Which players, teams and coaches have the most NBA championships?

If winning is the ultimate measure of NBA success, which players, teams and coaches have captured the most championships in the league's history?
St. Louis Hawks v Boston Celtics
St. Louis Hawks v Boston Celtics / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

The ultimate goal in the NBA is to win championships. Star players throughout the years have been willing to take on lesser roles on clubs that have a chance to win one. Legacies are built on rings for both players and coaches and teams are measured not by regular-season successes but by holding the Larry O'Brien Trophy aloft at the end of the NBA Finals.

Some of the game's greatest players in NBA history never managed to win a title and that fact is one of the first things mentioned when discussing their careers. Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and John Stockton are just three elite-level Hall of Famers with a championship missing on their otherwise immaculate playing resumes.

Don Nelson is the second-winningest coach in NBA history but his legacy is marked by never taking a team to the NBA Finals, much less winning a title. Eight of the 30 active teams in the NBA are still chasing their first title, with the Phoenix Suns having the longest dearth of championship success since their inaugural season in 1968-69.

So which players, teams and coaches are at the top of the scale in terms of winning NBA championships?

There is a reason the NBA Finals MVP trophy is named for Bill Russell

No player in NBA history exemplified winning quite like Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell. In his 13 NBA seasons, Russell was part of a record 11 championships, including a historic run of eight straight from 1959-66. He was honored in 2009 when the NBA Finals MVP award was renamed for him, with the irony being that Russell never won the award, which launched in 1969 (his final season).

The Celtics of the late 1950s and 1960s dominate the list of players with the most rings. Hall of Famer Sam Jones won 10 titles, only missing the franchise's first in 1957. Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Satch Sanders and John Havlicek won eight times, with Jim Loscutoff and Frank Ramsey claiming seven.

The latter pair is tied with the highest-ranked non-Celtic on the list, Robert Horry, who won two titles with the Houston Rockets, three with the Los Angeles Lakers and two with the San Antonio Spurs over the course of his 16 NBA seasons.

There is a reason why the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are fierce rivals

Two franchises have combined to win 44 percent of the championships in NBA history. The Boston Celtics and the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers each own 17 titles, tied for the most all-time. The rivalry is one of the fiercest in the NBA as a result, as the teams have played each other 12 times in the NBA Finals, by far the most frequent matchup in NBA history.

The Lakers won their first five titles over a six-season stretch (1948-54) when they were in Minneapolis and won their first in Los Angeles in 1972. They caught the Celtics on the all-time list with their championship in the NBA bubble in 2020.

With two titles in Philadelphia and five more since moving to the Bay Area in 1962, the Golden State Warriors are next on the list of championships with seven. The Chicago Bulls won six championships in the 1990s and the San Antonio Spurs have won five titles since 1999.

Phil Jackson was the ultimate championship coach

Phil Jackson's coaching success is often dismissed by fans and analysts because he had some of the NBA's biggest legends at his disposal. But Michael Jordan didn't win an NBA title without Jackson on the bench. Neither did Kobe Bryant. Over 20 seasons with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson's teams won 11 titles.

Jackson is the only coach in NBA history with more than 10 seasons on the bench to win titles in more than half the years he coached. His 11 championships came over a 20-year career and Jackson is the all-time winning percentage leader in both regular-season (1,155-485, .704) and postseason (229-104, .688) play.

Red Auerbach led the Boston Celtics to their first nine championships and is second on the all-time list. The trio of John Kundla of the Minneapolis Lakers, Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and Pat Riley (Lakers and Miami Heat) are next closest with five titles apiece.

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