The NBA: Where 72-10 is greater than 73-9

Well, so much for the “Greatest Team of All Time” discussion.

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls were a team on a mission, destroying opponents throughout the year and finishing the regular season with a then-record 72-10 campaign. As impressive as the record was, the consensus of the organization was “72-10 don’t mean a thing without the ring” and the Bulls got it, steamrolling through the Eastern Conference before defeating the Seattle Supersonics  the NBA Finals in six games.

The 2015-16 Golden State Warriors made history throughout, winning the first 24 games of the season and propelled themselves to top the Bulls with a 73-9 record. The team lost just two contests at the Oracle Arena and set records for road regular-season victories (34) and total wins for regular season and playoffs combined (88).

It don’t mean a thing without the ring though.

People talked about how the NBA is rigged (and some cases it may be true). Here’s what I want to know: how does the best regular-season team in history lose 7 of their final 14 games, have to come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder, then blow a 3-1 lead to a Cleveland Cavaliers team who had 52 years of sports futility leading up to the Finals?

On the flip side, a lot of LeBron James slander went out the window Sunday night. He’s a three-time champion and 3-time NBA Finals MVP who stepped up when the Cavs needed it the most. Yes, Kyrie Irving played a big part of the Cleveland resurgence and his 3-pointer with 53 seconds left in Game 7 was the go-ahead bucket. Still, LeBron posted the first Game 7 triple-double in an NBA Finals since James Worthy in 1988. It’s easy to hate greatness (and I’ve never been a LeBron fan), but at some point in time you have to give the man his props. He came home and delivered.

Meanwhile, Oakland is silent right now and hopefully the bandwagon dissipates a bit. People got on LeBron for taking his talents to South Beach, but some have gone bicoastal with the support. I mean, how are you a Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and now a Golden State Warriors fan? All in the past 5 years? Where were you at when Gary Payton had a flat top? Or when P.J. Brown was throwing Charlie Ward into the stands? Or when Latrell Sprewell choked out his coach?

(Waits for some to Google before continuing, especially the Gary Payton part.)

To the true Warriors fans, I know it hurts but look at the bright side: a 40-year title drought was snapped last season. Of course, it provides little solace knowing Golden State is now in the company of the 2007 New England Patriots, 2001 Seattle Mariners and 1996 Detroit Red Wings — regular-season record setters who went ringless — but the team hurt themselves. The passion for winning in the regular season didn’t match the postseason intensity and Golden State is eliminated from any all-time great team debates. Yes, the Warriors lost nine games in the regular season compared to the 95-96 Bulls’ 10. Golden State also lost nine games in the playoffs while Chicago fell only three times. Let that sink in, along with one final point:

We now live in a world where J.R. Smith is an NBA champion.

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