After making history by starting the playoffs 14-0, the Warriors are seemingly on the verge of sweeping LeBron James and the defending champions and staking their claim as the greatest team ever assembled. Sports books in Las Vegas have even set lines for a never-to-be-played game between the 2017 Warriors and Michael Jordan's 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (the Warriors are favored by 6.5).
On Tuesday's episode of "Undisputed" live in Cleveland, Chris Broussard, Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe debated whether the 2017 Warriors could defeat Michael Jordan's '96 Bulls in a hypothetical cross-era matchup.
Kelley L CoxKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The Warriors' long-range shooting would give them an edge in a modern game
“I’m not surprised, let’s put it that way, because the 3-point shot… that’s such a factor now. The Warriors make 12 threes a game, the ’96 Bulls made six threes, seven if you want to round up. That’s 15 points a game more than they’re getting, so I get why the oddsmakers would favor them.
"And remember, in ’96, the 3-point line was shorter. That’s when it was 22 feet, it’s 22 feet in the corners now. What the oddsmakers didn’t look at, in my view, is the heart, the intangibles, the mental toughness.”
Cary EdmondsonCary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
The Bulls were tougher than any other team
“And I’m not being critical of any of these Warriors’ mental toughness, but nobody that I’ve seen had the type of mental toughness that Michael Jordan had, especially in ’96. He was on a mission.
"Remember, the year before he had been knocked out of the playoffs in Orlando and Nick Anderson said [number] 45’s not the same as 23.
"I’d go with the Bulls not only because of the intangibles,but because they have the players that I think could defend Golden State much better than Cleveland.
"Dennis Rodman and Draymond, and I think Rodman could get with him. And then you’d have Pippen with Durant, which is a tough matchup. I’m not saying they’d shut him down, but they could stick with them. And Toni Kukoc would play a much, much larger role.They could go with a small lineup - Kukoc,Harper, Pippen, Jordan… that could play with the death lineup of Golden State."
This matchup depends on what rules you're using
“I hate doing this, because I hate trying to [compare] 2017 with ’96. Every time we do this though, Skip, I need to know the era. What rules are we playing by?”
Skip Bayless: “Hand check or no hand check.”
Shannon Sharpe: “Exactly. Because if you’re going to let Pippen and Jordan steer them wherever they want to go? I’ve got the Bulls.
"If you’re playing with today’s rules, no hand check, and you can’t beat them up like they did back in the ‘90s … because you come down into the lane, there were no flagrants back then. You had to rip somebody’s head off and throw it in the stands for you to get a flagrant foul.”
Kelley L CoxKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Draymond Green vs. Dennis Rodman would be a must-watch matchup
“So if you’re going to play with those [old] rules, I’ve got the ’96 Bulls. But if you’re going to have the game free-flowing, open like it is today? I’ve got the Golden State Warriors.
"But I want to see this game for one reason - I don’t want to see Jordan on Steph, I don’t want to see Pippen on Durant, I don’t want to see Harper playing Klay - I want to see Draymond and I want to see Dennis Rodman. That’s what I want to see.”
The Warriors wouldn't stand a chance
“I’m sorry, even under today’s rules, that ’95-96 Bulls team would tear this team apart. I’m sorry, it was just too loaded. It was too physical. It was too nasty.
"It had the greatest competitor, the scariest competitor I’ve ever watched in any team sport. I covered the team in ’98, when they terrorized the playoffs. The other teams would tell me after the games, ‘We had a hard time getting the ball past half court.’ I know the rules are different, but they just couldn’t start their offense deep enough into the half court because you’ve got Pippen, Jordan and Harper across the front. And they’re all so long and tough-minded. They took pride in suffocating the ball handlers. They would make it so hard on whoever’s going to handle the ball outside.”
Those Bulls faced tougher competition than people give them credit for
“To refresh people’s memories, that ’95-96 team through the playoffs: It swept the Heat, that was Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. Then the Knicks went down in five games, that was [Patrick] Ewing, Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, John Starks, Derek Harper and Charles Smith. That’s pretty good.
"Then they swept, in the conference finals, the Magic of Shaquille and Penny Hardaway and Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott and Brian Shaw. They’re really good, and they swept that team.
"And then it took six games to beat Seattle with Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf, Sam Perkins, Nate McMillan.”