Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals not only delivered the franchise’s first championship but also cemented the 2000-02 Los Angels Lakers as the last team to three-peat, which was accomplished June 12, 2002.
Although the Warriors came up short in matching the Lakers, they still reside as the latest dynasty to have taken the NBA by storm. Golden State began their run by defeating LeBron James and a Cleveland Cavaliers team that lost Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to injuries in 2015.
Unlike the Lakers that were led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, the Warriors’ dynasty underwent a bit of an overhaul after losing a 3-1 series lead to James and the Cavs in the 2016 NBA Finals.
That led to the signing of Kevin Durant, who was lost to a torn Achilles in Game 5 of this year’s Finals. Durant had previously missed nine consecutive playoff games due to what was diagnosed as a calf injury. Klay Thompson then torn his ACL in the third quarter of Game 6.
The Lakers endured injuries to Bryant and O’Neal during their three-year reign but avoided any that were catastrophic or potentially career-altering. Though, L.A. began the streak of championships by defeating the Indian Pacers despite Bryant suffering a severely sprained ankle.
The matchup with the Pacers wound up being the biggest test for Bryant and O’Neal once they advanced to the Finals. They ripped through the Western Conference the following year before being upset by Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals.
That was followed by the Lakers winning the next four games, including the final two by double digits to wrap up their championship on the road. Their overtime loss to the Sixers denied the Lakers from becoming the only team in NBA history to go undefeated in the playoffs.
In 2002, the Lakers swept Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets. The Lakers completed their three-peat by defeating the top seed in each conference; they also accomplished as much in 2001.
Prior to that, the 1995 Houston Rockets were the last team to defeat the No. 1 seed in both conferences en route to an NBA title. L.A. and Houston are in elite company includes the 1993 Chicago Bulls, 1977 Portland Trail Blazers and 2019 Raptors. Conferences were created in the 1970-71 season.
Bryant had another look at a second three-peat in his career but he and a Lakers roster that included Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom as key teammates, fell well short as they were swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs.