Shoutout to the 2nd ever contributor to the AD Report! My man Brandon (@phenombc3) decided to give his take on two of the greatest NBA teams to ever walk on the court! Check out his piece below, follow him, on Twitter, and engage with him on your thoughts!
Need another great sports debate that will be sure to heat any conversation up? Try this one… Who’s better: 1996 Chicago Bulls or the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers?
Now, before you cast any preconceived notions because out of the millions of Michael Jordan stans you feel you’re the biggest of them all, hear me out on this one. It’s not as crazy as you think!
This is a conversation that needs to be had and debated by the experts, but in the meantime, I will give you my humble opinion. Hate it or love it, but understand this… I will make you think twice about how much of a fan you really are.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
First of all, I’m going to break this dilemma down into various parts and dissect each legendary team for what they’re worth. The easiest thing to start with some common denominators for each team.
Phil Jackson (Coach), Tex Winter (Assistant Coach, creator of the triangle offense), Ron Harper (Guard), Championship Rings
Now that we got that established, let’s get into some facts! Let’s take a look at team record to start.
Record (Regular Season/Playoff)
To start off, any sports fan knows that the ’96 Bulls boasted what we thought was an untouchable record of 72 regular season wins until the Warriors topped that this past season. To this fact, even though the Lakers had an incredible regular season versus what was and still is an incredibly deep Western Conference, 72 wins is 72 wins. Unless you are the 2015-2016 Golden State Warriors, you’re not comparing to that stat.
The part where the record conversation gets really interesting is when it's playoff time. The 2001 Lakers were arguably the greatest playoff team in NBA HISTORY! Remove an all-time upset by MY 76ers squad and a legendary 48 point performance by MY G.O.A.T. Allen Iverson, the Lakers would(and really should) have completed an undefeated playoff run.
Why does this matter? This matters because where are every great player and team ultimately judged by… how they do in the playoffs. The playoffs, a time where all of the best teams each year battle it out in hard fought series’ after enduring a grueling 82 game schedule, a myriad of injuries, and ups and downs throughout the season, ultimately looking to hoist up that NBA Finals trophy. During this most important period spanning from May- June 2001, the Lakers nearly went unblemished given that one legendary game by the 76ers.
Although the Bulls went a stellar 15-3, I will take the Lakers playoff run over any in history. Let me explain further.
Not only did they go 15-1, but they also boasted the highest average margin of victory during any playoffs in history, beating teams by an average of 14 points per game. Let’s figure in the fact that the teams they were playing were no slouches by any stretch. They started off with a Portland Trailblazers team that had just took them to seven games the year prior in the Western Conference Finals… Sweep.
In the semifinal round, they took on arch rival the Sacramento Kings. You know one of the best teams to never win a championship with players in their prime like Chris Webber, Jason Williams, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac, etc…. Another sweep!
Western Conference Finals time baby! You know these series are always highly contested down the wir…. Nope! Another sweep of a little known team called the San Antonio Spurs with little known players like David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Derek Anderson and a pretty good coach by the name of Gregg Popovich. In the NBA Finals, again if not for a miraculous game by league MVP Allen Iverson and 76ers (who won 56 games), that would’ve been another sweep.
Overall, record wise, the Bulls had the second greatest regular season ever while the Lakers had THE greatest postseason ever… I’m giving this category to the Lake show!
Michael Jordan: 30.4 PPG, 4.3 AST/G, 6.6 REB/G – 30.7, 4.5, 4.9 (Playoffs)
Scottie Pippen: 19.1 PPG, 5.8 AST/G, 6.3 REB/G – 16.9, 5.9, 8.5 (Playoffs)
Shaquille O’Neal: 28.7 PPG, 3.7 AST/G, 12.7 REB/G- 30.4, 3.2, 15.4 (Playoffs)
Kobe Bryant: 28.5 PPG, 5 AST/G, 5.5 REB/G- 29.4, 6.1, 7.3 (Playoffs)
Which duo would you prefer?
Now you can’t argue six championships with MJ and Scottie. An undeniable chemistry that wasn’t met with rumors of them not getting along and hating each other’s guts. Both got the job done on both ends of the floor. A true Batman and Robin tandem that combined for a lot of production stat wise and win wise most importantly. However, we’re comparing individual seasons here and combined point total of nearly 50 points per game is daunting for any opponent to overcome from a duo, but does it measure up to the ’01 Lakers duo?
