California NBA Teams (Best Basketball State?)

California is home to more NBA teams than any other state, with four major franchises. Los Angeles has two home teams: the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Unfortunately, for Clippers fans, the Lakers are the more popular and successful franchise, with 17 NBA titles. 

The Golden State Warriors, based in San Francisco, have been the standout team of the past decade. Since 2015, they’ve won 4 NBA championships, with their latest triumph coming in 2022. The fourth and sometimes forgotten team is the Sacramento Kings. The franchise has held nine names and reset in several locations since its founding in 1923. 

While most of the NBA success in California has been enjoyed by the Lakers, locals are blessed with the standard of basketball in the state. Even when Californian teams struggle to contend for championships, fans can enjoy competitive local rivalries. However, there has never been a period where at least one of the California NBA teams hasn’t been in the championship mix. 

Los Angeles Lakers Lebron James Wearing The Famous 23 - California View
Los Angeles Lakers Lebron James Wearing The Famous 23

Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers are tied with the Boston Celtics as the most successful basketball team in the history of the NBA, having won 17 national championships. Aside from the 1960s, when they relocated from Minneapolis to L.A., the Lakers won conference or NBA titles every decade.

Their on-court success and consistently star-studded rosters led them to become one of the most popular sports franchises in the United States. 

Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain Era

The L.A. Lakers won their first NBA title in 1972 during the Wilt Chamberlain era, defeating the New York Kicks 4-1 in the finals. Chamberlain amassed 24 points and collected 29 rebounds in game 5, helping him earn the NBA Finals MVP. 

Magic Johnson Takeover

In 1979, the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson as the first overall pick, marking the dawn of the “Showtime Era” in the 1980s. Throughout the decade, Magic and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Lakers featured in eight NBA finals, collecting five championships.

After Magic Johnson’s HIV diagnosis in 1991, he immediately retired. The Lakers endured a dry spell for the next decade and struggled to contend for titles. 

Bryant… to Shaq!

In 1996, the Lakers made two key acquisitions that would spark a major revival for the franchise. 17-year-old Kobe Bryant and 7’1” center Shaquille O’Neal joined, creating a dynamic duo to build the team around.

When Hall of Famer, Phil Jackson, was appointed head coach in 2000, they won three championships on the bounce (2000, 2001, and 2002). 

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant Celebrates - California View
Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant Celebrates

Kobe Bryant Era

Shaq left the team in 2004, and the Lakers were forced to rebuild. Fortunately, at this point, Bryant had established himself as one of the greatest players of all time, and it didn’t take long for success to find its way back to L.A.

The Lakers won two further championships in 2009 and 2010, again under the tutelage of Phil Jackson, and led on the court by Kobe. 

Rebuilding and Lebron James

Jackson retired from coaching in 2011, leading to another barren spell for the Lakers. In 2018, unrestricted free agent, Lebron James, made a shock move to L.A., reigniting the franchise’s championship ambitions. James, alongside all-star forward Anthony Davis, led the Lakers to their record-tying 17th NBA title in 2020.

Despite being in the twilight of his career, Lebron continues to perform at an extremely high level so Lakers fans can hold out hope of another title before closing his career.

Today, the Lakers play their home games in the Crypto.com Arena, which they share with the Clippers. Formerly known as the Staples Center, this is one of the most iconic venues in the NBA.

Since the passing of Laker legend and five-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant, a section of Figueroa Street outside the arena was motioned to be renamed Kobe Bryant Boulevard. 

Golden State Warriors At The Amway Center In Orlando - California View
Golden State Warriors At The Amway Center In Orlando

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have a long and storied history in the original Basketball Association of America (BAA) and the NBA. The franchise was founded in 1946 in Philadelphia, the same year as the BAA, and won the inaugural championship.

In 1949, the Warriors joined the NBA when the BAA and NBL merged and picked up their first NBA title in 1955/56. 

Young Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain, a 7’1” Philadelphia native, joined the franchise in 1959 and began shattering all kinds of NBA records, including a 100-point scoring game in 1962. The following season, the Warriors were bought out by a San Francisco Bay investment group and relocated to the west coast to become the San Francisco Warriors.

However, they lost Chamberlain to the newly formed Philadelphia 76ers in the 1964/65 season.

Warriors’ First Championship

Over the next decade, the Warriors developed a highly competitive squad, acquiring NBA legends like Rick Barry, Jeff Mullins, and Rudy LaRusso. In 1971, they left San Franciso for Oakland and became known as the Golden State Warriors.

In the 1974/75 season, they won their first title since relocating, besting the favorited Washington Bullets in a four-game sweep. 

