Clash of Champions: Could 2014 Spurs have beaten 1998 Chicago Bulls?
If we got to see Michael Jordan’s 1998 Chicago Bulls face off against the San Antonio Spurs 2014 championship team who would win?
Pitting championship teams against one another is a classic sports fan debate, more so in the NBA than other leagues. We do it with the Kobe Bryant led Lakers teams of the early 2000s, the Golden State Warriors, really every great championship team. Now it’s time to break down who would win between the San Antonio Spurs 2014 Championship team and Michael Jordan‘s 1998 Chicago Bulls squad.
The 1998 Chicago Bulls team is the subject of The Last Dance, the documentary series currently airing on ESPN. The team is full of legendary NBA players, including a few former San Antonio Spurs. But how would they fare against the San Antonio Spurs best championship team?
Let’s clear one thing up right away, we can debate whether the 2014 Championship team was the best of the Spurs five title-winning teams, but there’s no debate that they would be the best equipped to take on the Jordan led Bulls. It comes down to one man: Kawhi Leonard.
The centerpiece of this matchup is going to be the individual matchup between Leonard and MJ. Jordan is debatably the greatest basketball player of all time, but having an all-time great defender like 2014 Kawhi Leonard on him gives the Spurs a solid chance of winning this matchup. We’re all familiar with the reaction that a young Kawhi checking in got out of LeBron James, Jordan might not have the same reaction but you know he would be in for a long night against the young Klaw.
The matchup between Leonard and MJ will take center stage but there’s plenty of other fascinating matchups in this duel of champions. Both the ’98 Bulls and ’14 Spurs went eight deep in their respective championship series so we will be looking at the top-eight players on each roster to try to figure out who would’ve gotten the edge.
Outside of Jordan, the Spurs would have to make containing Scottie Pippen their next priority. Danny Green would be able to do a solid job on the perimeter on Pippen, at 6’6 he has the size to match up well with the 6’8 Pippen.
If there was a weakness to Pippen’s game it would be his outside shooting. He was knocking down close to 32 percent of his shots from deep during the ’97-98 season, Jordan was even worse at just 24 percent. The only real 3-point threat on that Bulls team was Steve Kerr, and sometimes Toni Kukoc. That is something that the Spurs would be able to exploit.
If there is another area where the Spurs would be able to find an edge it would be down low with Tim Duncan matching up against Luc Longley. Even though Duncan was on the wrong side of his prime and had slowed down during the Spurs 2014 title run he still would have likely been able to win his matchup against Longley.
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How the Spurs would handle Dennis Rodman would be another question. Boris Diaw was close to securing a Finals MVP trophy for his play during the 2014 championship but I’m not totally confident in his ability to win a rebounding battle against The Worm.
Diaw beat the Heat by being crafty, playing strong defense against LeBron, and functioning as the fulcrum of the Spurs offense. It would be interesting to see how he would fare against the non-stop pressure that Rodman would put on him on the boards and on offense.
The far more fascinating matchup for Diaw would be how he would fare against Kukoc. Both played point-forward roles, helping run their team’s offense. With similar sizes and games, the duel between the two would be more brains than brawn and would surely be one of the decisive factors that would decide the series between the two teams.
If there is one area where the Spurs would have the advantage, it would be in the backcourt, with the obvious exception of Michael Jordan. Kawhi would have to do his best against Jordan but Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili would likely be able to win their matchups against Ron Harper and Steve Kerr.
The 2014 version of Tony Parker was one of the best, and Manu was no slouch during that season either. They both played some of their best basketball during the Finals series against the Heat, they would give the Spurs a real boost against the Bulls if they were able to play up to a similar level.
Between Jordan against Leonard, Kukoc against Diaw, Rodman against Duncan, and Pippen against Green this series would have fascinating and hard-fought matches all over the board. It’s impossible to say how it would all shake out but you can bet it would be close. This series is probably going to seven games, six at the very least.
So what do you think, San Antonio Spurs fans? Would the 2014 Championship team be able to take down Jordan’s Bulls?