After the Golden State Warriors completed the winningest season in NBA history on Wednesday night, debate over whether the 72-10 Bulls or the 73-9 Warriors was the better team has begun. Please, let’s stop goofing around.
It’s fairly complicated to compare two organizations that played in different eras of basketball. But, if you insist, let’s begin the discussion.
Both teams finished atop the league in scoring:
Chicago, which was led by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman notched 105 points per game, whereas Stephen Curry’s remarkable shooting and a talented supporting cast registered nearly 115. Clearly, Golden State won the point advantage. However, one can argue the amount of defense played and the style of defense played back then versus now is distinctive. In the ‘95-‘96 campaign, the league averaged 99.5 points per contest and was built on one-on-one isolation action. This year, the league standard was 102.7, as double-teaming and switching was an ordinary way to defend the basket.
Also, shooting from beyond the arc wasn’t in style in the past. This year, the league attempted 8.5 three’s per game. Formerly, the league shot 5.9 threes per match in ‘95-‘96. That being said, it’s impossible to compare these two teams based off of who scored more per match. We’re talking two unlike styles of basketball.
The Bulls placed third in points allowed, allowing only 92.9 points per game. Also, Jordan, Pippen and Rodman were named first-team all-defense players. On the other hand, the Warriors allowed 104.1 this season, which placed 19th in the NBA. Draymond Green stands alone as the all-defensive player for The Dubs.
Yes, Chicago has the overwhelming advantage here. But as previously stated, the two styles of defense played were quite different. Moving on…
Golden State wins the draw as they collected 24 straight victories compared to Chicago’s 18. The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to win its first 24 games. During that 24-game stretch- in no particular order- Curry had a 53-point outing against the New Orleans Pelicans, shooting guard Klay Thompson lit up the Indiana Pacers with 39 points and 10 3-pointers and the Dubs cruised to a blowout 50-point win at Oracle Arena versus the Memphis Grizzlies, 119-69.
Throughout Chicago’s 18-game victory march, they crossed paths with Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers, Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets and Patrick Ewing’s New York Knicks- who were a huge rival. Considering all players’ mentioned are in the Hall of Fame, this was a very impressive feat.
Nevertheless, the game was on separate levels during these two streaks. In the 90’s, hard-nosed basketball was the norm and the talent was perhaps higher at that point than it is today.
The Rules Were Drastically Different, Folks:
The basketball of today is vastly unique compared to the basketball of the past.
First, the 3-point line used to be 22 feet from the basket. If the Warriors and Bulls played under these circumstances, the Splash Brothers would have a field day shooting at a shorter distance.
Believe it or not, referees used to swallow their whistles and allow a lot more contact. Games would be a lot more competitive and get pretty aggressive- sometimes, games got out of hand. Today, if referees permitted a more aggressive style of play, the Warriors would largely suffer and most likely not be as dominant.
As well, players who committed rough, hard-hitting fouls weren’t punished as badly as they would be today. Instead, they would be given a common foul. Imagine if Curry went to the basket and Rodman tackled him? The Davidson alum would be pretty banged up. That would be detrimental to the Warriors’ success.
To answer the question… you simply can’t!
Evaluating teams from diverse periods in the same sport is a lost cause. The two franchises played with contrasting rules and the style of play was at another level. So, let’s put this to rest and move on with our lives. This question will remain unanswered.
Here’s one conclusion: both teams will remain a shining example of excellence in the sport. Congratulations to both.