The Super Seasons
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Arguably, the greatest era of basketball was the late '90s when the game was great, win-loss records were being smashed and TV ratings were going through the record-breaking roof.
Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls deserve most of the credit for that, taking their second three-peat in the 1996, 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals, giving them six NBA championships in the decade.
But the high level of competition also contributed to those super seasons, with three different teams winning 60-plus games in 1995-96, three squads winning 60-plus games in 1996-97 and a history-making four teams winning 60-plus games in 1997-98.
To show you how rare that was, consider this: only five other seasons in NBA history had three teams play .731 winning-percentage ball, which is the equivalent of a 60-win season.
That's how Wow that was.
The reason I bring this up is that we may be experiencing another Super Season in 2012-13.
And by my definition, a Super Season is when three teams win 60-plus games in the same campaign … Or another definition--which covers lockout-shortened years and seasons from long ago when 82 games weren't played--a Super Season is when a team wins more than 73.1 percent of its total games.
The San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls both met that criteria the past two years, posting the NBA's best records in both seasons.
The Spurs stand a good shot at meeting that mark again, returning 14 players from last year's .758 squad (equivalent to a 62-win season in a normal year), while the Bulls may be hard-pressed to match that same number, with its star Derrick Rose likely out for most of the 2012-13 season.
Still, the 2012 Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder (.712) and 2012 NBA champion Miami Heat (.697) are prime candidates to reach that 60-win next level since they are so close now and add another year's chemistry to the mix.
And you have to think the Los Angeles Lakers may win 60, after adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to a lineup that already featured Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
If just three of those aforementioned teams hit the 60-win mark, the NBA will have its ninth such Super Season in league history.
The NBA Super Seasons
2008-09: This Super Season was great because it embraced old and new. You had Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers (65-17) determined to win the 2009 NBA Finals after being knocked out by the Boston Celtics the previous year. You had LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16) rising to its most dominant year. And of course, you had the Celtics (62-20) going for a repeat, which got sidelined when Kevin Garnett went down before the playoffs with a season-ending injury. That opened up the door for a 59-23 Orlando Magic team--led by Howard--to sneak into the 2009 NBA Finals, only to lose to Kobe's Lakers.
2005-06: The 52-30 Miami Heat stole this Super Season from the Eastern Conference finalist Detroit Pistons (64-18), NBA Finalist Dallas Mavericks (60-22) and defending NBA champs San Antonio Spurs (63-19). Part of the reason the Heat's playoff showing was much better than its regular-season record was because its All-Star center Shaquille O'Neal missed 23 games that season.
1995-96, 1996-97 and 1997-98: This was the Super Era and nobody was beating the NBA's Super Team, the Chicago Bulls. But it was like one of those old UFC multiple-challenger events of the '90s where Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Company took on all comers like they were Royce Gracie. You had Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and the Sonics in 1995-96 (64-18) and 1997-98 (61-21). You had Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway and the Magic in 1995-96 (60-22). Then you had Shaq, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in 1997-98 (61-21). And the ultimate opponent was Karl Malone, John Stockton and the Jazz in 1996-97 (64-18) and 1997-98 (62-20). Incredible era of Super Teams. The most super of all seasons had to be 1997-98, where the Bulls, Jazz, Sonics and Lakers all won 60-plus games. That's never been done before or since.
1980-81: This Super Season was the early stages of another great era, although the 54-28 Lakers were not a part of this trio of 60-winners because Magic Johnson missed 45 regular-season games. And Larry Bird's Boston Celtics (62-20) owned the 1981 NBA Playoffs, beating Dr. J's Philadelphia 76ers (62-20) in the Eastern Conference Finals after Philly beat Marques Johnson's Milwaukee Bucks (60-22) in the semifinals.
1972-73: The 57-25 New York Knicks shook up the party in this Super Season, knocking off John Havlicek, Dave Cowens and the Celtics (68-14) in the Eastern Conference Finals and Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and the Lakers (60-22) in the 1973 NBA Finals. The Milwaukee Bucks (60-22), led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, got upset in the first round.
1949-50: Back when George Mikan ruled the Earth, he led the Minneapolis Lakers (51-17) to their second of five championships, beating the Dolph Schayes-led Syracuse Nationals (51-13) in the 1950 NBA Finals. The Rochester Royals (51-17) got upset in the first round.