Welcome to the Best Team Ever bracket series, where the greatest of all time have their most dominant seasons stacked up against each other until we ultimately crown a champion in each sport. The tournament will be decided by fan vote, so be sure to submit yours below! Check out the first round of voting here, the second round of voting here and the Final Four voting here. The championship round poll will close at noon ET on Tuesday.
The NBA bracket’s final round features two dynasties fresh in our minds — a Golden State Warriors group that crumbled this season and the Chicago Bulls outfit chronicled in the forthcoming Michael Jordan documentary — pitting the game’s greatest player ever against its greatest collection of talent.
The semifinals produced some fascinating results. The 2017 Warriors received 53 percent of the vote in a narrow win over the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers. Recency bias could have sent the Warriors breezing into the finals, but a likely combination of the vast L.A. faithful and a healthy respect for Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain kept it close. On the other side of the bracket, the 1996 Bulls trounced a loaded 1986 Boston Celtics squad, receiving three quarters of the vote. The Jordan mystique is a powerful thing.
Steve Kerr is the tether between the two teams. While some of his former teammates on the 72-win Bulls believe they would have thrashed the 73-win Warriors, Kerr was kinder to the team he now coaches. “I believe it would hinge on a step-back Steph Curry 3 over Michael Jordan at the buzzer,” he told ESPN.com. “And we'll never know if it goes in or not.” Oh, and those Warriors added Kevin Durant.
2017 Golden State Warriors vs. 1996 Chicago Bulls
No. 1: 2017 Warriors
Best playoff record in NBA history (16-1).
Seventh-best regular-season record ever (67-15).
Started four All-Stars and two MVPs.
The Warriors played without hand checking and with the ability to employ zone defensive principles, and they perfected the evolution of both, spacing the floor with an array of legendary shooters and shrinking it defensively with a swarming defense that switched everything. With Durant, Curry and Klay Thompson bombarding opponents in an attack facilitated by defensive stalwarts Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green, the Warriors submitted the best offensive rating in NBA history and the league’s second-best defense in 2017, dominating the one player in Jordan’s stratosphere, LeBron James, en route to the title.
No. 3: 1996 Bulls
Fourth of six championships in eight seasons.
Highest net rating in NBA history (13.4 points per 100 possessions).
Set regular-season record of 72 wins that stood for 21 years.
As brilliant as Golden State’s offense was, Jordan’s Bulls were only a tick behind despite attempting 1,200 fewer 3-pointers on the season. Their defense was every bit as capable of swarming and switching, and finished a hair better statistically than the Warriors. Both teams had multiple defensive options to throw at Jordan and the Splash Brothers, not that any would succeed in shutting them down. Scottie Pippen would probably be preoccupied with Durant, leaving Toni Kukoc to hide on Iguodala and an epic battle of aggravation between Green and Dennis Rodman. Matchups do not get better than this.
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