NBA Champions Super Study

NBA Finals

In the NBA, there are no secrets as to which teams are deserving championship contenders. With only five players on the court per team at a time, a few key players can heavily dictate who has success. Furthermore, with the scoring dynamics of the sports, teams that establish greatness during the regular season generally reign supreme in the postseason.

This can be illustrated by the Mathletics of playoff upsets. Only two NBA champions received anything worse than a three seed. Both of those teams, the sixth-seeded 1994-95 Houston Rockets and the fourth-seeded 1968-69 Boston Celtics, were defending NBA champions. This just goes to show that most teams who won were worthy contenders.

What makes this the case? For starters, the scoring dynamics heavily favor the better team. In basketball, teams get frequent scoring opportunities without having to do much work to get into a favorable scoring zone. Furthermore, seven-game series allow those superior teams to win a series despite a few off nights. Finally, because of the five-man team taking the court, the presence of multiple standout players will make a much more massive impact than in any other sport (save for possibly a football team with an elite quarterback).

This super study puts the last theory to the test, determining what makes a standout player and exploring which NBA and ABA champions had multiple standout players. In the end, we can see through a two-point standout player system which champions fit the billing of a normal champion. This way, we can predict in future seasons which teams are legitimate championship contenders.

Below we have a link to an in-depth study for each highlighted position. This study was originally competed in late June 2014.

Theory: Why Teams Need Multiple “Standout” Players, Part 1
Theory: Why Teams Need Multiple “Standout” Players, Part 2
Results: Early-Year Champions
Results: NBA v. ABA Champions
Results: Post-Merger Champions

Note that 17 of the 78 champions did not fit the billing of a normal champion, but most of that had to do the early days. However, only one of the last 34 champions didn’t meet the two-point standout player system. This shows that the modern NBA is strictly adhering to normality when it comes to its champions. We can determine which teams are true championship contenders each and every year.