Shaq
Shaq says that the 2001 Lakers were the best team ever (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

A hot topic over the past couple of years (during the Warriors’ reign) has been “which team is the greatest of all time?” Candidates include the modern-day Warriors, ’96 Bulls, ’86 Celtics and yes, the ’01 Lakers. Shaquille O’Neal, one half of the two-headed monster that led that Lakers team, said on Inside the NBA that his team was the greatest ever (h/t 247Sports):

“Derek Fisher and I went 15-1 in the Finals. That’s the best team ever. You heard it here first,” O’Neal said. “Write it down, take a picture, fax it, put it on your DVD. That’s the best championship team ever.”

Shaq presumably meant to say “in the playoffs,” not “in the finals;” the Lakers won 16 of their 17 playoff games in 2001. He also meant to say 16-1, not 15-1; he later corrected himself.

“Greatest team of all time” is a fun debate, but a subjective one. These teams have not, cannot and never will play one another, so we’ll never truly know who was better. They’re all some of the best teams ever, and while I’m partial to the ’86 Celtics, each team has a valid claim to the title of best ever. Shaq can and should say that his team is the greatest; I’m sure Larry Bird and Michael Jordan think that their teams were the best ever.

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