CHICAGO -- Sports records mean less than the experiences they abridge, even if a numerical shorthand like "72 wins" endures. When the Golden State Warriors flayed the current Chicago Bulls 125-94 at United Center on Wednesday, the question of whether they'll eclipse the 1996 Bulls' 72 mark was paramount -- an obvious thematic connection asked about before and after the game. The question of whether they'll do it is interesting, but also somewhat bloodless. It says nothing about the incredible experience of watching either team.
Yes, "72" is a number, an impressive number to be sure, but just a number. If the Warriors do it, it'll be a resounding accomplishment. But it isn't how witnesses will relate to that feat. It isn't why thousands teemed at the pregame sidelines just to get a glimpse of Stephen Curry playing against an invisible defender.
People aren't tuning into this team because it can best Jordan's Bulls by some dry standard. They're watching because this greatness is charismatic, just the way it was back with Jordan's Bulls. People will obviously celebrate the Warriors more if they achieve historic success, but there's power in how the success is happening. It's fast-paced, fun and unselfish (38 assists for the team on Wednesday). It makes winning look good, and few things endure better than style melded with substance.
The power of memory was clear when after the game, Curry and Draymond Green discussed their own recollections of the 1990s Bulls. The current Chicago team still plays the same, famed introduction song it used back in Jordan's days. It's a song called "Sirius" by The Alan Parsons Project. Like so many basketball fans, Green knows it only by another moniker.
"I call it 'The Jordan song,' " Green said after a rugged game in which he took a shot to the face from Bulls forward Taj Gibson. "Every time I hear it, I think Michael Jordan. 'Number 23 Michael Jordan' about to be said. So, that's what the song is to me. I looked at Steph, and I'm just like, 'Yo.' And he looked back, like, 'Man, every time.' That song gets me every time."
Further acting out the conversation, Green continued: "You hear that, man? I just think back to those days watching Jordan, watching 'Space Jam,' all that stuff and it's just amazing."
Curry spoke of the feelings evoked, saying: "Me and Draymond were stretching on the scorer's table before the game. And you hear the intro song and the anthem. That brings back a lot of memories of watching the Jordan Bulls teams and all that and something that gets you a little goose-bump feeling."
There's some wonder in that, when you consider how differently Curry and Green grew up. Curry was wealthy, the son of an NBA player, someone who got to see Michael Jordan in person. Green grew up hardscrabble in Saginaw, Michigan. The toughness of his upbringing was referenced when he made an analogy between the accidental shot from Gibson to the fights of his youth. Through the magic of sports, Curry and Green share a connection to what stirred their souls as children.
It's happening right now -- not to the degree of Jordan's influence, but it's happening now. On Wednesday, the NBA announced that Curry's is its top-selling jersey. It's hardly shocking when one goes to these road arenas and sees so many kids in the 30 jersey. He resonates with young fans who see the flicked wrist as their only shot against hulking adversaries. All the better that when Curry dunked left-handed, as he did for the first time in his NBA career on Wednesday, it's considered a shocking event.
One play can summarize the resonance. With a little more than eight minutes left in the third quarter, Curry drove at Pau Gasol, reaching across the 7-footer's body. Gasol used his size, spreading his arms and swatting the scoop layup away. Curry casually collected the ricochet, and this time lofted the ball far higher, floating above Gasol's reach like an escaped balloon. The ball found net, the crowd reacted with "Oohhhs," and Gasol slumped in disgust. For a moment, height was decisive, as it's supposed to be in this big man's sport. That is, until Curry suddenly decided it wasn't.
There's more to the Golden State experience than just Curry, of course. There's Green's hyperdrive versatility. There's Klay Thompson's glorious streak shooting. There are Andrew Bogut's water-polo pass fakes and toss-ahead assists that remind of soccer "through balls." On Wednesday, we were treated to Leandro Barbosa looping an alley-oop to Andre Iguodala that looked more like a trapeze act than a basketball play.
You could have been satisfied Wednesday night, just watching Shaun Livingston's quirky game, one he has analogized to a pineapple upside-down cake. Livingston's approach is "inverted," as he calls it, a point guard who posts up like a big man. His balky back-and-forth rhythms could also remind of an Allen wrench, getting the job done, slowly rocking the defender into place.
Whatever the fans took from another Golden State blowout, it's better than the speculation such play inspires. Will they win 72? We can't know that yet, just like we can't know if they'll win titles beyond last season's. We can, however, surmise that their particular journey is connecting right now, in ways reminiscent of a not-so-distant past. Kids wanted to be like Mike. In increasing numbers, kids want to be like Steph. If the Warriors keep blitzing history in this fashion, those kids will, as adults, relate over how "amazing" this all was to witness.