Ranking all 10 NBA champions of the 2020s

Which NBA stars has ruled the decade?
Which NBA stars has ruled the decade? | Getty Images/FanSided Illustration
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It’s time to look back on the last decade by ranking all 10 NBA champions of the 2020s.

The 2020s have been behind us for a few months now, but following the Dallas Mavericks' third straight coronation ceremony as NBA champions in the 2030 Finals, it'd be a missed opportunity to not take a look back on the last decade of professional basketball.

While Luka Doncic's reign over the league’s other 31 teams has mostly been absolute, there have been quite a few fun and unexpected title teams to rise up and seize the Larry O'Brien Trophy for their own.

The question is, how do the championship teams of the last decade compare to each other?

To make it more fun, and because the 2030 NBA champs obviously didn't win their ring in the 2020s, we'll be leaving this latest Dallas squad out of the mix. From the LA super-teams to the Mavericks to everyone else squeezed in between, here are our rankings for all 10 NBA champions of the last decade.

10. 2024-25 Los Angeles Lakers

It's not often a team trades a superstar and NBA champion of Anthony Davis' caliber and winds up winning a title in the same season anyway, but that's exactly what Player/GM LeBron James pulled off. Shipping away the Brow in the offseason, as his body began to break down, was a bold and cold-blooded move, but it netted the Lakers the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft, and in the process, united James with his son Bronny.

Rookies don't often help lead teams to titles, but the James father-son duo was just good enough to power LA to an unexpected ring in a down year for the rest of the league. The story of a 21-year-old No. 1 pick winning a championship with his 41-year-old father is literally unprecedented, and though LeBron didn't retire until a few seasons later, this final title run made for the perfect storybook ending to his unforgettable career.

Here's the thing though: As magnificent as the story is, these Lakers benefitted from an easier road to the Finals. Bradley Beal's body finally broke down on Dallas during the conference finals, while the Celtics, Suns, Heat and Hawks were all banged up for their playoff runs. It was great to see James Harden win his first ring at the ripe age of 36, but it was clear this contender was running on fumes with only just enough in the tank to be the last team standing.

9. 2027-28 Dallas Mavericks

The first title of the Mavs' eventual three-peat was the weakest of the bunch, but after three straight defeats in the Western Conference Finals, it was vindication for Doncic and the revamped Dallas roster to return to winning rings.

Beal's slippage in production and health had been an issue for years, but it finally became too much for the Mavs to overcome in 2025 and 2026. When Porzingis' ailing limbs joined the party the following year, Doncic had to wait to get back to basketball's biggest stage.

But thanks to nifty drafting late in the first round, savvy trades for established vets and a 38-year-old James Harden signing a one-year deal to reinvigorate the bench as the designated sixth man, the Mavs were a fairly complete team again by 2028. The only reason this Mavs team isn't ranked higher is the emerging New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies powerhouses out West weren't quite ready to seriously challenge them just yet. Still, getting vengeance on the last two NBA champions in Phoenix and Boston had to feel good in the Mavs' climb back to the top of the mountain.

8. 2021-22 Miami Heat

Jimmy Butler and the Heat came close to one of the great underdog championship runs in league history back in 2020, only to fall short in the end. Just two years later, thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo's frustration with Mike Budenholzer and subsequent decision to leave the Milwaukee Bucks for South Beach, Miami was able to finally seal the deal.

Butler had already boosted his national reputation with that unexpected Finals run in the Orlando bubble, but this title did wonders for Giannis' legacy. After coming up disappointingly short in the first two seasons where he won MVP, the Greek Freak finally got to the NBA Finals and was truly unstoppable on basketball's biggest stage -- a clear indicator Bud and Eric Bledsoe had been the biggest problems in Milwaukee, not Giannis.

With a complementary supporting cast of shooters and playmakers around him, the Heat thrived. Between Antetokounmpo, Butler and Bam Adebayo, they boasted one of the best defensive frontcourts of all time. Giannis exorcised some 2019 and 2021 demons by dismantling Kawhi Leonard head-to-head in that championship series against the Clippers, while the Heat were vindicated for their controversial decision earlier to bring back Goran Dragic in the 2020 offseason. Though this would be Miami's only championship of the decade, and one that convinced an aging Butler to re-sign in a move that ultimately limited the Heat from recapturing the Larry O'Brien Trophy, Giannis' breakthrough moment cemented his standing as an all-time great.

