Over at SB Nation, the peerless Mike Prada had a question: What was the best NBA team to never win a championship? That was the genesis for his “Titleless” series, and three Los Angeles Lakers teams over the years made it into the initial 64-team field.
But first, a few ground rules for how the teams were chosen, and why one of your favorites might not have made the cut. Prada set the restriction of only one team per “era,” which he defined as a time when a core group was together without a major change. For example, the 97-98 Lakers were eligible because they didn’t have Phil Jackson yet, while a healthy version of the 2007-08 team wouldn’t have been because basically the same roster with few changes won a championship the next season. It’s also why no Magic Johnson teams were eligible.
Still confused? The rules are outlined in more detail here.
We here at Silver Screen and Roll decided to break down the three teams in this field in more detail: The 61-62, 76-77 and 97-98 rosters. What made these three teams so great, and what ultimately resulted in them remaining Titleless? We tried to tackle all of it in the three stories below this introduction.
Read along in the countdown and decide for yourself, but we personally ended up nominating the 97-98 team that still had Shaquille O’Neal, a (very-young) Kobe Bryant and no Phil Jackson yet (the change that allowed the three-peat teams to be a different “era”).
While they ultimately lost in the first round of the tournament, we can take solace in the fact that those results are probably wrong, because that group did win, you know, three championships in three years just two seasons later.
Still, we can always remember them — and the other Titleless teams — fondly, even if they won’t ever hang banners for them in the rafters of Staples Center.