The Last Dance

The Last Dance: Are the 72-10 Chicago Bulls the greatest team in NBA history?


The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are arguably the greatest team in NBA history.

A 72-10 record that was completed with an NBA championship. The best player in the world who won an MVP and Finals MVP. The game's best coach at the time who won his only Coach of the Year title that season.

It was a magical season that many will never forget. However, is the Bulls' historic season just a perfect storm or were they truly the best team the NBA's ever seen?

Tell us what you think! And then see what our experts had to say...

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): It's easy to look at the record and just assume the Bulls were the best team ever. You do have to give them credit for going 72-10, which hadn't been done at the time.

You also have to give them credit for finishing the great regular season with a ring, which the 73-win Warriors weren't able to do. But for me, the best team in NBA history is the 2016-17 Warriors.

They went 67-15 in the regular season and probably would've won more games had Kevin Durant not missed 20 games. Five of their losses came with KD sidelined or when he left earlier due to injury. They blitzed through the postseason, only losing one game in the Finals when they were already up 3-0 and the series was all but over. 12 of their 16 wins in the playoffs were by double-digits.

This team could've played in any era and style and would've been great.

It will be a long time before we see a team as talented and dominant as the 2017 Warriors were.

Alex Novick (@ANov_SN): It takes an absolute juggernaut to outclass a 72-win champion, and that's what the 1985-86 Celtics were.

Coached by K.C. Jones, this team won 67 regular season games of their own, then steamrolled to a 15-3 postseason record as they took home the final title of the Larry Bird era.

Boston featured a massive lineup with four Hall of Fame starters in their relative primes - Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson - with a fifth HOFer coming off the bench in a still-very-useful Bill Walton.

With Danny Ainge rounding out the starting lineup, this group dominated in virtually every aspect of the game. They led the league in defensive rating (102.6), finished third in offensive rating (111.8), first in 3-point percentage (35.1) and 2nd in overall field goal percentage (50.8). Boston led the NBA in total rebounding with Parish, McHale and Bird all averaging over eight per game, and finished second in assists with Bird, Johnson and Ainge each averaging over five per contest. They finished fourth in blocked shots, with McHale, Parish and Walton each swatting over 100 in the regular season.

You can go on and on with supporting stats that help make the claim for these Celtics being the most well-rounded team in NBA history.

And when you compare them to the 1995-96 Bulls, the depth of talent is completely lopsided. Bird and McHale make a formidable matchup for Jordan and Pippen, but it's no contest when looking at players 3 through 6 on both rosters. The Johnson, Parish, Ainge and Walton foursome would roll over a 34-year-old Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, Luc Longley and a Ron Harper-Steve Kerr combo.

You won't see a team as scary as these Celtics come along any time soon.

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): It's the 1995-96 Bulls.

I get the Warriors argument. It's the most loaded offensive team ever and it's hard to imagine anyone being able to keep up with them. I also see where Novick's coming from with the Celtics. Five Hall of Famers in the rotation is just an embarrassment of riches.

And yet I think it's become too easy to overlook the Bulls simply because of the era in which they played in, particularly when considering the debate about stacking up with the Warriors. Comparing the two is simply apples and oranges considering the league on average in 2017 made about 65% more 3s per game. Give that same bump to Jordan, Pippen, Kukoc, Kerr, etc. - not to mention the benefits of developing in an era which places more emphasis on shooting - and it's not hard to imagine those guys becoming prolific shooters on their own right even if not quite on par with Golden State.

Also lost in all of this? Chicago's ability to go small ball with the best of them. Over the course of the second three-peat, the Bulls went 31-4 in games started by Jordan, Pippen, Kukoc, Rodman and Harper.

There's also something to be said for dominating great competition which is what the Bulls did better than anyone else. Against teams that finished .500 or better, the Bulls posted a scoring margin of +11.4... better than either the 2016-17 Warriors (+10.9) or the 1985-86 Celtics (+8.0).

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I side with the 2016-17 Warriors as well.

As Carlan outlined above, they don't have quite the same regular season resume as the 1995-96 Bulls, but they still won the fifth-most games of all-time (67) despite Durant missing a quarter of the season with injury. They then flirted with becoming the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in the playoffs, ultimately losing one game to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

According to ESPN's Kevin Pelton, Golden State's adjusted playoff point differential (17.0) in its title run ranks second all-time behind only the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers. With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green all in their primes, I'm not sure there's a team in NBA history with a core as stacked as those Warriors. They were basically the same Warriors team that broke Chicago's regular season record the season prior with 73 wins, only with Durant in place of Harrison Barnes.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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