An age-old question in the modern era of basketball — one that especially cropped up during the NBA’s lockdown period due to the coronavirus pandemic where no games where played — the 1996 Chicago Bulls or 2017 Golden State Warriors? The two sides are perhaps the most talented to ever play in the league, dominating the Championships and demonstrating the longevity that has cemented their players in the Hall of Fame.
The Bulls were thrust back into the spotlight with the release of ‘The Last Dance’ documentary, that showed the side in their prime years to an audience that might not have appreciated how good the side really was. They beat the Seattle SuperSonics, now Oklahoma City Thunder, to win a third Championship in five years under the legendary Phil Jackson and possessed one of the most potent attacks the league has ever seen.
Gold State had a side that was more than capable of competing though, with their 2017 roster the one most brandished as challenging even the best sides in NBA history. They beat a Cleveland Cavaliers side spearheaded by a peak Lebron James, and lived up to their billing as favourites for those betting on NBA. Seeing a series between these two would be a dream come true, and as Golden State approach another Championship against the Boston Celtics, let’s take a look at how their best ever side would compete with Jackson’s Bulls.
When looking man-to-man at the two teams, you do wonder if Golden State’s will be remembered in quite the same vein as some of the Bulls. The likes of Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan are all Hall of Famers and in terms of stats boast numbers that some of the Golden State players can only dream of. The side’s physicality as well as Rodman’s phycological mind games — trash talking, time-wasting, making petty fouls — could prove too much for Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, who would have to make use of home advantage throughout a full series. In a one-off game on San Francisco’s shores, you would back the Warriors to just edge it but in terms of a series the Bulls win the battle of individual quality.
It is testament to the Bulls that their players were able to replicate their success in an era of basketball that was so competitive. Jackson assembled a side that could cope with the demands of a long season but in the modern game, where sports science is at an all time high, Golden State would be in much better physical condition than the Bulls. Steve Kerr’s attack could wreak havoc in a completely different style to that of the Bulls, with Curry and Thompson combining to create ‘The Splash Brothers’; one of the most dynamic duos of the 21st century. Only time will tell how many more Championships they can win together.
A question of three pointers?
In a series with so much quality, fine margins could indeed decide the course of the series. Curry is notorious for his three pointers, and will probably go down as one of the best shooters in the league’s history. But in a high stakes game, you wonder if he could go toe-to-toe with his coach Kerr, who as a player was as consistent from downtown as they come. To this day, Kerr is still holding the record for the league’s all-time 3-point shooting mark at .454, and while Curry has redefined the point guard position, you wonder how he could mix it up when given less space on the court by a side that will look to stifle him even at his most unpredictable.