Only one team has ever won 70 games in an 82-game NBA Regular Season. Only one. That’s it. But there have been 65 NBA champions since the Lakers — then in Minneapolis — won the first NBA Title in 1949-50. Chicago’s 72-win campaign in the 1995-96 season has been embedded with stronger ink in the history books than any of the 65 NBA champions. But while the Bulls’ impressive regular season record in Michael Jordan’s first full year back donning a No. 23 Bulls jersey ended in another championship for Chicago, what if Michael and Co. had been stymied in the Finals by the Sonics? What if they had lost to the Magic again in the playoffs? Wouldn’t they still have the best regular season record in NBA history? Isn’t that distinction more iconic than another ring; especially, as is the case with MJ’s Bulls, if they went on to win two titles in the ensuing two years?
Golden State’s 47-4 start to the regular season prompted this line of thinking. They’re on pace to push past the Bulls in the regular season win column, and most have them heavily favored to repeat as NBA champions. They’re the best team in the league, no question, and they’re playing like it. Stephen Curry is doing things on a basketball court that naturally lead to explosions of hyperbole on Twitter, but in the case if Steph, they really don’t seem like embellishments, even in retrospect (and almost none of your precious in-game thoughts on Twitter ever look prescient or droll, when looking retrospectively). While I’ll always have Michael as the GOAT (this was a parody, ya’ll), Steph’s making even grizzled NBA scribes lob in a few unnecessary adjectives while writing gamers.
With that in mind, I recently asked a group of media people a hypothetical during an event, and the answers varied more than I ever thought.
Here’s what I asked them:
“If the Warriors are 72-9, but Stephen Curry is suffering from a nagging ankle sprain, do you play Curry in the final game?”
There are all sorts of subjective components to this theoretical scenario, but the gist is attempting to answer what, exactly, is more important: a chip, or the NBA record for single-season wins? As previously mentioned, only one team wins a title each year. But one team does win it every year. The same certainly can’t be said about reaching the 70-win plateau, and especially 73 wins, which has never happened.
But when I posed this hypothetical — after answering a number of qualifying questions, which I’ll get to in a second — to assembled media, only one person I prompted said they’d play Steph. The rationale for playing the 2015 MVP is pretty glaring after my lede; the Dubs would have a chance at history, so why not play him?
And that’s when several mitigating factors surrounding the hypothetical come into play. Steph has a history of ankle issues, specifically in his third season, when he only appeared in 26 games. The very threat of Steph somehow exacerbating a janky ankle was enough to scare off most of the people I posed the question to. Plus, the severity of the injury wasn’t something I was prepared to answer with much detail (I’m a basketball writer; any fiction I’ve done has largely sucked).
Here’s the hole in the question: Despite the argument I’ve made for playing Steph, I actually agree with the vast majority of the media members I asked. At the end of the day, teams are competing for a championship. Playing Steph on a weak ankle jeopardizes that goal and negates any history-making that might come as a result. Plus, at the proposed 72-9 record, the Warriors are already assured of history. If it had been 71-10, that’s an entirely different question.
As Ron Harper wrote on some t-shirts he gave to his fellow 1995-96 Bulls teammates after their history-making regular season, “It don’t mean a thing, if you don’t win a ring.”
No one understands that divide more than the Warriors. And no one is better suited to coach a squad who may be on the precipice of making history, than someone who has done it before.
Now Watch: Who Was The Better NBA Team: The ’96 Bulls Or The ’01 Lakers?
Subscribe to UPROXX