Lost during the final day of the regular season, due to the final game in the phenomenal career of the Black Mamba, was the record breaking season finale of the Golden State Warriors, who broke a 20-season record for wins in a regular season, held by Michael Jordan and the Bulls. The Warriors dominated the Memphis Grizzlies en route to their 73rd win of the year, making them the only team in NBA history to go an entire regular season with single-digit losses, suffering only nine defeats throughout the season.
Despite this seemingly impossible run of dominance, the Warriors have their fair share of critics, as the comparison to the 95-96’ Bulls team has many people overlooking the utterly eye-popping season the Warriors have just enjoyed. Many records were broken during this season for the Warriors, whether it be the record 28 game win streak to start the season, Draymond Green’s dynamic and unstoppable statistical year, or Steph Curry’s record (breaking his own) 402 three-pointers. This will certainly go down as one of the best all around teams ever, along with Magic’s Lakers, Bird’s Celtics, Kobe’s Lakers and MJ’s Bulls.
As sports writers and fans alike, these comparisons will always be made for fun, as the thought of two historically dominant teams from different eras is intriguing, but it now begs the question: who would win in a best of seven series between the 95-96’ Bulls and the 15-16’ Warriors? While this article does not answer that question directly, it delves into which team was better overall and, record aside, which had the better record breaking season? So here are 12 reasons why the Chicago Bulls led by MJ were a better overall team than the current Golden State Warriors.
12 Hard Losses Taught Them how to Win Tougher Games as a Franchise
In the early '90s, the MJ led Bulls could not get over the final hump, losing back to back Eastern Conference Finals to the ‘Bad Boy’ Detroit Pistons. Although many core players were not with the Bulls at this time, the attitude they developed, which was necessary to beat the Pistons, engulfed the franchise throughout MJ’s time there and this was key to the overall success of the franchise, culminating in their second three-peat. This attitude, exemplified by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, was one of the most vital parts of the then record breaking run, as these men viewed success as the only option for the team.
11 The Ability to Adapt to Different Styles of Play
Many casual fans view the M.O. of this team to be the fast break exploits of Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan whose chemistry as a duo was unmatched, but this was not the only way the Bulls achieved success. With Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley, Bill Wennington inside, and defensive studs MJ and Scottie on the outside, the team could excel against different opponents with many styles of play, whereas the Warriors rely too heavily on Curry and Thompson and playing the fast pace, three point shooting game. Though both teams found success, the Bulls ability as a team remains a timeless winner.
10 Proven Championship Pedigree
While the 2015/16 Warriors' 73-9 record is an incredibly impressive feat, it came after one explosive and shocking season where they won their first NBA championship as a team. Contrast this to the Chicago Bulls of 1995-96, who by the time of their record breaking run had three Championships as a franchise and a team chemistry which is still unmatched to this day. Now maybe the Warriors will win three titles in a row, but as of this writing, this extensive championship pedigree lends itself to the credibility of the Bulls and, proves as a whole unit, they are unmatched by the Warriors.
9 The Bulls Had a Much Deeper Bench
While this is far from a criticism of the Golden State Warriors, as they boast a bench featuring Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Anderson Varejao, the Chicago Bulls bench featured supremely talented role players, who understood their role and played them unselfishly for the good of the overall team goal. Bill Wennington, Toni Kukoc and Steve Kerr were among the names who were all vital parts of this team from the bench, all stepping up in clutch time during the playoffs, while keeping their egos in check for the benefit of the team.
8 Overall Better Defensively
While Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan both dominated on the offensive side of the ball, it was their length and defensive excellence which started many of the highlight reel fast break plays that they became known for at the time. As a unit, anchored by big men like Aussie Luc Longley, Dennis Rodman and Bill Wennington, with an above average defender at each position, the Bulls were able to stay in any game, regardless of a potential off day at the offensive end. This was due to the effort and overall team defense philosophy put in place by Phil Jackson.
7 More clutch finishers
Now we know that Steph Curry, over the course of this season, has shown an excellent ability to finish with the game on the line, whether it be from half court or everyone else’s regular three point line, but at both ends of the court, no one in history is better than Michael Jordan when the game is on the line. Not only did he control the tempo of the game to the way he wanted it, he has left the fans with some of the greatest buzzer beating moments in the history of the NBA. Outside of Jordan, the Bulls team was littered with guys who were known to step up and make big shots when it counted, such as Pippen, Kerr, Kukoc or Paxson.
6 Greater Ability to Come From Behind and Win Games
Again, this is less of a criticism of the Warriors than it is about the Bulls, as MJ famously once said in the locker room when losing by 20 “we got them right where we want them.” This exemplified the mindset of the Bulls, as they showed supreme confidence on and off the court, no matter the situation in the game. Jordan was the best at leading scoring outbursts that were unimaginably brilliant and, for this, the confidence of his supporting cast was always high whenever they found themselves trailing late in a game and they usually came back to win.
5 Played and Won in a Time with More Physical Defenses
Through no fault of their own, one of the criticisms of the Warriors has been the lack of physical defense played against them in the past few years, specifically citing this as a reason Steph Curry has been so dominant (it’s not the fact that, you know, he’s one of the greatest shooters in history). This was no problem for the 95-96 Bulls though, as they routinely had to face tough, physical defense from teams such as the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks. The former, inventing ‘the Jordan rules’ where MJ would be hit hard every time he came into the lane. However, they still overcame this as a team.
4 NBA Was Much Deeper in the Late 90s
Though records may show otherwise, the competition was much better and a lot deeper in the late 90s, with the Bulls having to go through guys like Malone, Stockton, Payton, Olajuwon and Robinson to win championships. Today, the Western Conference is top heavy and not nearly half as deep as the old Eastern Conference that the Bulls competed in. This tough schedule is why the Bulls record of 72-10 is astounding to many long time basketball fans and analysts. To somehow survive that brutal schedule shows why that Bulls season is more impressive than the Warriors' current season, despite what the record books will indicate.
3 Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman was a huge factor in the second three-peat of the Bulls franchise and many view him as the greatest rebounder of all time, with the ability to consistently grab 15-20 rebounds a game, which is unmatched in the modern game. For one player to have the ability to affect the game so much on the defensive glass was huge, but it also allowed the offensive players on the team to focus primarily on defending their man and not worry about rebounding. Rodman was as dominant a rebounder as there has ever been.
2 Phil Jackson
By now, it is pretty clear that this team is the greatest of all time, as they had the greatest rebounder ever, (spoiler alert) they had the greatest player ever and the best coach to ever grace the bench. The Zen Master, Phil Jackson, was the key ingredient to overcoming the Pistons in the early 90s and his triangle offense and brilliant basketball mind kept his team working hard every night to be the best. After then leading the Lakers to five titles, it is clear that Jackson is by far the greatest to ever coach and his influence on this Bulls team can never be matched.
1 Michael Jordan
What other reason was it going to be, honestly? Not much more really needs to be said that hasn’t already been said about Air Jordan and how much he influenced this team, with his play on the court, leadership and intensity. While Steph Curry is playing consistently at an MVP level, no one will ever match the sheer will and desire to win that Jordan possessed. While the supporting cast was fantastic, Jordan is the man who elevated this team to where they are and is the single most important factor in this team being considered the greatest of all time.