The NBA Lacks Parity, And This Is Nothing New

With KD joining the Warriors, it's business as usual in the NBA.
by July 05, 2016

With Kevin Durant announcing he will join the Warriors, Golden State is now the heavy favorite to win next year’s NBA Championship.

Between the banter about the Warriors becoming an invincible juggernaut and the Cavs coming off of their first ever title, I decided to take a look at past 30 NBA seasons to get a snapshot of what the League has been like in my lifetime.

What I found was quite mind boggling.

In the last 30 seasons, only 10 NBA franchises have won a Championship, leaving two-thirds of the League ringless.

I put together this infographic (below) to show NBA team’s number of conference finals appearances, Finals appearances and Championships. It’s astonishing how top-heavy the NBA has been the last 30 seasons.

SLAM 30 years of NBA Infographic

The team with the most titles over the 30-year span is the Lakers with 7. Those titles came in 1987 and 1988 with Magic Johnson and Kareem leading the team, Kobe and Shaq’s three-peat to kick off the 2000s and the two Kobe and Pau won in 2009 and 2010.

The Bulls are second with 6. Led by MJ, anyone who is reading this knows about the pair of three-peats in the 1990s that MJ and Pippen blessed us all with.

Third is the Spurs with 5 titles, winning in five out of six of their Finals appearances including rings in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

The Pistons have 3 titles with two coming from the Bad Boys era and one coming from the talented 2004 team with Chauncey, Rip, Tayshaun and the Wallaces.

The Heat also have 3 titles, the first coming in 2006 led by Wade and Shaq and the other two coming from LeBron, Wade and Bosh in 2012 and 2013 in the midst of their four-straight Finals appearances.

The Celtics, Mavs, Warriors and Cavs all have 1 title each with the Warriors and Cavs both in hot pursuit of their second ring next season.

When it comes to winning percentage in the Finals, it’s not surprising that the Bulls own the top spot at 100 percent, having won six titles in their six aforementioned appearances.

The Rockets are also at 100 percent, but have four less rings than the Bulls, having won their two Finals matchups. The Spurs have won five of six (83.3 percent) and the Lakers have won seven rings in 11 appearances (63.6 percent). The Heat and Pistons are both at 60 percent, having won three titles in five appearances. The Warriors and Mavs are at 50 percent having won one of two, and the Cavs and Celtics are one for three (33.3 percent).

Of the last 30 seasons, six NBA franchises (Lakers, Bulls, Spurs, Pistons, Heat and Rockets) account for 26 of the 30 titles, showing that the NBA is the most top-heavy league of the major four sports.

Compared to the 10 NBA franchises that have won at least one title, the NFL has had 14 champion franchises, the NHL has had 16 and Major League Baseball 17.

Although the NBA lacks parity, the games are still great to watch. I’d argue that this season’s Playoffs were the most exciting we’ve seen in a long time with the Western Conference finals and NBA Finals leaving fans on the edge of their seats.

It should be noted that the Clippers, Hornets, Pelicans and Wizards are the only teams in the last 30 seasons that have not even reached the Conference finals. Eight other teams have only had 1 Conference Finals appearance over the last three decades as well.

With all of the free agency moves this season including Durant to the Warriors, next season will have a lot of great storylines, but will the moving and shaking lead to more parity in the League, or will the teams that have already won—like the Warriors, Cavs and Spurs—continue to win rings? Time will tell.