Stampeding Bulls Could Trample NBA Record
NO team has ever won 70 games in a National Basketball Association season, but the Chicago Bulls could change that. Although Denver snapped Chicago's 18-game winning streak Sunday night, the Bulls are a spectacular 41-4 with just two more games before the league's annual All-Star Game recess this weekend in San Antonio. At this rate, the Bulls would win 74 of 82 games and surpass the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, whose 69-13 record is the best ever for one season.
The Bulls are no strangers to high victory totals. During successive championship seasons in 1990-91, 1991-92, and 1992-93, Chicago won 61, 67, and 57 games, respectively. Michael Jordan (he retired from the NBA for 17 months only to return last season) and Scottie Pippen were the stars of those teams. Phil Jackson was coach. That hasn't changed, but the entire supporting cast has. The most significant additions are Toni Kukoc, a Croatian who joined the team two years ago, and controversial Dennis Rodman, new this season.
Here's a look at other highly successful teams in NBA history:
1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (69-13)
Coach: Bill Sharman
Key players: Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Happy Hairston, Jim McMillian
Wilt Chamberlain helped two teams post sensational seasons during his career (the Lakers and the 76ers). Until this season, Chamberlain and fellow stars Jerry West and Elgin Baylor hadn't been able to bring a championship to L.A. Baylor retired shortly after the 1971-72 season began, when Los Angeles had a lackluster 6-3 record. Jim McMillian took Baylor's spot at forward and everything began to click. The Lakers ran off a record 33 straight victories and went on to win the team's first title since moving from Minneapolis in 1960.
1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers (68-13)
Coach: Alex Hannum
Key players: Wilt Chamberlain, Luke Jackson, Chet Walker, Hal Greer, Wally Jones, Billy Cunningham
This was the only team able to break the Boston Celtics' stranglehold on the league title. Boston would have won 11 consecutive titles beginning with the 1959-60 season had not the champion Sixers interrupted Boston's reign. Back then, the Sixers were able to fatten up on the Chicago Bulls, an expansion team. Philadelphia beat them eight out of nine games.
1972-73 Boston Celtics (68-14)
Coach: Tom Heinsohn
Key players: John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White, Don Nelson, Don Chaney
What's interesting here is that the New York Knicks, not Boston, won the championship this season. The Celtics won the Atlantic Division by 11 games over New York, yet signs of trouble were apparent early on when the Knicks handed Boston its only back-to-back regular-season losses.