More than any of the other major professional sports, the NBA is a star-driven league.
Whether it’s players like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, or LeBron James, teams will live and die by which stars they can build around. Over the years NBA general managers have tried to put together the best collection of players they can find and every so often the “stars” align and they get the chance to bring multiple All-Stars on the same roster.
These “super teams” may not always win the NBA championship, but they sure make the basketball entertaining, especially as their opponents try to stop them.
Here is a look at the best “super teams” of the millennium:
Golden State Warriors, 2014-2017
The Golden State Warriors seemingly came out of nowhere to dominate the NBA, with the rise of players like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green fueling the success of the franchise. Head coach Steve Kerr came in before the start of the 2014-15 season and helped mold the team into a major contender. Curry developed into an MVP and the Warriors won 67 games, the most in the NBA and the most in the history of the franchise.
The Warriors went on to win the NBA title over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the first championship for the team in four decades. The high-flying, fast-running, quick-shooting, and high-powered offense of the Warriors was something that the league hadn’t seen in a number of years and set the team up for something special in 2015-16.
The Warriors started off the season by winning 24 straight games and they had a home winning streak that extended across 54 straight games, the most in NBA history. The team continued to dominate, eventually finishing with a 73-9 record, setting a new mark for the most wins in a single season in league history. Curry won his second straight MVP, the first time that a player won the award with a unanimous vote. All of that put some major pressure on the Warriors to win a title, but they couldn’t deliver, falling to the Cavaliers in seven games after going up 3-1 in the series.
Following that loss, the Warriors decided they would become even more of a “super” team, signing free agent Kevin Durant to a contract. While it remains to be seen whether the team will reach the same heights it did the previous year, it’s hard to argue that any team in recent history has a better roster. Curry is a two-time MVP, Thompson is an offensive star, while Green has proven to be one of the most dynamic defensive players in the modern era. Before signing with Golden State, Durant made seven All-Star teams and won four scoring titles, but he never was able to win a championship with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now this “super team” is the team to beat in the NBA.
Cleveland Cavaliers, 2014-2017
All it took was a little time away from home. LeBron James changed the course of the NBA (again) after making his decision to return to Cleveland following his run in Miami, winning two titles with the Heat. While James was away, the Cavaliers were terrible, allowing the team to win the draft lottery twice, where they took Duke point guard Kyrie Irving in 2011 and later Kansas star Andrew Wiggins in 2014.
Irving developed into one of the best point guards in the NBA, so when James came back in the summer of 2014, Cleveland started thinking about championships again. The team shipped Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves and acquired All-Star big man Kevin Love, forming a new “Big 3” with James, Irving, and Love. James led his team back to the NBA finals for the first time since he left Cleveland the first time, but the Cavs lost the 2015 NBA championship series to another super team in the Golden State Warriors. By the time that series ended, it was basically James handling things on his own after injuries to Love and Irving during the playoffs. But the best was yet to come.
The Cavs and the Warriors both made it back to the NBA Finals in 2016—after Golden State set the single-season record for wins in a season—setting up a rematch for the teams. The Warriors felt pressure to deliver after their record-breaking season and despite going up 3-1 in the series, the Cavaliers were able to come back and win the title, the first for the city of Cleveland in any of the major professional sports since back in 1964 when the Browns won the NFL title. This team may have more to come, but they were “super” for the 2015-16 championship run.
Miami Heat, 2010-2014
Before “Believeland,” LeBron James formed the first of his supergroups by (in)famously “taking his talents to South Beach” to join pals Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and create a “Big Three” with the Miami Heat. In doing so, James changed the NBA and made the franchise the NBA’s premier team (even if they were often cast as the villains).
Even though it was an inelegant “decision”—pardon the pun—everyone forgets that James donated $1 million dollars to the Boys & Girls Club as a result of that television special that announced his intentions to move from his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, who seemingly couldn’t put together a good enough roster for James to win an NBA title. At the time, the biggest knock on James and his future legacy was that he hadn’t won one yet—he hoped his move to Miami would change that.
In a sense, this was James’s version of going to college. He’d literally spent his entire life in Ohio—from his high school days in Akron to being drafted by the Cavaliers—and it seemed like he needed to get out before he could come back and deliver a title to the city (as he eventually did). This was one of the most entertaining teams of all time—Wade and James playing off each other for amazing alley-oop slams and electric fast breaks, resulting in two NBA championships and four straight finals appearances.
Even though James promised “not four, not five, not six” but seven titles, the team still was extremely successful, completely dominating the Eastern Conference during their run together. After losing to the Mavericks in the 2010-11 finals, the team took down Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, and then the San Antonio Spurs, for back-to-back championships. James left after the 2013-14 season following the loss to the Spurs in a finals rematch, but this group left a major mark on the NBA and became a model for what a super team looks like in the modern era of free agency and social media.
Boston Celtics, 2007-2012
The Boston Celtics franchise has one of the most successful legacies of any team in sports, but after a championship drought that extended back to 1986—the Larry Bird era—the club decided to make some major moves. With Paul Pierce and rising point guard Rajon Rondo already on the roster, Danny Ainge stepped up and traded for Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Kevin Garnett and Seattle Supersonics All-Star Ray Allen.
With Rondo still not quite a star at this point, many gave the team the nickname of the “Boston Three Party” heading into the 2007-2008 season. Under the leadership of Doc Rivers, the group pulled off the best turnaround in the history of the league, winning 42 more games than the previous season. The group went through some tough teams in the playoffs, defeating the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers in the first two rounds of the postseason, getting pushed to seven games both times.
After defeating the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics took on Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, renewing a classic rivalry from the Bird era. Bryant won the MVP that season, but it was the Celtics who took home the championship in six games, ending the drought dating back to 1986. During this “super team” era for the Celtics, the team won conference titles in 2008 and 2010, and division titles from 2008 to 2012, bringing home one NBA championship.
Los Angeles Lakers, 2000-2002 and 2009-2010
Led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, the Los Angeles Lakers dominated the NBA for the early 2000s, putting together a “three-peat” with consecutive NBA championships. O’Neal won the league MVP award in 2000 and helped the Lakers finish with a 67-15 record, the most since the team won 65 games in the 1980s. Bryant and O’Neal led a stacked roster with players like Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, and Robert Horry to titles over the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and New Jersey Nets.
Eventually O’Neal left Los Angeles and Bryant stuck around through some tough season before the Lakers returned to prominence. The team acquired superstar Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies and went on to win back-to-back titles over the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics. Bryant and Gasol led a roster that included players like Fisher (still hanging around after the first three-peat), Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, and Luke Walton, who went on to be an assistant coach for the Warriors superteam before taking over as head coach of the Lakers.