7. 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers

The Bubble Lakers technically started off the 2020s, and what a title ride it was. While LeBron and AD's first year together yielded an "immediate" title, it's hard to properly gauge how good this team really was when there was a four-and-a-half-month hiatus during the regular sesaon's home stretch.

On the one hand, this was a uniquely difficult championship to win. Between the coronavirus pandemic, the Orlando bubble environment that separated players from their families for weeks, the social justice issues that seized the nation's attention and the players having to focus on basketball after four months off, the Lakers' mental toughness and ability to overcome adversity cannot be undersold.

On the other hand, if any superstar were to manage all of those insane conditions and keep his team locked in, doesn't it make sense it was LeBron James? We also can't ignore how the Lakers weren't even remotely challenged in the postseason. The Portland Trail Blazers were banged up and had a miserable defense; the Houston Rockets were the most combustible team in the playoff field; the Denver Nuggets were legitimately good but were also missing key rotation players got too used to being comeback kings; and the 5-seeded Miami Heat were both injury-stricken and just happy to be there as underdogs. This championship run was unlike anything in NBA history given the circumstances, and they can't help that the Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks got knocked out early, but we never saw the 2020 Lakers actually tested.

6. 2023-24 Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks' 2024 playoff run, A.K.A. the run that broke the super-team Lakers, was truly impressive. Not only did Luka prevent Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown from winning their first title together in the Finals, but his magnificent series against the Lakers was enough to stun a team with LeBron, AD and Harden in the conference finals for the second straight year.

To be fair, Bradley Beal's two-way play was instrumental in that series, as was Kristaps Porzingis going nuclear in his matchup with a less-than-100-percent Unibrow, but beating that Lakers squad -- especially with Harden actually having a good series! -- was a monumental accomplishment for the defending champs, and by that point, Dallas was destined to win it all once again.

The Lakers wound up trading Davis for the No. 1 pick that offseason and would go on to win it all the following season, but let's not forget that during this playoff run, the Mavs knocked out the Suns in their first playoff run with Karl-Anthony Towns, dismantled this Lakers super-team and then delayed Tatum's first championship another few years.

5. 2026-27 Phoenix Suns

Remember when people used to say Devin Booker wasn't a winning player? That he was just an empty-calories scorer? It took a trade for Karl-Anthony Towns to get him over the hump, but after three years of paying their dues, the Suns finally broke through and won their first championship in franchise history.

D'Angelo Russell's nagging injuries and the Minnesota Timberwolves' complete lack of defense frustrated KAT for years, and heading into his last season under contract, it was clear to everyone he'd be leaving in 2024 free agency. The Wolves had to settle for whatever package they could get for his services, which is what allowed Phoenix to snag him for only Deandre Ayton, salary filler and a distant first-rounder. The Suns knew he'd want to re-sign with a rising playoff contender and play with his buddy Booker, and by holding onto defensive ace Mikal Bridges and sniper Cam Johnson, Monty Williams' squad was finally ready to compete for championships.

It took them awhile to get past the dreaded Mavs out West, and even after Beal and Porzingis began showing signs of their age, the Suns still had to overcome a loaded Celtics squad. But getting revenge on Boston in the 2027 NBA Finals after coming up short the year before had to feel good, not only for a title-starved city like Phoenix, but for Booker, the Finals MVP who finally proved a team could win it all with him as its best player.

4. 2025-26 Boston Celtics

The Suns got the last laugh in 2027, but the year before, it was the Celtics knocking off Phoenix in the championship round. Boston has been on the short end of quite a few jokes over the last decade thanks to the Mavs and Heat, but Jayson Tatum's first title couldn't have been sweeter after the incredible scoring clinic he put on throughout the postseason.

Averaging 35 points per game during the 2026 playoffs, Tatum was already unstoppable in his own right. Throw in Joel Embiid's elite two-way play and Jaylen Brown's 25 points a night and this Celtics team finally got the championship run fans had been waiting for, especially when expectations heightened after Boston stole Embiid from Houston in free agency three years prior. The Celtics had come up short in the Finals multiple times, so it was similarly incredible to see Brad Stevens outlast all the speculation over his job security and finally bring a title to Beantown.

