LeBron Attempts to Lead 2nd Non-Phil Jackson Team to Beat Two 60-Win Teams

AP Photo
The Associated Press
Auburn, AL

The Cleveland Cavaliers try to become the second team in NBA history to win the title by defeating two 60-win teams—without the benefit of Phil Jackson.

Apart from Dwyane Wade’s 2005-2006 champion Miami Heat, which beat both the Detroit Pistons and the Dallas Mavericks, teams that featured Phil Jackson as a coach or player remain the only teams to accomplish the feat:

Season Champion Runner-Up 60-win teams defeated
1996-97 Chicago Bulls Utah Jazz Heat & Jazz
1995-96 Chicago Bulls Seattle Supersonics Magic & Sonics
1992-93 Chicago Bulls Phoenix Suns Knicks & Suns
1972-73 New York Knicks Los Angeles Lakers Celtics & Lakers

Acoording to Basketball Reference, Phil Jackson was a solid contributor to the 1972-73 New York Knicks team that defeated the Boston Celtics and then the Los Angeles Lakers to take the title. The first time a team had defeated two 60-game winners in the same playoffs.

Knicks 1972-73 Age G TRB AST PTS
Walt Frazier 27 78 7.3 5.9 21.1
Dave DeBusschere 32 77 10.2 3.4 16.3
Bill Bradley 29 82 3.7 4.5 16.1
Earl Monroe 28 75 3.3 3.8 15.5
Jerry Lucas 32 71 7.2 4.5 9.9
Willis Reed 30 69 8.6 1.8 11.0
Dean Meminger 24 80 2.9 1.7 5.7
Phil Jackson 27 80 4.3 1.2 8.1
Dick Barnett 36 51 0.8 1.0 3.8
John Gianelli 22 52 2.9 0.5 3.5
Henry Bibby 23 55 1.5 1.2 4.2
Tom Riker 22 14 1.1 0.1 2.5
Harthorne Wingo 25 13 1.2 0.1 1.5
Luther Rackley 26 1 1.0 0.0 0.0

It did not happen for another 20 years, when Jackson coached Michael Jordan. Together they won six titles in eight years—three of them included wins over two 60-win teams.

There are only five teams to ever accomplish the feat. However, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the 60-win Atlanta Hawks to capture the Eastern Conference this year, and now have a two-game-to-one lead over the  67-win Golden State Warriors in the Finals. Two more wins and they become the second team to accomplish the feat without the benefit of Phil Jackson.

Some have tried to belittle the Cavs for coming out of a weak Eastern Conference. However, a Breitbart piece showed that unlike the NHL, the top seeds in NBA playoffs rarely lose to opening-round teams. Therefore, the fact that some weak teams grab the bottom playoff spots in the conference does not make much of a difference.

The Cavs ability to sweep a hot Celtics team, win in six games against a very good Chicago Bulls team, sweep a 60-win Hawks team and go up 2-to-1 against a 67-win Golden State team truly puts them in elite company.