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The Golden State Warriors will never live down blowing a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. The negative reaction has gone well beyond social media jokes. No matter what this franchise accomplishes over the next few years — and it’s likely to be a lot — plenty of critics will say that Golden State couldn’t beat Cleveland once in three tries with a chance to become the best team of all time and needed to sign Kevin Durant to retake control. It’s a winning argument no matter what. There is no response.
Apparently the same rules apply when Warriors owner Joe Lacob talks to Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, the man who led the Chicago Bulls to a then-record 72 wins and a title in the 1995-96 season. Lacob made a radio appearance on 95.7 The Game’s “Afternoon Delight” with Greg Papa on Tuesday and relayed a story from a dinner with the hypercompetitive MJ during collective bargaining talks. As Lacob puts it, Jordan let him and the Warriors know that their 73 wins were hollow (transcript via CBS Sports):
“On the collective bargaining agreement, I was on the labor committee and I was in New York having a bunch of dinners with Michael Jordan and other owners,” Lacob said, perhaps humble-bragging. “There were six of us. Actually, Dan was one of them, Dan Gilbert. Anyway, Michael Jordan — people are drinking and having a good time and all that, but there was a moment where he said, you know, ’73 don’t mean [blank].’ He did it, Michael Jordan did that. And I looked at him and I just decided not to make a big deal of it. I said, you know, you’re right, we didn’t win it, we had to get better.”
Lacob goes on to say that he’s still very proud of the Warriors season and thinks it will be looked back upon by everyone as impressive as the years pass, but it seems pretty clear that Jordan stopped him in his tracks. Jordan isn’t like other owners — he’s rich and one of the best athletes in the history of sports. When he makes a pronouncement on the NBA, people tend to listen.
It’s worth mentioning that Jordan isn’t just pouncing on the Warriors’ failures. He and his Bulls teammates have held this position for some time. As noted by James Herbert of CBS Sports, Ron Harper gave that team “72-10 Don’t Mean a Thing Without the Ring” t-shirts in 1996. Plus, Jordan released a statement after the Warriors’ 73rd win last April that said essentially the same thing:
Statement from Michael Jordan on Warriors breaking Bulls record: pic.twitter.com/kqtkBEJMth
— Estee Portnoy (@esteep) April 14, 2016
That statement is friendlier than saying “73 don’t mean s—,” but the implication of “I look forward to seeing what they do in the playoffs” is clear. Jordan, like most every other current and former NBA player, needed to see the Warriors win a championship to justify the hype.
He might have put it in a particularly strong way, but that belief was shared by the Warriors themselves. The disappointment of their NBA Finals loss was clear, and they did not try to hide it in the aftermath of Game 7. It doesn’t take a historic competitor to make it clear that top-level athletes measure themselves by championships, not regular-season records.
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