Kevin Durant Of Golden State Warriors Attempts To Block The Shot - California View
Kevin Durant Of Golden State Warriors Attempts To Block The Shot

The Wait For the Golden Generation

As a surprise to many, Golden State had to wait four decades to taste glory again. In what proved to be an act of genius, the Warriors appointed five-time NBA champion Steve Kerr as head coach.

Despite it being his first time in this role, Kerr’s impact was felt immediately. The team finished the 2014/15 regular season with 67 wins and 15 losses. 

Although they were challenged in the playoffs, the Warriors never had to go to a game 7. They again defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2 to become NBA champions. The Warriors would face Lebron James’ Cavs in the next three NBA Finals, winning two more championships in 2017 and 2018. 

The core group of Steph Curry (two-time league MVP), Kevin Durant (Finals MVP in 2017 and 2018), Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green helped form one of the greatest teams in NBA history. They broke several NBA records since 2015, and Curry recently set the record for most career 3-pointers of all time.

After Kevin Durant left the team in 2019, the team struggled, with injuries and COVID-19 likely having a significant impact. However, they regained form in 2021/22 and won their fourth NBA finals in seven years, defeating the Boston Celtics 4-2. 

Los Angeles Clippers Basketball - California View
Los Angeles Clippers Basketball

Los Angeles Clippers

The L.A. Clippers have lived in the shadow of the Lakers since they relocated from San Diego in 1984. Although they share the Crypto.com Arena with their L.A. counterparts, that is about the extent of their similarities.

Despite struggling most of their history, the Clippers had somewhat of a championship surge between 2012 and 2017 under head coach Doc Rivers, who previously won an NBA title with the Celtics in 2008. 

The Clippers became more consistent throughout this term and regularly reached the playoffs (six consecutive seasons between 2012 and 2017). However, they typically struggled in the post-season and have made it past the semi-finals just once (2021).

During Doc Rivers’ time at the Clippers, the team became known as “Lob City”, due to the quantity of incredible highlight-reel slam dunks and ally-oops they pulled off in each game. 

As the caption says, Lob City Clippers were different!

Their star players included perennial All-Star point guard Chris Paul, six-time All-Star and Slam Dunk Contest Champion Blake Griffin, and two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team and one-time All-Star DeAndre Jordan. Lob City ended in 2017 after Chris Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets. 

Following this, the Clippers started another rebuild. Behind their talisman and two-time NBA Champion, Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers reached their first NBA Conference Finals in 2021. However, they fell short against the Phoenix Suns.

The Clippers hold an unfortunate record of being the oldest NBA franchise to have never participated in an NBA Finals. 

Darren Collison Of Sacramento Kings - California View
Darren Collison Of Sacramento Kings

Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings is the oldest franchise in the NBA. Since it was founded in 1923 as the Rochester Seagrams, the franchise has undergone many changes, including multiple name changes and relocations. Here’s an overview of the timeline: 

  • Rochester Seagrams (1923 to 1942)
  • Rochester Eber Seagrams (1942 to 1943)
  • Rochester Pros (1943 to 1945)
  • Rochester Royals (1945 to 1957)
  • Cincinnati Royals (1957 to 1972) 
  • Kansas City-Omaha Kings (1972 to 1975)
  • Kansas City Kings (1975 to 1985)
  • Sacramento Kings (1985 to present)

Throughout its history, the franchise has had several superstars on its rosters, including one of the most significant point guards of all time, Oscar Robertson. Robertson became the first player to average a triple-double in the 1961/62 season for the Cincinnati Royals.

At the end of the season, his averages came to an incredible 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game. 

The franchise has won a single NBA title, which came under the Rochester Royals banner in 1951. With three future Hall of Famers, Bob Davies, Bobby Wanzer, and Arnie Risen, the Royals beat the New York Nicks 4-3 in a scintillating 7-game series. 

Since moving to Sacramento in 1985, the Kings have been largely unsuccessful. However, they enjoyed a brief period of success in the early 2000s when they recorded several impressive regular seasons, with dominant forward Chris Webber being the main driving force.

However, the Shaq-Kobe dynasty proved too strong during Sacramento’s best years.

Once Webber moved on, the Kings had several failed rebuilds. Following the 2006 season, Sacramento registered sixteen consecutive losing seasons. This is the most in the history of the NBA. 

NBA Titles Comparison

TeamConference TitlesNBA ChampionshipsNBA Championship Years
L.A. Lakers19171949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2020
Golden State Warriors771947, 1956, 1975, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2022
L.A. ClippersNoneNone– 
Sacramento Kings111951
Championship achievements by California NBA teams

California NBA FAQs

How many NBA teams are in California?

There are currently four NBA teams in California. Two are based in L.A. (Lakers and Clippers), one plays out of San Francisco (Golden State Warriors), and the other is located in Sacramento (Kings).

What NBA Teams are in California?

The Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Golden State Warriors, and the Sacramento Kings are the four California NBA teams.

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