9 Longest NBA Winning Streaks
After witnessing an incredible 20-game streak on behalf of the 2012 San Antonio Spurs, and the recent 17-game streak of the Los Angeles Clippers, the Longest NBA Winning Streaks deserve a closer look. It’s a daunting task to list the precise machinations of what constitutes a winning-streak team; that great lining-up of stars that synergizes franchise luck, rosters dictated by destiny and coaching of legend. Double-knot those Chuck Taylors, we’re sprinting to revisit seasons of unheralded athletic achievement, to the dawn of sky hooks and slam dunks via demigods the ilk of Wilt the Stilt and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Celtics fans beware: generating a list like this without a massive presence by the Los Angeles Lakers is like trying to create a World Series Champs list without cramming in any Yankees: it just ain’t possible.
Head Coach Red Holzman implemented risque and fiery offensive maneuvers never before seen in professional basketball, with Willis Reed at the heart of New York’s greatest hope for a championship. Reed brought in the only MVP triple-crown to be achieved for regular season, All-Star and post-season performance until Michael Jordan’s turn in 1995-1996. It certainly didn’t hurt to have the phenomenal Walt Frazier picking up Reed’s slack of 21 points per game, averaging a fantastic 20.9 ppg of his own accord. Reed’s mere appearance on the court with a major thigh injury in Game 7 of The Championship spooked The Lakers and inspired his teammates into an adrenaline-amped victory in what has been called the greatest game ever seen in Madison Square Garden.
New York Knicks (1969-1970) - 18 Games
Marking our second occasion of the immortally pimptabulous Wilt Chamberlain on this here list, the ‘65 Sixers exploded as a team due to the masterful engineering of “The Big Dipper” into rebound beast at the hands of vet coach Alex Hannum. Hannum knew that if Wilt rechanneled some of his offensive energy into his defensive skills, fellow Sixers Chet Walker, Hal Greer and Billy Cunningham would step up their points per game, crafting what many historians still consider to this day to be the most effective team in NBA history.
Philadelphia 76ers (1965-1966) - 18 Games
The success of the Lakers’ previous season had sparked riots outside of the Staples Center, but this was to be a mellower year of triumph, as if the team and its fans had settled into simply being the best. Ho-hum. The only franchise locking down three spots on our coveted Winning Streaks slideshow, Phil Jackson’s machine lost A.C. Green but forged an unstoppable 3-point wall with Madsen and Medvedenko that launched the team to another unstoppable post-season streak.
Los Angeles Lakers (2000-2001) - 19 Games - Regular and Post-Season
It was a simpler time for the Los Angeles Lakers. 1999 kicked off a season in which Phil Jackson built a well-oiled machine out of Shaquille O’Neal, A.C. Green and Kobe Bryant to return the franchise to their “showtime” days of Magic/Kareem/Worthy fastbreaks and championship panache. O’Neal, towered over competition as both regular and post-season MVP, gelling with Kobe Bryant before the pair shared duties on the Dream Team at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Los Angeles Lakers (1999-2000) - 19 Games
It seems like only yesterday that Kevin Garnett was averaging 15 points per game all the way to the playoffs like LeBron James wishes he could do every season. Oh, wait...that was yesterday...and every season since 2008. Leading the season off with an NBA record of 27-2, the Celts lost Garnett for the final 25 games, still managing to best the Bulls in the first round of Playoffs before falling before the Magic in the semis.
Boston Celtics (2008-2009) - 19 Games
The second team on this list to run an impressive 20-game winning streak only to be knocked out in the Western Conference Finals. Despite a 2-week league lockout, the season rolled out with Frenchman Tony Parker at the height of his game, pulling in an unprecedented .799 free throw percentage and his first triple-double amongst the insane rebound average culled by Tim Duncan. Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich rode the Spurs into their 13 straight 50+ win season, a league record.
San Antonio Spurs (2011-2012) - 20 Games - Regular and Post-Season
If ever there was a “Major League”-esque movie made of a classic NBA team, this would need to be it. A fairly average team lead by former Rookie of the Year Lew Alcindor (later known as the indestructible Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) acquired veteran guard Oscar “The Big O” Robertson and the team was never the same. Robertson, with his best years behind him, rallied and inspired a squad of young Bucks to a head-turning 66-16 record season that set a franchise precedent. Milwaukee was drowning in sky hooks as Alcindor garnered his first career MVP win.
Milwaukee Bucks (1970-1971) - 20 Games
A streak that tore up all who fell in its path, this was the season of Yao Ming. Averaging 22 points per game, it can be argued that had Ming not succumbed to one of this token injuries the Rockets would have shot all the way to the championship. Instead the team was eliminated by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs after a valiant post-season hustle by Tracy McGrady. Boasting Dikembe Motombo amongst a bring-it-all roster, the defensive prowess of the Rockets kept them at the top of their conference for the majority of 2007.
Houston Rockets (2007-2008) - 22 Games
This was, and remains, the pinnacle NBA team to date. A new firebrand coach named Bill Sharman instilled discipline in his players, earning Coach of the Year for creating and instituting the shoot-around that is a pregame standard in the league now. This is not to mention Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain (recently revealed to have been a boyfriend of Quentin Tarantino’s mother), at the height of his powers with a .649 field goal percentage with assists from the legendary Jerry West and future Laker champion coach Pat Riley.