Perspective is important. Generational perspective in terms of the greats is apparent. Previous generations are often outgrown as the current one evolves and as they refuse to do so. Just as thoughts and ideals evolve, so do sports. The game of basketball has grown inside out. The days of low post dominance have evolved into 30 footers and pick and roll basketball. The game’s attempt to draw a larger international audience has changed the way the game is played. Positionless basketball now has an imprint on the game. Where in the 90s you needed a dominant big man, you now need a guard who can control the tempo. Phil Jackson’s attempt to revamp the triangle in New York is just one example. The league has caught up to conventional styles of basketball philosophy and as the game adapts, so do the players. 20 years prior, Kevin Durant would have been told to bulk up for a lifetime of banging in the post. In 2017, he is a 7'2" guard.
The Golden State Warriors locked up their second title in three years after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals. First the obvious, Golden State has established themselves as the team to beat after adding Kevin Durant. Their quest towards a dynasty looks to be inevitable and their trajectory, given they stay together, looks to send them to the NBA stratosphere. Their composition and consistency are sure to cement them as one of the league’s greatest teams. Both versions of this Warriors team, before KD and after KD, won titles and both teams dominated on their way to doing so. Much like the Golden State Warriors, the Chicago Bulls of the 90s were dominant from the perimeter, which made them unique. Flaunting arguably the greatest player of all-time as well as the greatest on ball defender of all time, the tandem terrorized the NBA for nearly a decade on their way to six titles. On the opposite end, Golden State has arguably the greatest offensive backcourt in the history of the sport. Between Steph, Kevin, and Klay, they hold two 50-40-90 MVPs in the backcourt while setting three-point records at breakneck speed. Historically, of all the teams that could push the 1995-96 Bulls, this Warriors team is the best contender. How these two would matchup against one another is a question that would most likely be determined by the setting, meaning the officiating.
Should the officiating reflect 2017, I find it hard for the Bulls to defend this Warriors team. In this matchup Kevin could easily play the five in crunch time much like he did in this years’ finals. The Warriors are more versatile in more ways with his presence than the Bulls would be. Michael would certainly get his and Scottie would be a menace defensively but in the end, too much offense on the Warriors side.
The 80s and 90s offered a different brand of basketball. More physical defensively and focused on high percentage baskets offensively. In a lot of ways, the Warriors are the antithesis to everything basketball was in that era excluding Showtime. Free flowing offensive with the ultimate green light to score from what seems like anywhere. As a generation Y’er born in 1990, I can see both sides of the matchup. I grew up in the era of "hero" ball. A time in the NBA where you needed a closer. Someone who, at the end of games, everyone knew was getting the ball and there was nothing you could do about it. That was Michael Jordan. Michael had the ability to demoralize you. He would take your will offensively as well as make you not want the ball with his defense. He was an 80s player. That brand of basketball combined with his maniacal competitive spirit birthed and molded him into the greatest basketball player of all time. But, basketball is a team game and threes are still worth more than twos. Last season, Golden State made 982 threes on 38% shooting to the 1995-96 Bulls 544 on 40% shooting. The 1995-96 Finals between the Bulls had 239 threes taken, this past June’s finals 359 were taken between the Cavaliers and Warriors in which one less game was played than in the 1996 Finals. There is the probability that the Warriors would simply outshoot the Bulls despite how great they were defensively. A matchup between these two teams would also be determined not just by matchups but by philosophy. The Bulls triangle as opposed to the Warriors pick and roll and motion offense. Which team can create more high scoring opportunities. The problem with guarding the Warriors is that being conventional will not work. Help defense is discouraged and you find yourself trading layups to prevent an onslaught of threes.
The Golden State Warriors hold a significant space in NBA history. They are the break in which the previous generation ends and the new era of basketball begins. On the basketball court, they disrupt every basketball philosophy. Especially in terms of shot selection. While there have been teams in the past that have shot the ball exceptionally well, they did not do it with the level of gumption nor effectiveness that the Warriors have. Golden State’s style of play is inviting of its role players as well as other players around the league that crave that kind of freedom. Part of what makes Stephen Curry so great is that he has no rope. A player with that kind of ability is better served off the leash.
Usually, when discussing the greats in basketball, we consider those who changed the game. Shaquille O’Neal changed the way the game is officiated, Kareem changed the rules with the dunk, and Michael Jordan instituted the Jordan rules. This Warriors team defies conventional basketball and it has set off a chain reaction. Every move that is made moving forward by teams around the league will be in attempt to contend with this squad.
Older NBA fans often lean on the dominance of the front court in response to the Warriors, banging the notion that low post dominance would outlast them or teams were deeper in the 80s, which is true. But the Warriors outside of the Showtime Lakers may be the most dynamic team the league has ever seen in terms of style of play. The game has produced great shooting teams such as Run TMC but none to this caliber. Steph is on pace to smash Ray Allen’s three-point record with Klay just a clip away in comparison to potency. The game will continue to evolve just as it did before. Kareem was the first player of his mold in his time, just as Lebron and Kevin are in theirs. Positionless basketball is here to stay. The ways of the past are just that, the past. In the new NBA, small stars and freer flowing offense dominate. So whether you think Lebron is the new GOAT or the Warriors are the greatest team ever, the result of this past finals in many ways dethroned the previous era regardless the victor.