SHANGHAI — As the Golden State Warriors get set to embark on what could be their third championship season in four years, Klay Thompson isn’t hiding from the fact that his team aspires to be this era’s version of the 1990s Chicago Bulls that won six championships in eight seasons, led by Michael Jordan.
“What’s that, six championships in eight years?” Thompson said Saturday, when asked whether the Warriors were the closest thing the league had seen to the Bulls dynasty. “So we’re, what, like only a third of the way there? I think it’s close. We still have a long way to go, but I do see the fandom, the fanfare like the Bulls had in the ’90s.
“Every time the Bulls came to town, that was the ticket of the year. Now it’s when the Warriors come to town, that’s the must-see game. And we don’t take that for granted; that’s such a cool position to be in. We rarely play in front of a crowd that’s not sold out. That’s so special. It’s hard to really grasp that as a player. So I think it’s close. I still think we’re not on their level yet, but that’s what we aspire to be of the 2000s. We aspire to be that dynasty that will be in the minds of NBA fans forever.”
The dynasty talk has appeared this week as the Warriors participate in the NBA’s Global Games in China against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Aside from the fact that the Warriors are winning titles and have four of the best players in the league in Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Thompson, they have been showered with adoration everywhere they’ve gone in Shenzhen and Shanghai.
Fans wait for hours to catch a glimpse of their favorite players, and they filled the arena early in Shenzhen to watch Curry and his teammates participate in pregame activities. The type of popularity the Warriors have attained, both in the United States and abroad, is something comparable only to what Jordan and the Bulls experienced during their string of championships.
“It was cool a couple years ago when we were chasing that 73-win season,” Thompson said. “Just being compared to that team is an honor. There’s definitely motivation. I would love to match up, play against Michael Jordan. That would be a dream. Obviously we don’t have a time machine, but that would be pretty special to see that.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who won three titles as a member of the Bulls, is already trying to temper those types of expectations for his team.
“We can’t match what the Bulls did,” Kerr said, when asked about the possibility earlier in the week. “They won six championships in eight years. And we have two in three years, which is great, but we’d like to keep going. We’d like to win more, so we have a chance to do something great not only this year but the next few years. But we have to work hard and also get lucky too. You have to stay healthy, and things have to go your way, so we’ll do our best and enjoy the ride while we’re on it.”
That is the advice Kerr’s players have taken to heart. They have embraced their celebrity halfway around the world and are cognizant of how much love they are getting from fans all over the globe. As much as Kerr might not want to raise expectations for his team, the players seem to enjoy the talk of where they rank in the annals of history. The Warriors, just like the Bulls before them, don’t believe they can be beaten if they play up to their potential.
“Every year, no matter how much talent you have or how much success you’ve had the previous year, you have to show up and regain that edge,” Curry said recently. “For us, that’s up to us. That’s something that we can control. And not getting complacent, which I think we can get ahead of, but look at the talent around the league and how teams have kind of reshifted a little bit. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s nothing that we can just walk through the season and end up back in the Finals. We have to really put our best foot forward every opportunity we get. That’s all we can do.”