Monday, January 2, 2017

#SquadGoals | 10 of the Most Unforgettable NBA Squads of all Time (Then vs.Now)

Over the years, we've seen the cultures shift, watched technology change, and many of sports' fanatics have become engulfed in those changes. Some fans still vividly remember how dynamic the 1972-73 New York Knicks were, while others' earliest memories recall was the on court bro-mance between Shaq and Penny Hardaway in the 90's, the decade that I personally and naturally have a soft spot for. There are just certain squads we become attached to that sketch a lasting impression on our hearts and ultimately, is what sets the standard for what a good squad is actually made of.

Having recently waved good bye to Kobe Bryant, arguably one of the greatest to ever touch the basketball court, a whole new generation of players has emerged, putting in work to be enlisted as one of the best. As a life long Lakers fan, it's an eerie feeling almost to watch a brand new squad take over, as the ones who were rookies just a couple of years ago are now taking role as leaders on their respective teams. And sometimes, the lines overlap and the rookie has the golden opportunity to play with and learn from a vet in the game before he hangs up his jersey, just like D'Angelo Russell was able to do right before Kobe left.

It's easier to gauge long-term potential of a team if we're able to see a set of leaders has been established. Now that branding players are more of a thing now than in previous decades, it's especially important to understand why "the chosen" ones deserve to be the face of the franchise.

Photo cred. NBA.com

2001-02 vs. 2015-16 Los Angeles Lakers

Let's start with arguably one of the greatest squads of my time, which would be the 01-02 Lakers, who had just celebrated a 3-peat in 2002 with 3 consecutive NBA championships since 2000. Under the leadership of NBA's greatest coach of all time, Phil Jackson, we had K. Bryant, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, Stanislav Medvedenko, and Shaquille O'Neal. Bryant and Shaq alone were the unstoppable dynamic duo.  Before them was the 1971-72 LakeShow Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Gail Goodric, Elgin Baylor, and Happy Hairston, leaving the season with 69 wins, 33 consecutive, and later defeating the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals.


L to R: Jordan Clarkson, D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle pose for GQ
Taking a look at the new Laker boys of the last couple of seasons, especially 2014-2015 and the one coming into 2016, they seem to have the same kind of drive, energy, and on court magic that makes a team work long term, which of course is also a gamble when a trade or injury at any point could change everything in a heartbeat. In Kobe's last season, there was an incredible balance of veteran and rookie also that enables the rookie to better understand how to lead in his next season. 


Photo cred. Corey Sipkin. image source.

1972-73 vs. 2012-13 New York Knicks

The Knicks became the first team in NBA history to defeat two 60-win teams on the road to the 1973 NBA playoffs and ultimately earned the championship title vs. their beloved rivals, Los Angeles Lakers.  This squad was a winning formula that has yet to be duplicated within the franchise, that now features six Hall of Famers (Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier, Jerry Lucas, Earl Monroe, Willis Reed) and the G.O.A.T. Phil Jackson, who became a Lakers' coach post-game, which always tickled me. It's pretty impressive that almost 45 years later, their bond as teammates and friends remains unbreakable, as we've seen in many instances over the years. 
"For me, the most fun I ever had playing basketball was 1973. (In) '70, it was a lot of dedication to the get to the top, but in '73 the group of guys we had just was incredible," Bill Bradley once stated. 
Photo cred. Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images. image source.
Fast forward to a couple decades later, we have the holy trinity; Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and the teams' newest addition at the time, Tyson Chandler who was contracted in the year before. Ending the 2012-13 season 54-28, this squad built their hopes on working to honor the veterans with a championship win, which would've been their first NBA title in 40 years. Unfortunately, they weren't able to get passed the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Still, they seemed to understand the importance of maintaining good-standing personal relationships by proving to be a strong unit that seemed to embody an ancestry magic for on court performance.

1991-1992 Chicago Bulls. image found via Google

1991-92 vs. 2012-13 Chicago Bulls

I feel like this the team that everyone wanted to be. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen scoring majority points still had a seamless squad to accompany them. With players like Craig Hodges, Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, BJ Armstrong, and John Paxon, each player individually dominate in different areas such as 3-point execution and rebounds, pretty much the Bulls' entire 91-92 roster was a powerhouse of gold.

Image source.

The last time I remember being extremely impressed with the Bulls was 2012-2013 when Derrick Rose and Nate Robinson were teammates, although Nate Robinson wasn't necessarily considered to be a key player then. To this day, Nate Robinson is one of my favorite guards, simply because standing at only 5'9", he has such impressive skill set, both defense and offense and he is still incredibly underrated. Right next to them stood Jimmy Buter, Joakim Noah, Vladimir Radmanovic, and Marquis Teague.

Getty Images


1994-95 (Seattle SuperSonics) vs. 2011-12 Oklahoma City Thunder

My first real memory of watching basketball with my dad was circa '94.  Back then, the power trio was made up of Gary Payton, Detlef Schrempf, and Shawn Kemp, and all 3 went to play in the 1995 NBA All Star game.

The Durant-Westbrook era. Photo cred. : Reuters

It seriously doesn't get much better than experiencing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the reincarnate of Payton and Kemp. The end of the Durant and Westbrook era was both shocking and heartbreaking for a lot of basketball fans, even more so for them. I seriously detest the CBA for breaking up this duo that morphed into a trio when Harden proved to be more of an asset in 2012, just like their predecessor trio. I will never understand what made the executives break up the dynasty, but it was probably a smart money move more than anything. Another relatively new team after moving from Seattle, this was truly a force to be reckoned with. In addition to the trio, they had Dereck Fisher, Kendrick Perkins, Cole Aldridge, and Serge Ibaka. I hold the Lakers dear to my heart, but his would've been the perfect opportunity to switch up teams and hop on a bandwagon.

Photo cred. Associated Press. source.

1959-1960 (Philadelphia) vs. 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors

Taking it all the way back here, I can't conclude without mentioning the team where superstar, all hail Wilt Chamberlain took reign. The Philadelphia Warriors made up of Chamberlain, Guy Rodgers, Tom Gola, Paul Arizin, and Woodrow Sauldsberry Jr. who were all averaging approximately 27 ppg ended the season in 49-26 record and a 10 game winning streak.

I have yet to see a player comparable to Wilt, so there really isn't really another team within the franchise worth comparing them to.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
However, I do believe that the "fire squad" of the 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors come close.

With a 65-15 regular season record, 16-5 playoff record, and a NBA Finals Championship win, which became their first title in 40 years...talk about epic! To start with 3-point dominators, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, who was the first Warrior to earn NBA MVP since Wilt, was a power move in itself. To accompany them were key players like Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut, and Harrison Barnes, so the success of this winning lineup was to be expected.

sidenote: I was thinking of making #SquadGoals and on going series on here, because as long as this post is, I know there are some notable squads missing from this round's picks.

What are your thoughts? Which NBA teams make up your favorite NBA #SquadGoals ?
Follow me on Twitter: @TheSkyBoxSuite | @ChymereA

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