though, this was a team worthy of respect. Sure, the postseason matters more but it’s not always fair to judge an entire season off of it.
LeBron James infamously left the Cavs because he wanted to put a ring on his finger. But some would argue that the strongest regular-season team he ever played for was this edition of the Cavaliers. They went 66-16 in the regular season before crashing out in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Orlando Magic.
But that doesn’t tell the full story because the Cavaliers were excellent in 08-09. They scored points seemingly at will and had a phenomenal defense. Of the four offensive factors and four defensive factors, Cleveland ranked in the league’s top half in every single one.
The Spurs had the best regular season in their history when they won the Southwest Division title in 2015-16. They did this with a record of 67-15, but one achievement stands out above them all. They tied the 1985-86 Boston Celtics’ record of 40 home wins in a season. Meanwhile, their 67 wins were a franchise record.
While they did crash out in the Conference semifinals to the Oklahoma City Thunder, they were great throughout the season. It also marked the end of the Tim Duncan era, as he retired after 19 seasons with the Spurs. They made the playoffs in every one of those years.
On paper, this is one of the best versions of the Celtics we’ve ever seen. They set a number of franchise records but fell short of winning the grand prize. Despite this, their 68-14 record is still the best in franchise history. Unfortunately, they couldn’t carry that into the postseason.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics lost to the Knicks. But it was still an outstanding season with numerous players picking up individual awards. The NBA named Dave Cowen the NBA MVP ahead of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tiny Archibald.
So many things went right for the Lakers in this epic season. They were so good on the court that they sold out every single home game. With 65 wins, they recorded the third-most victories in their history. Everything clicked into gear, with Kobe Bryant truly stepping it up.
This is the season where they won their fifteenth championship, beating the Orlando Magic 4-1. Afterward, Bryant won the NBA Finals MVP Award. All in all, things couldn’t have gone much better for them. Pau Gasol also made a huge difference for the Lakers in the post-Shaq years.
The Heat was on fire this year with an explosive front three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. They went 66-16 during an outstanding season that saw James pick up his fourth NBA MVP award. His individual records and the Heat’s overall form make them one the league’s greatest-ever teams.
During the year they embarked on an epic 27-game winning streak and looked unstoppable. First of all, they became the first team since the Bulls in the ’90s to “three-peat” as Eastern Conference champions. Then they went on and won the championship, beating the San Antonio Spurs in seven games.
Controversial, but their lack of an NBA championship cost them a higher spot on our list. Statistically, the Warriors had the best regular season in the history of the league. They racked up an unbelievable record of 73-10 and won the coach of the year and MVP awards.
However, the defending NBA champions couldn’t win when it truly mattered in the end. They lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers by a count of four games to three in the Finals. The Warriors were the first team to finish a regular season without back-to-back losses. But they didn’t put a ring on it.
The lockout put the new season on hold for three-and-a-half months. But for Spurs fans, it was definitely worth the wait. Tim Duncan came of age as their roster kicked into gear on the way to winning an NBA Championship. In short, this was one of the strongest chapters in their history with a 37-13 season record.
Their ‘Twin Towers’ of Duncan and David Robinson were too much for Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant to handle. They swept the Lakers in the semifinals before repeating the feat against the Trailblazers. Then they defeated the Knicks in five games to earn the first title in their history.
One season later, the Warriors would break the overall record for most games won in an NBA regular season. However, in 14-15, the Warriors actually won the championship. When you combine that with an overall record of 67-15, we know what we think is better. This was a tremendous chapter in the Northern California franchise’s book.
Stephen Curry won the NBA MVP award, the first Warriors star to win that since Wilt Chamberlain in 1959-60. He also broke his own record for most three-pointers in a season. Meanwhile, Steve Kerr broke the record for most wins as a rookie coach. Overall, it was a truly exceptional season.
Boston had a majestic season for a number of reasons. First and foremost was their extraordinary home record. They landed an epic 40 wins, an NBA record until the San Antonio Spurs equaled it in 2016. Their big three front-court of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish is one of the greatest ever.
The Celtics went 67-15 this year, an excellent overall record. However, they’re not higher up this list because their Finals’ opponent, the Houston Rockets, lacked championship experience. Still, though, it was a fantastic overall year for them and one that remains legendary.
Described as a superteam, this is arguably the greatest Warriors team of all-time. It featured the All-Star ‘Fantastic Four’ of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. They broke over 20 records on their way to a 67-15 regular-season finish.
