Golden State the best ever?
It has long been one of sport's most revered and respected record. Many thought 72 wins in a regular season would never happen again in our lifetime. The Chicago Bulls team that did it in the 1990s had Michael Jordan, and maybe, subconsciously, we all thought that unless a team suddenly found a way to make Jordan young again and stick him in that power forward position, a 72-win repeat would be a pipe dream. We knew the Golden State team was good, but we were not sure they were ever quite this good.
The comparisons with Jordan's team are now inevitable. Not long after the game, Golden State forward Draymond Green said, "I'm part of the greatest team ever." Was Draymond just lipping, caught up in the rapture of the moment, or was he saying what he truly believed? Did he speak too early? The Warriors may not go on to win this year's title. If they fail to repeat, how should we judge them?
Jordan's team managed to win three successive titles twice. How does being the most awesome team in a regular season stack up to a team that won three straight titles? We know that this Golden State has been the most dominant regular season team in NBA history, but can we go as far as saying they are the best ever?
The Jordan Bulls and this Golden State team have one thing in common: Both are being led by men who has transformed the game. Jordan's exploits are part of everyday folklore. An average of more than 30 per game. Six rings. Six trips to the NBA finals. He never allowed a Game Seven. He was man of the finals on all six occasions.
The numbers are impressive enough: but his real trademark was that almost eerie perception of being able to stay in space longer than humanly possible. The image of Air Jordan sticking his tongue out, miles above the rim, seemingly defying gravity on one of his spectacular dunks, may be sports' most popular image. Only PelÈ's bicycle kick and Muhammad Ali's photo, fist cocked, looking, down triumphantly at Sonny Liston, who was flat on his back, come close. Jordan led a revival. Everybody wanted to be like him. In many ways, Steph Curry is doing the same thing now.
Steph Curry, over the last two seasons, has been spectacular. He may not be quite as good as Jordan as a scoring machine, but with 30-plus points per game on average, he has shown that he is not far off. Where Jordan impacted the game like no other was with his energy, his ability to find the basket, and his competitive spirit. Curry (and his team) has revolutionised what we think of the three-point shot. He and his team have indeed made us alter our views of conventional basketball theories.
Dominate the NBA
Jump-shooting teams were thought to be too risky to dominate the NBA, although to be fair, the Warriors are so much more than that. We used to hear that you "live and die by the three-point shot". This Warriors team is showing that they mostly live by them where other teams have died.
Curry scored more than 400 three-pointers over the regular season. That's roughly five per game. Nobody else in the league has even 300. Not even Jordan, in his pomp, was so statistically superior to the field in any one department. Curry scores, on average, approximately 15 points per game by three-point shooting alone. Most NBA players would be happy with 15 points a game - full stop!
Where Jordan was the undisputed king, Curry is already a prince. Only time will tell if he can one day ascend to the throne. After the 1990s, everybody, including major stars like the now-retired Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, wanted to be the next Jordan. It is easy to see that the next generation of kids will want to be the next Steph Curry.
If the Warriors go on to win the title this year, (and I don't see how they will be stopped) as much we are somehow emotionally connected to that Bulls team in the 1990s, we will now have to say, "Hmmm!" If they do like the Jordan team and go three straight, racking up these numbers in the regular season, we may have to put sentiments aside and crown them the new kings of NBA basketball.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to email@example.com.