As the 2013-14 NBA season winds down, it's looking likely that the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed will have a reprehensible record. The 33-43 New York Knicks and the 32-42 Atlanta Hawks are currently fighting for the East's final playoff spot, with the 31-45 Cleveland Cavaliers somehow still having hope at just two games back.
Many will make the case that one of these three putrid teams will be the worst NBA playoff team in league history. But that case would be wrong.
Believe it or not, even if the Knicks were trapped in a sinkhole and disappeared into the earth, the Hawks fell through the time-space continuum and the Cavaliers didn't win another game, yet made the playoffs by default, there would still be three playoff teams in NBA history that had worse records. Here they are:
Chicago Bulls, 1967-68 (29-53)
Before Carlos Boozer's constant yelling and continual look of shock became regular occurrences at Bulls games, another Boozer reigned supreme in the late-'60s. Bob Boozer was one of 18 selected by the newly-created franchise in the 1966 expansion draft.
In the Bulls first season, the Boozer-led Bulls actually won 33 games, but didn't make the playoffs. In year two, the Bulls REGRESSED and won just 29 games, but somehow found themselves as the fourth-best team in the Western Conference in a 12-team league. Boozer, along with a then-spry Jerry Sloan, actually won a game over the eventual Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers, who were led by Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. To date, they are the worst team to ever make the playoffs.
Chicago Bulls, 1985-86 (30-52)
Fun fact: The Bulls' franchise actually has the two worst teams in NBA history to ever make the playoffs, although this 1985-86 team is most notable for a few reasons. This was the season Michael Jordan suffered a broken foot in late November and only returned very late in the season. He played just 18 games, which explains why Chicago's record was so bad.
But Jordan did return in time to give the Bulls some much needed firepower against the eventual champion Boston Celtics. You might've heard of the 63-point performance he had in Game 2. Sixty-three points. No big deal.
ONE: That double crossover move at :20 on Bird will never get old.
TWO: When Jordan gets isolated on Kevin McHale and finishes over Boston's big three at 1:56? Epic.
THREE: Jordan got fouled with the Bulls down two and no time left on the clock at 2:22. Jordan had just missed two free throws earlier after making 16 straight. There's no one on the blocks as Jordan shoots the free throws and the referee makes things awkward by bouncing him the ball on the side and walking away. Jordan rims in the first and perfectly swishes the second, celebrating with that patented fist pump. Goosebumps, man. Goosebumps.
San Antonio Spurs, 1987-88 (31-51)
David Robinson had been drafted the year before as the Spurs' No. 1 overall pick, but The Admiral still had a year of Navy duty to serve before he could officially take his talents to The Riverwalk.
Therefore, the Spurs would have to rely on a tough S.O.B. named Alvin Robertson. Robertson had a reputation as one of the best defensive guards in the league, but could also get you 20 points a game and was the last guy you ever wanted to fight. (More on this in a moment). Somehow, Robertson was named to the NBA's All-Defensive team that season while the Spurs allowed a staggering 118.5 points a game. The eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers would dispose of these Spurs in three games, and the David Robinson era in San Antonio would officially begin the following season.
Back to the fighting thing: enjoy this scrap between Shaquille O'Neal (7'1, 325 pounds) and Robertson (6'3, 185 pounds) during a regular-season game in 1992:
You'll notice that I like talking in bullets. Five things:
ONE: This is all Bill Laimbeer's fault, as we all knew eventually that bearhug was going to rile up a rookie Shaq in the worst way.
TWO: Robertson comes over as the seasoned veteran and tries to get Shaq to calm down. Shaq tries to get rid of him, but Robertson's country strong and somehow has Shaq hooked.
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THREE: Finally, Robertson releases Shaq, but gives him a nudge along the way. Shaq officially hits DEFCON-1. All hell breaks loose.
FOUR: Notice that only one person is holding Shaq back after the man connected with what's affectionately known as an "earjammer" (a.k.a. "earjammie") to Robertson. There are at least six people holding Robertson back. I'm not sure if Robertson's in on being held back to make it look like he's about that life or that the other folks knew Robertson is "'bout that action boss," in the immortal words of Marshawn Lynch. Nobody wants to mess with him.
FIVE: The beginning commentary of Ernie Johnson and closing commentary of Charles Barkley just makes all of this slightly eerie and awesome. All hail Inside The NBA.
So fear not, Knicks/Hawks/Cavaliers fans. Your team is bad, but you won't make NBA history by being the absolute worst playoff team ever.
Happy Hour drink recommendation: Archangel. Because if the Knicks somehow find a way to make the playoffs, then they clearly had some help from a higher power. Plus, this drink is supremely delicious, even if gin will make you sin.