The 2015-16 Golden State Warriors will never play the 1995- 96 Chicago Bulls. Yet, somehow, this has become the NBA’s most-heated rivalry.
As Stephen Curry and Co. chased the once untouchable regular-season record of 73 wins, there was little resistance, aside from a few close battles against the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. Older fans and analysts feel the need to put everything the Warriors do under a red and black microscope. Would Curry be this good in the era of hand-checking? How could anybody on this team have covered Michael Jordan? Golden State can’t be the best team ever, right? Steph would’ve been fine. The Dubs couldn’t have covered MJ.
And, should it win on Wednesday night and add another championship in June, it will be the best team of all time. No squad will have ever accomplished more in a single campaign. And that rubs people the wrong way. “Giving credit where credit is due. Congrats to (head coach Steve Kerr) and his (Warriors) on win No. 72. They earned it tonight,” former Bulls great Scottie Pippen tweeted on Sunday. “(Stephen Curry) showed why he’s the MVP. As cold-blooded (a) shooter as I’ve ever seen and a basketball IQ that is off the charts.” This was a nice change of pace from Pippen’s bolder comments earlier in the month, when asked which team would win a hypothetical series. “Bulls in four,” the Hall of Famer said. The Warriors are cocky on the court, but none of them would ever say this about the ‘95-‘96 Bulls. How could they? It’s an unfair comparison to make, as TNT’s Kenny “The Jet” Smith, a former star guard in the mid-90s, pointed out on Tuesday. “If the Golden State Warriors were in the era of the Chicago Bulls, they would just reconstruct their big guys,” he explained of the team that often runs out 6-foot-7-inch Draymond Green in the middle. “They would have a guy like Rick Mahorn on their team. Then, they’d be able to play that way. But if you put Rick Mahorn in this era, he wouldn’t be able to guard (Green).”
Smith is one of the few former players who gets it. The emergence of the Warriors as a historic team doesn’t discount the era the older guys played in, symbolized by MJ’s Bulls dynasty.
But to be fair, it’s hard to blame them for being irked. Young kids today view Curry as their Jordan. People from age 20- 25 look at LeBron James as their generation’s hero. Before him it was Kobe Bryant. Everyone thinks their superstar, or their historic team, is the best. While the criticism and unfair comparisons will continue to get showered on a team that has a real shot to become the greatest ever, give the cranky old guys a break. Because 20 years from now, when some hotshot team of players who are probably just now learning to walk goes undefeated, or turns basketball on its head, we’ll be telling them get off our lawn, too.
Editor’s note: This column was written prior to the Warriors’ final game of the season in which the team tried to surpass the 1995-96 Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season. Tom Duffy is a journalism major from Woodbridge, N.J. He can be reached at thomas.duffy@student. shu.edu or on Twitter @TJDhoops.