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Photograph: CC/Flickr/Jason H. Smith

It's time to accept that the Golden State Warriors are better than the '96 Bulls

By Chris Bourg

Outside of the 1985 Bears, the Bulls in the '90s are the most revered team in Chicago sports history, especially the 1995-1996 team that went 72-10 in the regular season and set a record for most wins in a season. Ever since that dynasty broke up following its sixth NBA Championship in 1998, Chicago fans have always bristled at the notion that another player could possibly live up to the legend of Michael Jordan, or that another team would ever be great enough to pose a serious threat to the 1995-1996 squad’s 72-win record.

When a player or team in the league does start to rise to prominence and draw comparisons to Jordan or the '96 Bulls, Chicagoans are quick to dismiss them, spouting off stats from that era or playing the trump card of “six world championships." It's not necessarily a bad thing—those are our teams, and it's only natural to get territorial when we feel threatened by some up-and-comer in the league trying to usurp their legacy.

Enter the Golden State Warriors. On Wednesday night, much to the chagrin of Chicago fans actively rooting against them, the Warriors capped off their incredible season with their 73rd victory of the year, surpassing the record set by the ’95-’96 Bulls. Despite the talk from fans who said they'd never witness a team as great as the record-setting Bulls, or the former players from that team who claim they would sweep the Warriors in a best-of-seven series, Golden State went out and not only beat the 72-win record, but did so by stomping over nearly everyone in the league. Stephen Curry makes damn near every shot he takes from anywhere on the floor, the offense they run is a model of efficiency, and their roster is deep enough that they always have five guys on the floor who can shoot, pass and defend at an above-average level. This is, without a doubt, possibly the greatest team the NBA has ever seen.

Which is why, despite Chicagoans’ natural inclination to think otherwise, it's time to accept that this Golden State team may quite possibly be better than the 1996 Bulls. Golden State has already eclipsed the 72-win mark in the regular season and is likely to run roughshod over any team they play in the postseason. The Warriors play an exciting brand of basketball that suits the strengths of everyone on the roster. Every night Curry does something that astounds everyone watching. Yes, it would've been nice if the Bulls could have held the 72-win record for the rest of time, but you shouldn’t let that prevent you from enjoying the Warriors dominating the league in a similar fashion this year. It’s simply not worth the energy being bitter over a team that kicks so much ass and has fun doing it.

Nobody will ever know for sure what the outcome would be if the 1996 Bulls played this year’s Warriors in a best-of-seven series. It's impossible to judge—the two teams play brands of ball that are so much different from each other because of the eras. It’s a fun debate to have, though, and Bulls fans shouldn’t immediately dismiss a case made in favor of the Warriors. Just remember there’s still that trump card no one has yet to match: six world championships.

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