Tomorrow the Golden State Warriors will take on the Memphis Grizzlies in the last game of the Season. For most teams in the NBA the final game of the season is usually a forgettable affair where starters and key players get benched due to the fact that playoff or lottery tickets are all locked up.
As you probably know, the a little more is at stake when the Warriors take on the Memphis Grizzlies. They have a shot at making history and breaking the legendary 1995-96 Bulls record of 72-10 by one game. It’s a big deal but I’m not sure if you younger folks out there understand exactly how big a deal it is.
As a kid who growing up in the 90s I can explain firsthand how he Bulls were that deal. They featured Michael Jordan who, for the kids out there, was like an earlier version of Kobe Bryant, except he was a million times better in every facet of the game, won one more championship and was actually the best player on every single one of those teams. They also featured Scottie Pippen, who was either a poor man’s Lebron or a wealthy man’s Andre Iguodala playing in an era when there were few players who had such a diverse skillset, as well as Tony Kukoc and Dennis Rodman who on offense and defense, respectively amount to one Draymond Green. Hell they even had an Aussie at center. Warriors Coach Steve Kerr was also a key player on The Bulls because of course he was. The parallels are all there.
This group functioned as a well-oil machine, firing on all cylinders destroying any and every opponent that came their way, Jordan, Pippen and the gang rearranged our every expectation of what we thought we would see happen on a basketball court with their brand of positionless basketball that emphasized ball and player movement centered around its dominant scoring superstar and highly competent role players never missing a beat behind him.
The Warriors have a lot in common with the 96 Bulls, with a few differences. Let’s make The Bulls’ role players a little better and the team a little deeper. What if Dennis Rodman was still crazy and could still rebound and defend bigger players against all odds but also knock down threes and handle the ball well enough to be the assist leader in the deadliest offense basketball has ever seen?
What if instead of one Scottie Pippen there were five of them, one was a lights out shooter and scorer with lockdown tendencies, swing guy who was a better three point shooter but also big and strong enough to routinely play power forward at both ends, one was a 6’7” point guard who could competently play in any lineup alongside anyone and absolutely harass opponents on the defensive end, and one just did all-around Scottie Pippen things off the bench? This is how The Warriors compare to the greatest team that ever was. Kinda crazy isn’t it?
People heavy into nostalgia love to say that The Warriors and their superstar Steph Curry are what’s wrong with basketball for some reason. I heartily disagree. I say that they’re a natural evolution of the game, like how George Mikan Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Magic, Bird, Jordan and Lebron all adjusted our expectations of what could be accomplished, or even attempted on a basketball court, Stephen Curry and the Warriors are the latest manifestation of the of the game making progress. As they continue to push basketball’s envelope the game will continue to move forward.
Steve Kerr probably wouldn’t allow Steph Curry the leeway to do the freakish things he does on the court if he didn’t personally witness Jordan, Pippen and Rodman do freakish things on a daily basis when he played for The Bulls. When the game makes its next evolution don’t be surprised if it involved someone inspired by watching The Warriors’ brand of basketball. The game never, ever stops.
Whether The Warriors break the record or not won’t change that, only affirm it.
That’s what this record means.
Unless they don’t win the championship. Then nobody will remember any of this.