Golden State became the first team ever to start 15-0 in the postseason, the most consecutive victories in the history of the playoffs. Furthermore, their 16-1 overall record is an NBA best as they went on and won the championship. A top team in NBA record books.
The Lakers broke out this season as an exceptional force. They hired Phil Jackson as head coach and he brought in the triangle offense that brought him six championships in Chicago. With Shaquille O’Neal in tremendous form, it was no wonder he won the MVP Award as well.
Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant broke out as an elite talent as well, exciting the masses. ‘The Black Mamba’ made the All-NBA Defensive First-Team too. It was a remarkable year for the Lakers, who went 67-15 overall. In the end, they defeated the Indiana Pacers in the Finals to win their first title since 1988.
The Pistons just poured on the pressure during this epic season where they swept the Lakers to win the championship. However, it wasn’t easy to get there. They lost their first two games to the Bulls in the semifinals but were able to come back strong to win.
With an overall record of 63-19, the Pistons were relentless. This was an outstanding class of talent with Isaiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, and Mark Aguirre all excellent throughout the year. There was no messing with ‘The Bad Boys’ and their new era of tough defense.
The ’90s were all about the Bulls. They did more to popularize the NBA than any other franchise that had come before it. Furthermore, this was also the year where we knew something great was in motion. Michael Jordan won his second straight MVP award as the Bulls won back-to-back championships.
They went 67-15 overall with a win percentage of .817. It was the second of a trilogy of championships, but even rings don’t speak for how good they were overall. It’s not always the best team that wins the Finals, but fortunately they did in 1993. A true legacy side.
Definitely the best team in the history of the 76ers, Philly had a magnificent 1967. “The City of Brotherly Love” could hardly believe what unfolded in front of them as their team won its second-ever NBA Championship. They finished the season with a strong record of 68-13.
New coach Alex Hunnam reinvigorated the squad. Meanwhile, Wilt Chamberlain put up some of the best numbers of his career on the way to glory. But this was a team effort, with three other players around the 20-point mark per game. The 76ers averaged a record 125 points per game. In sum, their attack was devastating.
The Celtics were outstanding in 07-08 but still haven’t received the credit they deserve. With an overall record of 66-16, they were consistently excellent all throughout the roster. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajan Rondo, and Ray Allen were destructive on the court.
Considering the Celtics went 24-58 the previous year, it shows how dramatic a turnaround this was. Not only was this a great individual season, but it was also one of the biggest improvements of all-time. They were able to carry their excellent form into the Finals, beating the Lakers 4-2.
When we think of the classic Lakers, the likes of Shaq, Kobe, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Magic Johnson come to mind right away. But arguably the best version of the franchise was their 1972 NBA Championship-winning side. This was quite simply an extraordinary team that went 69-13 in the regular season.
They also went on an NBA-record 33-game winning streak. In short, they ran through almost everybody in front of them during a relentless campaign. Finally, they went 4-1 against the Knicks to win the Finals. To sum up, this was a classic side that deserves its place near the top of the greatest season rankings.
The 1996-97 incarnation of the Bulls was a polished winning machine. With Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson tearing it up, they were an almost unstoppable force. Their record was almost as good as the year before, going 69-13.
In fact, very few teams were able to give them trouble over the course of the season. It was only in the high-stakes Finals that they faltered. But they still managed to hold out for a 4-2 win over the Utah Jazz. This wasn’t just a great team, it was the evolution of a dynasty.
The Bucks might never have been the sexiest team in the NBA, but they have produced some legendary moments. 2019-20 isn’t the first time they’ve had a phenomenal regular season. If you go back to the ’70s, they had their most magnificent year to date, even bringing the championship home to Wisconsin.
Their offense was simply unstoppable, with Lew Alcindor (eventually Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) averaging 31.7 points and 3.3 assists per game. Nobody was able to give them a proper challenge as they swept the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals. Only time will tell if this season’s roster can live up to this lofty bar.
The Bulls have to be first on our list because of their phenomenal overall record and the fact that it all paid off in the end. This was a majestic side with the likes of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman in their primes. They became the first NBA team to win 70 games in a season, going 72-10 overall.
Unlike the Golden State Warriors, the Bulls carried their ludicrous form into the Finals. They defeated the Seattle Supersonics 4-2 to win their fourth NBA title in six seasons. So many legends emerged from this side. In sum, they’re the greatest regular-season team roster in the history of the NBA.