Coming into their last game, the Golden State Warriors had a chance to do something no team had ever done: win 73 regular season NBA games. Despite the amazing record they were poised to set, I couldn’t make myself watch it.
I grew up in Chicagoland in the early 90s and was alive for the six Bulls championships. As a result, the ’96 Bulls, who went 72-10, were a mythical gold standard that I refused to believe could be toppled. I couldn’t bear to see that record shattered.
Ever since I started watching basketball, I would hold my breath, always nervous that some team would be able to break that Bulls record. Once every team in the league had 11 losses, I could relax. No matter how the Bulls were doing that year, the record was safe. Only rarely was there a team that I was concerned could have a chance at such a feat.
I could hate some of them, especially Miami teams of recent memory or the Detroit Pistons of the mid-2000s. This was not the case with the Warriors. They are led by Stephen Curry, a player who shoots three-pointers both with unbelievable frequency and accuracy. They play a style I like, depending on skill rather than size or power. I also never saw the arrogance in them I perceived in other teams or cities. I could never make myself hate them.
As the season progressed, so did my nervousness about the record. The Warriors began the season with a 24-game winning streak, the longest in professional sports in more than 100 years. The team never lost two games in a row. Still, game after game, I would think that this cannot possibly continue. Nobody can touch the record, or can they?
Well, Golden State just won an unthinkable 73 games. The defensive Chicagoan in me wants to say that the record is meaningless (much as it was for the 16-0 Patriots) unless they manage to win a championship, just like the ’96 Bulls. Some would even say that my beloved ‘96 Bulls would beat these Warriors handily. And there I have to stop myself. This 73 is a number worth celebrating. It is a number that may never come again.
A few weeks ago, I accepted the fact that they were probably going to break the record. I had prayed that they would manage to lose more games. My prayers were unanswered. But strangely, it didn’t hurt. I had learned to see something else.
I began to realize that the Warriors’ 73 wins take nothing away from the accomplishments of the ‘96 Bulls. The game has changed tremendously. What was a more physical grind in the ‘90s has transitioned into a game that favors more three-point shots. The modern game is more aesthetically pleasing – especially since it allows players a little closer to my height to excel. Rather than arguing about which team was better, we can celebrate the best of the different eras and appreciate the more beautiful modern game.
Regardless of whether another team ever manages to break this 73-9 record and no matter what Golden State does in the playoffs, I applaud them. They may have broken the record of my childhood heroes, but even this Bulls fan can only watch in wonder at what these Warriors have done.