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?
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.
First of all, I’m going to break this dilemma down into three parts and dissect each legendary team for what they’re worth. Let’s start with common denominators.
Phil Jackson (Coach), Tex Winter (Assistant Coach, creator of the triangle offense), Ron Harper (Guard)
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 an incredibly deep Western Conference, 72 wins is 72 wins.
The part where the record conversation gets really interesting is when its playoff time. The 2001 Lakers were the greatest playoff team in NBA history! Remove an all-time upset by my favorite 76ers squad with a 48 point performance by Allen Iverson, the Lakers would have completed an undefeated playoff run.
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. Portland Trailblazers… Sweep. Sacramento Kings… Sweep! Western Conference Finals time, baby! Another sweep of a little known team called the San Antonio Spurs. In the NBA Finals, again if not for a miraculous game by league MVP Allen Iverson and the 76ers, would’ve been another sweep.
Overall, record wise, 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!
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. However, we’re comparing individual seasons here.
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 worse for opponents during the playoffs. Both damn near scored 30 points per game! Combined with 15 rebounds a game for Shaq and Kobe with six rebounds and seven assists per game, this is the definition of dominance by two players within one complete season.
Again, we’re comparing individual seasons and teams with this one. In 2001 Kobe and Shaq were easily the game’s two best players, especially in the playoffs and they showed it in a major way. So they take this one in my book.
Big men Play
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. Tagging along are players like Robert Horry and Horace Grant, former Bulls great, who also brought championship pedigrees. 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 and John Salley were average big men at best.
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 3-0 in my book. Now again, 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. The Lakers would take a seven 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 with letting fandom takeover. After you’ve done all of that and prayed on it, I’ll let you decide for yourself.
Do you agree that the 2001 Lakers would beat the 1996 Chicago Bulls? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3