Western Conference teams traditionally have displayed a more open, full-court style of basketball than their Eastern Conference counterparts. They have embraced a faster game, focusing on free-flowing offence and strong play from their interior players. Using this style of play, many Western Conference teams have won NBA Championships.

A Historical Perspective

The Los Angeles Lakers won five NBA titles between the 1979 and 1988 seasons under head coach Pat Riley. The Lakers' entertaining style of fast-break offence became known as Showtime. Magic Johnson, a star player with a power forward's size and point guard skills, led the Lakers in Showtime.

Magic, who often guarded the opposing team's power forward, was able to rebound the basketball on the defensive end, begin the fast break and pass the ball to one of his teammates for an easy score. This one-man fast break was known as "going coast-to-coast." Magic's skills were complemented by James Worthy, a high-flying small forward who was able to finish Magic's passes with a layup, dunk or jump shot. Lakers centre Kareem Abdul-Jabbar provided strong inside play on offence and defence. Abdul-Jabbar's sweeping hook shot, the skyhook, was a formidable weapon that was almost impossible to defend.

Steve Nash
Canadian Steve Nash is part of the Mavs' impressive group of starters.
Jed Jacobsohn
NBAE/Getty Images

One of the most powerful front-court tandems in recent years has been the San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan and the now-retired David Robinson. Despite his many individual accolades, including the 1995 MVP award, Robinson had been criticized for his inability to raise his team to championship heights. The arrival of Duncan provided Robinson with an additional inside force, a player who could block shots on defence and score points on the offensive end. Though Robinson's personal statistics lessened, he realized a lifelong dream when the Spurs won the NBA Championship in 1999 and again in 2003.

Another championship-winning duo is the Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Shaq provides a forceful presence in the key with his assorted power moves, while Kobe reminds fans of the Showtime era with dazzling displays of athleticism in the transition game. O'Neal and Bryant have led the Lakers to consecutive NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

A Look at the Western Conference in 2003-04

The Dallas Mavericks may possess the league's strongest group of starters with new face Antawn Jamison joining All-Star talent Steve Nash, Michael Finley and Dirk Nowitzki.

The Denver Nuggets' new point guards, Earl Boykins and Andre Miller, will concentrate on getting the ball to rookie phenom Carmelo Anthony.

Cliff Robinson and Nick Van Exel bring veteran leadership to a talented Golden State Warriors club, which could make the playoffs in 2003-04.

All-Stars Yao Ming and Steve Francis may form the best centre-point guard combination in the NBA. New coach Jeff Van Gundy hopes to one day lead this Houston Rockets team to the NBA Finals.

The Los Angeles Clippers have re-signed both Elton Brand and Corey Maggette, indicating the team may be set at forward for years to come.

Future Hall-of-Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton have joined the Los Angeles Lakers with the hope of capturing the illustrious NBA title.

Shane Battier provides the Memphis Grizzlies with a defensive stopper on the wing, while Mike Miller provides scoring on the offensive end.

With three new players joining Kevin Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak in the starting lineup, the Minnesota Timberwolves are anxious to advance past the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Phoenix's athleticism and ability to get out and run on the fast break make the Stephon Marbury-led Suns one of the NBA's most enjoyable teams to watch.

The Portland Trail Blazers hope to make the NBA Playoffs for the 22nd straight year. Zach Randolph and Rasheed Wallace provide an enviable duo at power forward.

A healthy Sacramento Kings lineup may have the depth off the bench (NBA Sixth Man of the Year Bobby Jackson) and size up front (including NBA All-Star Brad Miller) to compete for the NBA title in 2003-04.

The San Antonio Spurs hope Radoslav Nesterovic and Malik Rose can provide the rebounding and shot-blocking missing with David Robinson's retirement.

Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis provide three-point threats for the Seattle SuperSonics, one of the league's best-shooting perimeter teams.

The Utah Jazz begins the season with a new point guard and power forward. Andrei Kirilenko and Matt Harpring will be expected to provide the leadership lost with the departures of John Stockton and Karl Malone.