Sports

Blasberg ’18: Nothing golden about the Warriors yet

By
Sports Columnist
Friday, April 22, 2016

The Golden State Warriors have had the most successful regular season in NBA history. They finished 73-9, edging out the 1996 Chicago Bulls for the most wins in a season. The Warriors set a record that will stand for a long, long time. But if they don’t go on to win the NBA title, will this season still be a success for Golden State?

The answer is no, a thousand times no. The record-setting season has been an entertaining precursor for what will be the real test for Golden State: the playoffs. No team that currently holds the record for most wins in a season has won a championship in any major sports league.

The 2001 Seattle Mariners hold the record for the most wins in an MLB regular season with 116 — they actually share the record with the 1906 Chicago Cubs, but we’ll focus on the Mariners for now.  The Mariners were the essence of excellence in 2001, leading the majors in both runs scored and runs allowed. They had a winning record against every team they faced that season. Leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki was the American League’s Rookie of the Year, MVP and batting champion. Lou Pinella was the American League Manager of the Year, while ace pitcher Freddy Garcia led the league in ERA. In the postseason, high expectations and the toll of 162 games got to the Mariners. They narrowly squeaked by the Indians in the divisional series and fell to the Yankees in five games in the American League Championship Series. Ask any player or fan of the 2001 Mariners if their season was a success, and you will get a unanimous no.

The 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings hold the NHL record for wins in a season with 60, though the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens hold the record for points. Losses for these Red Wings were few and far between. With a roster comprised of Swedes, Canucks, Americans and Russians, they allowed 60 fewer goals than the next-best defensive team. They were also a spectacle of consistency, never losing consecutive games and boasting two separate stretches of nine-game winning streaks. But the Red Wings were felled in the Western Conference Finals by the Colorado Avalanche. Was this record-setting season a success, even though they couldn’t bring home the Cup? Again, no.

Finally, the 2007 Patriots are the NFL team with the most wins in a season. They tallied 16 wins in their undefeated, “scorched-earth” campaign. Their team was littered with All-Pro players on offense and defense, highlighted by the demolition duo of Tom Brady and Randy Moss. They had no problem with running up the score against Dallas, Miami and Washington. After waltzing through their regular season and playoffs, the Patriots were toppled by the underdog New York Giants in the Super Bowl. Was the Patriots’ undefeated season a success? That season is not spoken of in New England.

And here we have arrived in 2016, with the almighty Golden State Warriors, a team that has faced no adversity so far. If a season is too easy for a team, it is often not conditioned to handle the inevitable struggle of a competitive playoff series. For the Warriors, such a series will occur when they reach the Conference Finals and play the Spurs, whose excellent season was overshadowed by the Warriors’ record.

If the title eludes the Warriors, this season would be particularly agonizing because they have no excuse for not winning it all. They have the best player in basketball along with a cast of role players who would be the star on most other teams. They have consistently risen to the occasion against great teams and have exhibited that they are the best team in the NBA this season.

Each season, a different team picks up an NBA title, and many of these title seasons have been forgotten. These Warriors have already etched their names in basketball history by completing a 73-win season. But they are just too good not to win the championship. The campaign will not be a success unless Golden State brings home the hardware.

Charlie Blasberg ’18 can be reached at charles_blasberg@brown.edu.