Hey, Golden State. You’re not alone.
This past Sunday, the Golden State Warriors failed in their attempt to cap off the NBA’s best season of all time with a championship. The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, turned Golden State’s dream of destiny into a nightmare when they defeated the Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals and added them to the short list of teams to set the regular season record for wins and not bring home the title.
The Golden State Warriors ended the regular season with a 125-104 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Mamba Day (the day of Kobe’s last game), giving them an NBA record 73 wins for the 2015-16 season. However, they would match their entire regular season total in losses in the playoffs as they went 15-9 (73-9 in the regular season) and were unsuccessful in their title defense, giving Scottie Pippen every right to say, “We live on.” With Golden State’s loss, the 1996 Chicago Bulls, featuring Pippen and Michael Jordan, remain the best team in NBA history after going 72-10 and winning the NBA Championship. But the Warriors are definitely not the first team to light up the regular season without being crowned champions.
While the Bulls were ripping up the NBA during the 1995-96 season, the Detroit Red Wings were just as dominant in the NHL and finished their season with a 62-13-7 record, setting the mark for most wins in an NHL season. Led by Sergei Federov’s 107 points and 39 wins from goaltender Chris Osgood, the Wings took home the Presidents’ Trophy and had home ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After defeating the Winnipeg Jets and the St. Louis Blues in the first two rounds, the Wings ran out of steam and lost to the Colorado Avalanche in Western Conference Finals in just six games.
The 2001 MLB season was an emotional one that is remembered for many different moments. Mike Piazza’s go ahead homerun for the Mets in the 8th inning of the first home sporting event in New York City after the September 11th attacks and the Diamondbacks’ Luis Gonzalez’ walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the New York Yankees headlined a huge year for baseball. Many people forget that the Seattle Mariners tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs for most wins in a season with 116 in that same season. Ichiro Suzuki was the MVP of the American League after leading the league in batting average and stolen bases in his first season in the Majors. But the Mariners would share a similar fate as the Red Wings, as they fell to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series in five games, failing to reach the World Series. Seattle has not played in a playoff game since.
This one hurts me to talk about, even to this day. The 2007 New England Patriots are without a doubt the best team to not win a championship. In Randy Moss’ first season with Tom Brady and the Patriot offense they fed off of each other’s talent and had record breaking seasons as Tom Brady threw 50 touchdowns, 23 of which were caught by Moss. They finished the season becoming just the fourth team in NFL history to win every regular season game, and the first team to do it with a 16 game schedule. After defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars and the San Diego Chargers in the playoffs, the Patriots were set to play the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII for a chance to become the first team in NFL history to finish a season 19-0. The game was a defensive battle and a Randy Moss touchdown catch from Tom Brady with 2:42 remaining in the 4th quarter gave the Patriots a 14-10 lead. Eli Manning and the Giants took the ball looking to go for the win, and after a dropped Asante Samuel interception, a missed sack and a
lucky tremendous one handed helmet catch from David Tyree, the Giants put themselves in a great position to take the lead. Manning connected with Plaxico Burress for the go ahead touchdown in the corner of the end zone with 35 seconds left in the game. The Patriots failed to answer and ended their season at 18-1 after suffering one of the biggest upsets in sports history.
Records are meant to be broken but the Golden State Warriors are the latest team to learn that regular season records mean almost nothing without championships. The Warriors will still have most of their core players next season and will definitely be able to put themselves in position to win the championship. But winning 73 regular season games is something that is extremely difficult and there are no guarantees that they will have another opportunity to become the best team of all time. The Red Wings and the Patriots have both returned to their winning ways and captured titles since their historic regular seasons, but the Mariners have not reached the playoffs since their 116 win season. They are a great example of the fact that opportunities to make history are rare, and need to be taken advantage of. There is no doubt in my mind that the Warriors will be back, but until they return to the top of the NBA, they will be known as the team that couldn’t finish the job.
Regular season records are great, but in the words of Scottie Pippin, “don’t mean a thing without the ring.”