Sure, they didn't have to face the Mavs in the championship round this time, and the Celtics would grow to hate the Finals by the time the 2020s were over, but by besting a stacked Suns squad, Tatum, Brown and Embiid finally got sweet vindication that they were, in fact, a championship-caliber core.

3. 2020-21 LA Clippers

No one was ever going to forget when the Clippers went full Clippers in 2020 and choking away a 3-1 lead during their second-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets. Not only was it former head coach Doc Rivers' third time losing such a lead, but it prevented the Clips from reaching their first conference finals in franchise history.

Under a new head coach in Tyronn Lue, LA righted the ship the following year, and they didn't stop at the conference finals, going all the way to the Finals, winning their first ever title and beating the Bucks in a series that ultimately sent Giannis Antetokounmpo running to Miami in free agency.

In a fully healthy season this time, the Clippers made good on the brilliance they showed when their roster was fully available the year before. Kawhi Leonard went back to being the Terminator, Paul George actually showed up in the playoffs and thanks to Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams and one of the deepest teams in the association, LA sailed smoothly through the postseason with dominant showing after dominant showing.

Sporting a top-3 offense and defense, the best record in the NBA and a thoroughly convincing 16-2 playoff record, the Clippers reigned supreme all season long. Knocking off the rising Nuggets, reigning champion Lakers and Eastern-leading Bucks with only two losses in the entire postseason reminded people even the Clipper curse couldn't hold Kawhi Leonard down for too long.

2. 2022-23 Dallas Mavericks

The 2024 Western Conference Finals are what ultimately broke up the Lakers' union between the King, the Brow and the Beard, but the cracks really began to form in the 2023 conference finals -- the first and most stunning of the two times Luka's Mavs beat this LA super-team.

Remember, LeBron was still only 38 (which sounds old, but in Bron Years that's still only like 34). AD was very much in his prime at age 30. Harden, the new arrival in LA, was still 34. Dallas knocking off this team, even in seven games, was a true coming-of-age moment for not only Doncic, but Porzingis and the new arrival Beal as well.

The Mavs were expected to become contenders once they landed Beal in the offseason, but winning it all in their first season together, beating that LA super-team in the conference finals and then besting Giannis' Heat in the championship series? That was a truly remarkable streak, even for a team that posted the league's third-best record that season.

With Beal's sharpshooting and secondary playmaking, Porzingis truly evolving into the unicorn he was always meant to be and a 24-year-old Doncic embracing his identity as the NBA's new alpha, that Mavericks squad could go toe-to-toe with any champion on this list.

1. 2028-29 Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic's fourth of his five title runs is the most impressive championship of the decade, and it might be one of the hardest paths to a championship in NBA history. Getting through rising Western powerhouses like the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies, not to mention an established one like the Phoenix Suns in the conference finals, was no trivial matter.

While the fond memories Beal and Porzingis were well behind the Mavs at this point, their revamped roster boasted plenty of young, established talent and more than enough veteran experience -- typically what happens when you make savvy trades and draft diamonds in the rough despite selecting from the edge of the first round. Bringing back a 39-year-old James Harden on another one-year deal was risky, but it ensured the bench still had some scoring and playmaking punch. The addition of Damian Lillard on a one-year title-or-bust pact gave the Mavs additional spot-up shooting and finally got Dame a much-deserved ring on his 39th birthday.

Beating Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Zion Williamson, Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns in a single playoff run is an accomplishment as it is, but that was just to get through the West. True enough, Boston's regression is what helped get a flawed Atlanta Hawks roster reach the Finals. But Trae Young's squad made for a fun matchup between top picks from the 2018 NBA Draft class who were eternally linked by that fateful draft-day trade. Even if the defensive concerns that have persisted throughout Young's career came to light on basketball's biggest stage, that shouldn't undersell how dominant the 70-win Mavs were that season. They boasted the league's best record, point differential and a historically high-powered offense (even for them).

The 2028-29 Mavericks represent Luka Doncic at the peak of his powers, which is why it's no wonder he unanimously won MVP, led the Mavs on a 16-2 playoff run and swept the Hawks in the Finals to repeat as NBA champs before ultimately three-peating in 2030.

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