On the other side of the coin, Kobe and Shaq are one the most controversial duo of all-time, but also arguably the most dominant. Numbers don’t lie for these two. Each nearly averaged 30 points per game in regular season and it only got darker for opponents during the playoffs where both damn near hit 30 a game combined with 15 rebounds a game for The Big Diesel and Kobe with six rebounds and seven assists per game. This is the definition of dominance by two players within one complete season. A dominance that hasn’t been matched since and wasn’t matched before.
Again, we’re comparing individual seasons and teams with this one. MJ and Scottie have six rings compared to Shaq and Kobe’s three, but in 2001 Kobe and Shaq were easily the two best players in the game, especially in the playoffs and they showed it in a major way. So they take this one in my book.
Cagey Point Guard Play
Steve Kerr (Bulls) vs. Derek Fisher (Lakers)
Although these players at the point guard position seemed like after thoughts, in a team concept, they were each important and each pretty much played the same role, the question is: Who would you prefer?
Each player hit timely three pointers. Best examples: Steve Kerr hits the famous clutch three versus the Utah Jazz in game 6 of the ’97 finals to seal the championship when Michael Jordan put all the pressure in the world on him the timeout before. Derek Fisher hits an also famous clutch three vs. the Spurs with 0.4 seconds left to play in San Antonio and runs off of the court.
Each player also limited turnovers and were feisty defensively. Each did their respective jobs and were pretty good at it.
We have to break the tie here though, so here it is: God forbid, if any of the aforementioned duos are off at the same time and I needed my point guard to take control of the game and take up the slack, I’m going with D- Fish all day. I’m taking a confident, knock down three point shooter who wasn’t afraid to put it up and assert himself on the offensive end while also mixing it up defensively, causing turnovers and fast break opportunities for his team. Fisher gave the Lakers an edge mentally and physically and I believe that his impact was felt more than Kerr’s was. Edge to the Lakers on this one.
Toni Kukoc (Bulls) vs. Rick Fox (Lakers)
Now this is a classic example of offense vs defense. On the one hand, you have a European prodigy in Toni Kukoc who was a great scorer and playmaker with a smooth left handed touch that gave defenses nightmares, especially as the third scoring option, On the other hand, you have a cagey all- around player in Rick Fox who made his presence felt defensively for the Lakers while also rebounding at a good rate, making team plays consistently through is great passing ability and ability to lay his body on the line and occasionally heating up from the three point line, giving the Lakers a much needed push when they needed it.
Each meant a lot to the success of their team. I believe Rick Fox was the perfect mesh guy for this dominant team while Kukoc had to take a reduced role in my opinion, especially offensively while making the most of his chances and being a legitimate threat to opponents. This one was tough, but for me personally, I’d rather have the legit third scoring option so this one goes to the Bulls.
Big men Play
Bulls: Luc Longley, Dennis Rodman, John Salley
Lakers: Shaq, Robert Horry, Horace Grant
Big man play was key for each team, but I didn’t think this was much of a competition.
Anytime you have Shaq, one of if not the most dominant big man ever, on your front line, you’re automatically ahead of the game and you have a huge advantage over anybody you’re facing. Throw in players like Robert Horry or “Big Shot Bob” who notably has hit some of the most clutch three pointers in playoff history, while also being able to put the ball on the floor effectively, rebound well, provide some type of defensive presence and most importantly bring prior championship experience to any team. Not to mention Horace Grant, former Bulls great, who also brought a championship pedigree as well as a legitimate post up big who could score around the basket and hit the 15 foot midrange shot with ease. This three man combination was very deadly for teams in 2001.
The Bulls came with the likes of Dennis Rodman, one of the fiercest rebounders and defensive players in league history who would go entire games without scoring but would give you 20 rebounds 5 blocks and 5 steals. Luc Longley, an average big man who was pretty decent offensively, but served as a big body down low that would rebound, give you some good offense here and there as well as providing shot blocking. John Salley, who had become a journeyman after his glory days with the Bad Boy Pistons, could still give you some production on the boards, but most importantly, a championship mentality and a great locker room presence.
Like I said, not much of a competition, Lakers take this one again.
So…. I’m tallying up the totals and it looks like the Lakers won 4-1 in my book. Now again, this is my take so don’t blow your mind up trying to convince me how I could ever take anyone over Michael Jordan and the ’96 Bulls. We’re comparing teams in their respective best SEASONS ever. This isn’t a lifetime achievement award, this is mono y mono, ’01 Lakers vs ’96 bulls, who’s going to win. In my mind, the Lakers would take a 7 game series and win 4-2. Blasphemy, I know, but objectively really think about this one people… Consider the facts and really make a rational decision without letting fandom takeover. After you’ve done all of that and prayed on it, I’ll let you decide for yourself…
Welcome to the AD report.