Bought for Bust: Ranking the Worst Superteams in NBA History

Ranking the Worst Superteams in NBA History image

📖 Published on: May 24th, 2024

✍️ Updated: May 27th, 2024

⏳ 12 mins read


It is no secret that there have been a lot of famous super teams in the history of the NBA, and it cannot be denied that it is a considerable formula of success among many teams in the league. However, there are also some superteams that have failed to come up with a reasonable success after assembling such a team, and this is why not all superteams are guaranteed to win championships at the end of the day.


What is a Superteam in the NBA?


A superteam in the NBA is seen as a squad that has a lot of elite talent. While there is no real distinction between superteams, there is a norm of superteams where at least three All-Stars, or All-NBA-caliber players join forces in an effort to chase one or more NBA championships. This has been defined by the presence of MVP winners, runner-ups, and notable rising stars who would later move on to play for different teams together and win big in the NBA over the years.


Boston built one of the famous superteams back in the day image


Some of the known superteams in the NBA are the tandems of Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and Gail Goodrich – which was formed in 1968 and lasted up until 1973. This was the first superteam formed in the NBA, and the team would go on to win the NBA championship in 1972 and set the best regular-season record at the time at 69-13. Since then, superteams would pop up decade after decade, and some even simultaneously, creating a shift of dominance in the league.


Some of the notable superteams include the 1979-1989 Lakers, which led to five NBA titles – with a big six led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Spencer Haywood, Jamaal Wilkes, and Bob McAdoo. The Boston Celtics had their own version of a superteam that time, which challenged the Lakers’ own superteam and formed the rivalry that many people have loved to watch over the years. The Celtics’ superteam lasted from 1980 to 1993, which saw the five-star squad of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Rober Parish, Nate Archibald, and Dennis Johnson – winning five titles in that span.


The Miami Heat won back to back titles in 2012 and 2013 image


In recent years, we have seen the Miami Heat – formed between LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh – the three of the top five picks in the 2003 NBA Draft. The Heat would go on to win two out of their four straight trips to the NBA Finals. James would later move back to Cleveland and continue his streak of in the NBA Finals, enlisting the help of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in those years. The team, however, was rivaled by the rise of the Golden State Warriors, which revolved around Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Stephen Curry – who arguably reinvented the game. They were later joined by Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, winning three titles in that span, while James ended Cleveland’s sports championship drought in 2016 and battling the Warriors until 2018


The Worst Superteams in NBA History, Ranked


There are a lot of superteams to ever grace the NBA, but not all of them have delivered a promising success that they have envisioned to begin with. This is why one can even conclude that not all superteams are destined for success. These teams usually didn’t work out because they have chemistry issues, or another superteam is dominant at the time, or just the failure of the organization as a whole.


Here are some of the notable superteams that went on to become busts:

  1. Los Angeles Lakers (2012-2013)
    The Lakers nearly had a big five back then image

    Nothing is more colossal than a super team built around Kobe Bryant, right? That’s what everyone thought. Kobe was still in his prime, and the Lakers brought in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard via trade, teaming up a big four of Bryant, Nash, Howard, and Gasol. It was even considered a big five with a promising player in Metta World Peace. Constant injuries and chemistry issues proved to be the toughest problems for the team. Gasol only played 49 games due to a foot injury, while Nash was limited to just 50 games with a leg injury. Perhaps the worst that hit them was Kobe Bryant’s injury – a torn Achilles against the Warriors. The Lakers went on to finish 45-37 and earn the seventh seed, only to be swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Howard signed off with the Houston Rockets after that season, while Nash retired for good.

  2. Houston Rockets (1996-1999)
    This team won ZERO rings image

    In 1996, the Houston Rockets only had Hakeem Olajuwon as its premier star. The team went on to bring in star forward Charles Barkley from the Phoenix Suns, teaming him up with the historic big man along with Scottie Pippen and Clyde Drexler. The wear and tear for Olajuwon and Barkley proved to be too much as the ever-demanding game became more physical, and the team ended up with a 41-41 record in their first season together. This prompted them to make some changes in an effort to win a title, but to no avail as they went on to lose in the first round once more – and the trio were riddled with injuries and retired with no championship wins as a superteam.

