The Los Angeles Lakers will attempt to stop history on Wednesday night when they face the Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry and company are currently rampaging through the league, leading the NBA in offensive efficiency (scoring 111.8 points per 100 possessions) and net-rating (outscoring opponents by 15 points per 100 possessions), while ranking fifth in the league in defensive rating (96.8). They are by all measures a historical juggernaut, and today's Lakers will have a tough time even keeping the game within single digits, much less winning.
The "Showtime" Lakers are a different story. The "best" team of the Showtime era was probably the 1986-87 version, which won 65 games (most of any Showtime team) en route to the 1987 NBA title, with an offensive rating of 115.6, defensive rating of 106.5, and net of 9.1. It featured Magic Johnson at the height of his powers, flanked by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, James Worthy, Mychal Thompson, Michael Cooper, and a third year guard by the name of Byron Scott.
Scott is now of course the Lakers head coach, and he sounded confident when asked if the Showtime Lakers could go toe-to-toe with the current best team in the league:
Would the Showtime Lakers beat the present-day Golden State Warriors? Byron Scott: "In a seven-game series? Absolutely!"— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 24, 2015
This would be a fascinating matchup, both because of the contrast in style of play and all the historical talent involved. However, a lot of who won would be determined by what era and rules the game was played under, as ESPN's Zach Lowe inadvertently described in his Tuesday column on small-ball:
The Warriors slotting Green at center during the highest-leverage minutes is really just the logical end-game of a decade-long evolution that started with foundation-shaking rule changes. Scrapping the old illegal defense rules freed teams to play zone, and that turned every post entry pass into an exercise of needle-threading. Defenses could stick one guy in front of a post-up brute, one guy behind him to snuff out the lob pass and a third defender nearby just in case that brute spun into some unexpected position. Timofey Mozgov could have been Hakeem Olajuwon trying to post up Iguodala during the Finals, and it wouldn't have mattered; the Cavs couldn't even pass him the ball. "If you can't make an entry pass to a 7-footer posting up my 6-6 guy, then why wouldn't I go small?" asked Bucks coach Jason Kidd.
While the Warriors metrics might look a bit better, it's hard to not think that Magic Johnson would be devastating in today's game as a small-ball five, and it would be certainly be fascinating to watch these two talented teams go at it. Someone needs to invent a time machine and make this happen.
Scott, and other Showtime Lakers, sounded less confident about the current purple and gold outfits chances against the Dubs:
I asked Byron Scott for his thoughts on facing the record-seeking Warriors on Tuesday. He just laughed. "That's my thought right now."— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) November 23, 2015
Laker Nation, our Lakers are used to setting records on teams, tomorrow the Warriors will set the record for the best start in NBA history.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) November 24, 2015
Mychal Thompson to 95.7 The Game on Lakers win tonight: "It could happen. Stranger things have happened. Kobe said it."— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) November 24, 2015
Maybe we should all just watch NBA Hardwood Classics instead?