One-man’s list: The 10 greatest NBA offenses in my lifetime

On our most recent Sal and Steiny Podcast, we found ourselves once again talking about how great the Warriors have looked early in the season and how magnificent Stephen Curry is playing. Never mind Saturday’s ordinary win over the Kings, you know and it and I know it that the Warriors have been unreal … so far.

Who knows if this will continue, and whether or not the Warriors will waltz to back-to-back titles? All I know is that for all of last year and the little of this year, the Golden State Warriors have been one of the most incredible offensive teams I’ve seen in my lifetime.

At times, their ball movement rivals that of any NBA team over the past four or five decades and their ability to shoot the ball is already historic. With Curry, the Warriors have a superstar ringleader and when everyone’s playing well it’s as fun as anything under the big tent.

So I’ve been thinking of some of the best — most beautiful, cohesive and watchable — teams I’ve seen in “my day.” How far back is “my day?” Well, let’s call it the mid-1970s and leave it at that.

Also, allow me to clarify some. I’m not necessarily talking about great teams, but I’m talking about teams that were notable for their offense. And I’m stressing teams and not individuals. This list is about ball movement, passing and cutting, unselfishness, the blending of a superstar with his teammates, chemistry, playing the right way and fundamentals.

It’s also about fun. These teams were a barrel of monkeys to watch, and in the case of the Warriors, we’re still able to watch them. Feel free to tell me which teams I left off and which teams shouldn’t be on the list in the first place. Here you go:

  1. Mid-1980s Boston Celtics: Larry Bird was the most creative front court player the game has ever seen, and four of the five Boston starters ended up Hall-of-Famers: Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson.
  2. Showtime Lakers: You want to put this team No. 1 and the Celtics No. 2, feel free. No need to argue, I just grew up Back East. Magic Johnson was a 6-foot-9 point guard who passed better than any other point guard in the league.
  3. 1977 Portland Trail Blazers: Some might think this is more lore than reality but I don’t think so. When Portland beat Philly in the Finals, it was a celebration of team basketball over individual basketball, orchestrated by Bill Walton. A Philly team boasting Julius Erving and George McGinnis got beat pretty good.
  4. Current Golden State Warriors: Yes, they belong. You might not put them this high, but they need to be on the list. Curry is influencing games like Michael Jordan, Bird, Magic, LeBron James … any of the greats of the game did. And the way they move the ball, and shoot the ball, goodness gracious.
  5. 2000-ish Sacramento Kings: I actually “enjoyed” watching this team more than the current Warriors. The reason: The Kings were singularly unique because their best passers and best decision-makers were their two front court players: Vlade Divac and Chris Webber. It made them a joy to watch.
  6. Spurs at their peak: Pick your favorite Spurs team and put them on the list. No, their excitement level never hit 10 but the ball never hit the floor, either.
  7. 1983 Philadelphia 76ers: A somewhat misunderstood in terms of how they played. They had the quintessential position players, 1 through 5. Mo Cheeks, the pure PG; Andrew Toney, the unstoppable 2; Erving, the dynamic wing; Marc Iavaroni/Bobby Jones, the rugged power forward/super sub; Moses Malone at center, need any more be said.
  8. Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns: Nash was a genius with the basketball and he’d rather give it up than keep it to himself. He and Amare Stoudemire weren’t dissimilar from John Stockton and Karl Malone — only they were more fun and that’s why they’re on this list.
  9. Michael Jordan’s Bulls: Jordan may have been the most spectacular player of our lifetime, but interestingly, his Bulls teams were mostly defensive-oriented. Jordan, alone, puts these Bulls team on the list. Barely.
  10. The Kobe-Shaq Lakers: When clicking, the Lakers had the best perimeter player in the league, Kobe Bryant, playing with the best center in the league, Shaquille O’Neal. The intrigue with this team is that while neither Shaq nor Kobe tried hard to make each other better, they were so good individually that it happened sometimes by accident.

HONORABLE MENTION: The “Run TMC” Golden State Warriors, the “Clyde Drexler” Portland Trail Blazers, the 1979 Seattle SuperSonics, the Reading High Red Knights of the 1970s, York Catholic of the 1980s, any Princeton team under Pete Carril.








About Steinmetz

Matt Steinmetz is a veteran San Francisco Bay Area sports journalist. He covered the Golden State Warriors for the Bay Area News Group for more than a decade before becoming a television analyst with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Steinmetz can be heard on "Steiny & Guru" on 95.7-FM The Game in San Francisco, from 12-3.
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5 Responses to One-man’s list: The 10 greatest NBA offenses in my lifetime

  1. Steinmetz says:

    I thought about those teams, but in end left them off for two reasons. First, I just don’t put that team up there with the 10 on the list already because they didn’t have that type of overall success as team. The other part, I’ll admit, may be bias. While I loved Alex English — Dan Issel and Kiki Vandeweghe didn’t do it for me. Thanks for reading!


  2. icancountcanyou says:

    How about the 80’s Denver Nuggets?


  3. Steinmetz says:

    Can that offense be any better than the Downingtown Girls teams’ offense when they had Nikki Benedix back in the day???? 🙂


  4. Scott Castro says:

    My lifetime spans about the same era. Agree with your top 10, but would add Nash/Stoudimire Suns to the honorable mention list.


  5. Ed Campbell says:

    Wonderful inside to mention the great Trailblazers team & the vintage Kings from the early 2000’s. I’m from Downingtown, and if you want to see Caril’s offense again, come see my high school team play


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