  3. Los Angeles Lakers (2003-2004)
    The Lakers were desperate for a title image

    The Lakers are quite notorious for having formed a lot of superteams in the history of the league. The team was in a run with three titles in a row, before failing to defeat the San Antonio Spurs in 2003. At the time, the Lakers had Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant at the helm, but they went on to sign both Gary Payton and Karl Malone in the 2003 offseason. They were definitely poised to win the championship with that kind of roster, but instead of contending, the Lakers faced a lot of internal issues that hampered their chances. Bryant missed games due to a trial, while Malone was having issues with the latter’s wife. O’Neal was also demanding a pay raise, while Payton struggled to fit in the triangle offense by head coach Phil Jackson – even losing to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals.

  4. Brooklyn Nets (2021-2023)
    The Brooklyn Nets were a superteam out of time image

    One of the most recent superteams we have seen so far is the Brooklyn Nets, who have been notorious for assembling one in the 2010s. This time, however, they went on to build a superteam composed of Kevin Durant (signed), James Harden (via trade), and Kyrie Irving (signed). This was expected to be one of the rising superteams in the East, with the likes of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and LaMarcus Aldridge joining the squad. However, injuries to the main trio proved to be too much, not even beating the then-champion Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the semis. Harden was later traded to the 76ers in the 2022 offseason, bringing in a star in Ben Simmons instead. A subsequent sweep in the 2023 Playoffs ended the team’s run, with Irving traded to the Dallas Mavericks, and Durant sent to the Phoenix Suns.

  5. Los Angeles Lakers (2021-2024)
    This Lakers squad was a huge disappointment image

    The Los Angeles Lakers brought in LeBron James and Anthony Davis and a plethora of promising backup players ended their longest playoff drought in franchise history in the 2020 NBA Bubble. LA lost its key players such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Dwight Howard, Jared Dudley, Javale McGee, Rajon Rondo, and Kyle Kuzma to trades and the free agency market. LA brought in Russell Westbrook in return after losing to the Phoenix Suns in the 2021 Playoffs. The Lakers were thought to be a contender for to look out for, before eventually struggling to adjust Westbrook’s play with the team, with head coach Frank Vogel fired after the 2022 campaign and replaced with Darvin Ham. LA reached its boiling point later and traded a lot of their players, bringing in D’Angelo Russell and a variety of key players. However, the Lakers suffered a conference finals exit in 2023 and then a 4-1 exit – both to the Denver Nuggets.


Honorable Mentions


Of course, there are multiple superteams today that haven’t translated into a big success as well. While these superteams are still active and are likely to continue playing through the 2023-24 season as well. Here are some of the current superteams that are yet to unfold and deliver their promise of a title in the game.


Los Angeles Clippers (2021-2024)

The Clippers have fallen apart in quick succession image


Kawhi Leonard won the 2019 NBA Finals with the Toronto Raptors, crushing the Warriors dynasty that time, but he would go on to team up with Paul George – who was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, five first-round picks, and two first-round pick swaps. The first two years saw them make big strides, a trip to the semis and the Western Conference Finals for the first time. However, injuries proved to be crucial in this team’s success over the years. Russell Westbrook was added in 2023, and James Harden followed suit in 2024. Initially, the team didn’t have enough success, but took the whole regular season to become a superteam in their own right. However, a 4-2 loss at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks this year might have just ended this superteam’s run even before it actually began.


Phoenix Suns (2021-2024)

The Phoenix Suns had two superteams in two seasons image


The Phoenix Suns added Chris Paul to lead Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton to the NBA Finals in 2021, losing to the Bucks in six games. In the seasons after that, the Suns suffered a semis exit to the Dallas Mavericks in seven games. They would later add Kevin Durant after the Nets’ superteam crashed down, only to lose to the Denver Nuggets in six in 2023. The team went on to revamp its squad, trading Paul away for Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards, and then Ayton for Jusuf Nurkic with the Portland Trail Blazers. While many have hyped this team to win, chemistry issues, the lack of depth, and a true point guard proved to be crucial as they went on to lose to the Minnesota Timberwolves in four games in this year’s playoffs.


The Future of the NBA With Superteams


Superteams are continuously being proven wrong from time to time. The Milwaukee Bucks already fell in the first round of this year’s playoffs, which just says a lot about how they are going to be changing the dynamic of the game soon. The last superteam standing in the NBA is the Boston Celtics, which is currently gunning for a league title since the 2019-20 season.


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