When talking about some of the best teams in history, we more than often look at their regular-season record rather than Playoff performance. For instance, the 2016 Warriors are the record-holders for the best regular-season record in history with 73-9, but they don’t have a championship to their name. The 1996 Bulls that went 72-10 and won the championship were glorious, but still, their playoff run wasn’t as dominant as some other teams.
When debating which are the best teams in history, two seem to come up often. The 1991 Bulls and the 2001 Lakers. The 91′ Bulls stormed through the regular season with a 61-21 record, focused on winning their first championship. Led by a prime Michael Jordan and a great supporting cast of Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, John Paxson, Bill Cartwright, B.J. Armstrong, and more, the Bulls were expected to keep up their form in the postseason. And they would deliver on that, losing only two games in the whole playoffs, finishing their run with a 15-2 record and a championship at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers led by Magic Johnson.
On the other side, the 01′ Lakers were a different story. Coming off their first championship, the stars in Hollywood would relax and cruise through the regular season, finishing with an underwhelming for the standards record of 56-26. But when the lights came on, the Lakers turned it up, losing only one overtime game in their whole playoff run against Allen Iverson and the Sixers in the Finals opener. A 16-1 record capping off one of the most dominant runs every by a team. The infamous one-two punch between Kobe and Shaq was in their prime, and with the support of guys like Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, and Horace Grant, this was an easy stroll to a ring in a loaded Western Conference.
One player had the privilege of playing a big part on both teams – Horace Grant won championships in Chicago and Los Angeles as the starting power forward. So who better to compare the two groups and answer which team was better. Grant’s answer may surprise you:
“I would say the ’01 because the West was tough. Going through Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio. We had a niche; we had a chemistry that I’ve haven’t felt in years. As you said, the regular season was subpar, but we came together during that playoff because we had one goal. And that’s to win that championship…We keep guys there for a few more years; it could have been 4 or 5 championships because guys were still hitting their prime.
Horace Grant, The Universe Galaxy
A very interesting take from Horace, as it’s rare to hear somebody go against MJ and those Bulls teams. Maybe falling out with MJ made Grant eventually appreciate his short tenure in Los Angeles more and ultimately go with the Lakers instead. You can make a valid case for both teams, as they each have their unique and fascinating advantages. At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with either one, as both of those teams displayed some of the best team basketball ever seen on the biggest stage.