When it came to the ‘95-96 Chicago Bulls of the NBA, the team’s 72-10 regular season record was deemed unbreakable. That is until this year’s Golden State Warriors broke it by going 73-9.
For many NBA fans and analysts alike, that Bulls team from 20 years ago is regarded as the best team in NBA history because along with its then record, the team was also able to win the championship that year. Unlike the Bulls, the Warriors fell one game short of winning a title.
As a result, I believe the ‘96 Bulls are still the best team in NBA history. Although this year’s Warriors team broke the “unbreakable” record of 72 wins in the regular season, at the end of the day, the team did not win the title.
When it comes to sports, winning championships is what creates the legacy for teams and individual players alike, because winning a title is the highest accolade a team can achieve. Since this is the nature of sports, the Warriors will be defined as the typical, “Yeah, but…” kind of team, similar to the New England Patriots of the NFL in 2007 who went undefeated but lost to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
The Warriors also had a legitimate shot to win the title. Before reaching the Finals, the Warriors overcame a 3-1 deficit to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals to win the series 4-3.
In the Finals, the Warriors were up 3-1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers led by LeBron James, and like the Thunder in the previous series, the Warriors blew their lead, and ultimately lost the series and a title a year after winning it.
Despite having a 20-year difference, there are some striking similarities between the two teams, one of them being that the Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, played on that famous Bulls team. Another similarity is the players, especially each team’s star players.
On the Bulls, their star player was without a doubt the most polarizing figure in NBA history and is still regarded as the best to ever play the game of basketball, and that is Michael Jordan. Over his career, Jordan averaged 30.1 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 5.3 assists per game, which got him elected into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Hoping to have a similar career and future is Stephen Curry, the Warriors star player, has become a household name in the NBA. The reigning two-time MVP is known for his exquisite ball handling and being able to knock down a barrage of three pointers, on a consistent basis, a combination never seen before.
Despite having multiple ankle issues in the beginning of his NBA career, Curry has bounced back in a big way this season by averaging 30.1 points per game, 6.7 assists per game, and 5.4 rebounds per game, numbers similar to Jordan. Also, Curry made 402 three pointers, breaking his own NBA record of 290 threes last year.
Like Jordan, Curry has a signature shoe with Under Armour and is one of the highest grossing signature player shoes among current NBA players. Aside from his stellar play, Curry gained a lot of popularity because of his underdog story of only being recruited by one Division 1 school, facing criticism because his father, Dell Curry, was a former NBA player, also because his wife, Ayesha Curry and his children are seen as “relationship goals” in the eyes of many people.
Even though the ‘96 Bulls are still the best team in NBA history in my opinion, I would put the Warriors second. Although they were not able to notch a title, what the Warriors accomplished this year cannot be undermined. Their NBA record of 73 wins in the regular season will stand up for a long time.
What really amazes me about the ‘16 Warriors, is how they are changing the game. By playing an undersized starting five and relying heavily on three point shots. Despite that, they will still go down as arguably the second best team in NBA history, while the ‘96 Bulls still sit atop as the best team in NBA history. Who knows, when and who the next team will be to accomplish this feat.