Monday, June 20, 2016

Yes, the 95-96 Bulls Are Still the Greatest NBA Team Ever

            What was shaping up to be a magical season for the Golden State Warriors ended in utter failure yesterday. Toppling the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' regular season as the best ever, the 2015-2016 Warriors were just a game away from mere immortality. Then a groin shot courtesy of Draymond Green happened.
            You can assess the blame to Green for the low blow on LeBron James, but at least Green performed well in Game 7. However, the same can't be said for the Splash Brothers. Hell, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were nowhere to be seen for most of the series. Mostly reckless play also contributed to the Warriors' problems not just in the NBA Finals, but in the entire playoffs.
            The end result was a history-making performance. Not a good kind of history, mind you. The Warriors became the first NBA team ever to blow a 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals. What looked to have so much potential for the Warriors, especially after starting the season 24-0, went out with a whimper. The comparisons to the 95-96 Bulls go along with the disappointing ending.
            Just because a team has the best regular season in history doesn't mean that they're automatically the champions. That's what the playoffs are for. Scottie Pippen, a member of the 95-96 Bulls, sums it up best.
            "No matter how well you do in the regular season, it has to be capped off with a championship, to really mark your legacy on the game. That's where we see Golden State had some failure there. They lost their dominance throughout the playoffs."
            Pippen is right. As dominate as Golden State was during the regular season, they weren't better than the Bulls overall. The 95-96 Bulls had an overall winning percentage (playoffs included) of .870. The Warriors? They had a winning percentage of .830.
            You can even make the case that the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers were better than the Warriors. Golden State 2015-2016 postseason run pales in comparison to the 2000-01 Lakers, who went an unprecedented 15-1 in the playoffs, with the only loss coming to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers even swept Tim Duncan (who had David Robinson as a teammate) and the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Final that year.
            If you want more proof that a postseason title needs to follow the 'best regular season ever', look no further than these examples. Finishing the season with a record of 116-46 (tying the 1906 Cubs for most wins in a regular season), the 2001 Seattle Mariners didn't even put up a fight in the ALCS, losing to the New York Yankees 4-1. The 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings won 62 games in the regular season before losing 4-2 in the Western Conference Final to the eventual Stanley Cup champ Colorado Avalanche. The New England Patriots went undefeated in the 2007 regular season, but lost a nail-biter to the New York Giants 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.
            The point is that people won't remember teams with the best regular season ever if they can't finish the job. People just associate the Patriots with sheer dominance in the new millennium, while people look at the Red Wings as being one of the most consistent teams in all of sports. As for the Mariners? Only baseball purists and Seattleites will remember the 2001 season since this was the last time the Mariners made the postseason. Golden State can carve a path similar to the Patriots and the Red Wings. Drafting and signing the right role players along with locking up the right stars will be key for the Warriors in sustaining their success.
            But being compared to the 95-96 Bulls? Don't even think about it.

Photo courtesy of TotalProSports


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