By: Mike Carlson
What the Golden State Warriors have done in just one short calendar year has been nothing short of amazing. First, they defeated the consensus favorite to win the NBA Championship in the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then, once a new season began, Steph Curry and company proceeded to rattle off 24 straight wins on the way to the best start in NBA history. Now, the Warriors are knocking on the door of greatness once again as all they need to do is beat the Memphis Grizzlies in order to set the record for the highest regular season win total in NBA history.
However, the sheer greatness of this Golden State squad truly cannot be appreciated without a little perspective first. After all, at its heart, isn’t greatness simply a relative measurement anyway?
The obvious comparison that everyone is drawing and has been drawing since the season tipped off has to do with the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls. The Bulls that year won an astronomical 72 games and coasted all the way to a NBA Finals victory. As it stands now, the Warriors are primed to do the same.
But, that’s not the point because winning a championship is a one dimensional approach to greatness. To get to the heart of the matter and to learn what makes these two teams so impressive requires a look at their freakish levels of consistency. The Bulls finished with a winning percentage of about 88 percent. If the Warriors defeat the Grizzlies then their win percentage would stand at 89 percent. From a statistical standpoint, this means it’s a near certainty that either team would a game on any given day. The Warriors are by no means unbeatable, however, your money would actually be better spent playing blackjack than betting against Golden State.
Perhaps more impressive for the Warriors, though, is that they are winning at an obscene rate in a climate where basketball players and front offices have never been better. Advances in technology has allowed everything about a player or a team to be broken down into a plethora of data points which can be exploited to find ways to win. Revolutions in sports science have made players stronger, faster, and more athletic than ever too. Despite this, the Warriors have kept winning even as teams have gathered more information on them throughout the season and as their opposing talent has gotten better.
But, what about outside of the realm of basketball. How do the astonishing numbers the Warriors have been putting up compare their athletic contemporaries?
Well, they compare awfully favorably to say the least.
Outside of the comparatively small sample size of games that comes with football, no other team has even come close to winning games at a near 90 percent clip. Not even Major League Baseball’s all-time winningest 2001 Seattle Mariners won at a rate like that through their first 82 games. Granted, while the definition of winning and what it takes to do so differs in each sport, you still have to respect a team that wins at a level that transcends its own corner of the landscape.
The Golden State Warriors are the embodiment of greatness in sports. Everything from the experts to the numbers to the players back that up. But, what could really cement their spot in history would be winning an NBA championship.
Why? Because no team that won more than 84 percent of its games has ever lost in the NBA Finals.
Now that’s the true definition of greatness right there: winning when everyone knows you’re supposed to.
(Update: The Warriors broke the Bulls’ season wins record, when they recorded their 73rd win over Memphis on Wednesday, April 13)