Can a Team Win the NBA Championship without the Best Player in the Series?

By Jason Fryer

There have been a lot of great players that have come through the NBA, but only a few have been able to say they were a "NBA Champion." With the NBA Finals beginning, I felt it was a good time to answer a important NBA question: "Can a Team win a Title without a Hall-Of-Famer on their roster?"

Before answering this question, I felt I should look at the past champions and examine if any of the past champions didn't include one of the best players of All-Time on their roster.

Since the First NBA Championship was awarded in 1950, I decided to start this list from 1950 and not 1947 when the league was called the BAA.

Four of the first 5 NBA Champions were the Minneapolis Lakers (now the LA Lakers) and featured the first dominant big man in Hall-Of-Famer George Mikan along with fellow Hall-Of-Famers Slater Martin, Vern Mikkelsen, and Jim Pollard.

The 1951 NBA Champions (Rochester Royals, now Sacramento Kings) were the first team to win a Championship without a dominant player, but still had a few Hall-Of-Famers in Arnie Risen, Bob Davies, Bobby Wanzer.

The 1955 NBA Champions (Syracuse Nationals which would turn into the Philadelphia 76ers a few years later) only had one Hall-Of-Famer (DolphSchayes), but Schayes is thought of as one of the best Power-Forwards/Centers of All-Time.

Can a Team Win the NBA Championship without the Best Player in the Series

In 1956, the Philadelphia Warriors, (which later became the Golden State Warriors) featured two Hall-Of-Famers in Paul Arizin (one of the best guards of All-Time) and Neil Johnston.

11 0f the next 13 Titles (1957, 1959-1966 and 1968-1969) were won by the Boston Celtics and those teams featured the best center of all time (Bill Russell), one of the best point guards ever (Bob Cousy), along with fellow Hall-Of-Famers Tom Heinsohn, Bill Sharman, Sam Jones, Frank Ramsey, KC Jones, and John Havlicek.

The 1958 NBA Champions (St. Louis Hawks, which are now the Atlanta Hawks) featured another one of the best big men of All-Time in Bob Pettit, along with fellow Hall-Of-Famers Ed Macauley, Cliff Hagan, and Slater Martin.

The 1967 NBA Champions (Philadelphia 76ers) featured one of the best players of All Time (Wilt Chamberlain) to go along with 3 other Hall-Of-Famers in Hal Greer, Chet Walker, and Billy Cunningham.

The 1970 and 1973 NBA Champions (New York Knicks) also featured a number of Hall-Of-Famers in Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Earl Monroe, Jerry Lucas, and 2-Times Finals MVP Willis Reed.

The 1971 NBA Champions (Milwaukee Bucks) featured 2 of the top 10 NBA Players of All-Time in Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Like the 1971 Bucks, the 1972 NBA Champion LA Lakers featured 2 of the top 10 Players of All-Time in Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West along with fellow Hall-Of-Famer Gail Goodrich.

The 1974 and 1976 NBA Champions (Boston Celtics) has a roster that included two Hall-Of-Famers in John Havlicek and Dave Cowens.

The 1975 NBA Champions (Golden State Warriors) featured two Hall-Of-Famers in Rick Barry and Jamaal Wilkes.

The 1977 NBA Champion (Portland Trail Blazers) only featured one Hall-Of-Famer in Bill Walton

The 1978 NBA Championship was won by the Washington Bullets as they had Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld

Can a Team Win the NBA Championship without the Best Player in the Series
Forward Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers in game 2 of the second round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA.

The 1979 NBA Championship was won by the Seattle SuperSonics as they only had one Hall-Of-Famer (Dennis Johnson) and no "Super Stars" on their roster.

The Lakers won 5 Championships throughout the 1980's (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988) and had a number of Hall-Of-Famers on their roster which included Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes, and James Worthy.

Like the Lakers, the Celtics won a number of Championships (3: 1981, 1984, 1986) throughout the 1980's and had a numerous Hall-Of-Famers which included: Larry Bird, Kevin Mchale, Robert Parish, Tiny Archibald and Dennis Johnson.

The 1983 NBA Champions (Philadelphia 76ers), had a roster that included a few Hall-Of-Famers Julius Erving and Moses Malone.

The next 5 NBA Championships were won by either the Lakers or Celtics.

In 1989 and 1990 NBA Championships were won by the Detroit Pistons and roster include three Hall-Of-Famers in Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Dennis Rodman.

After 1990, the Chicago Bulls won 6 of the next 8 NBA Championships and their roster included the best player of All-Time (Michael Jordan) along with fellow Hall-Of-Famers Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman.

In 1994 and 1995, the Houston Rockets won Back-To-Back NBA Championships and for one of their Championships (1994), they only had One Hall-Of-Famer in Hakeem Olajuwon (the Rockets traded for Hall-Of-Famer Clyde Drexler midway through the 1994-1995 NBA Season).

From 1999 until 2007, the Spurs won 4 Championships (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007) and featured a number of either Hall-Of-Famers or Future Hall-Of-Famers in David Robinson (in the Hall-Of-Fame), Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and possibly Manu Ginobili.

Like the Spurs, the Lakers also won a number of Championships during the 2000's (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010) and had a number of Future Hall-Of-Famers in Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol, and possibly Andrew Bynum.

The 2004 Detroit Pistons might become the first and only NBA Team to win a championship without 1 Hall-Of-Famer on their Roster. The Pistons had an excellent starting lineup which included Chauncey Billups (who has the best chance at Making the Hall-Of-Fame), Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace (who also has a chance at making the Hall-Of-Fame in the future). As good as those players were, I'm not sure anyone on their roster will make the Hall-Of-Fame.

The 2006 Miami Heat roster had 3 Future Hall-Of-Famers in leaders Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal along with Gary Payton.

The Boston Celtics won the 2008 NBA Title and featured a roster that included 3 for sure Hall-Of-Famers in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen along with Rajon Rondo who is on track to make the Hall-Of-Fame in the future.

Finally, in 2011, the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Championship and had a roster that included 2 future Hall-Of-Famers in Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd.

So, do you need a "Super-Star" to win a NBA Championship? In most cases yes but there have been a few exceptions to the rule (1951, 1977, 1979, 2004). Can you win a title with only 1 Super Star? Absolutely. Though a number of NBA champions have had two or three Super Stars on their roster, there have been plenty of teams that have gone on to win a Championship with only 1 Super Star and a lot of very good role players (1955, 1956, 1994, 2011 just to name a few).

In the end, I feel its important to have at-least one Super Star, and then you can build from there with either other elite players or a roster filled with a very good sporting cast.

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