While it is true that Warriors are lightyears ahead of the other teams in terms of how they manage their players and how they have managed to create a winning culture along with a friendly and happy atmosphere for the players. There is little to the claim that Golden State Warriors have ruined the league.
Super teams aren’t new concept. Neither is parity or competitive balance. For a fact, NBA has never needed that. This is a league which thrives on interesting, one buoyed by star power coming together to create these dynasties. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have combined won 33 titles of the league’s 72 titles. Five different teams have combined to win 50 of the 72. It is common to have seen the level of dominance that Warriors are showing. And the NBA has not just survived but thrived.
The ironic fact is that this is the team fans have chosen to lash out about. In most case, we fans will say that we want athletes to put winning first—ahead of ego, location, money or any other factor that enters the equation. We will say we want players that are willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team dynamics.
When Kyrie Irving asked out of Cleveland, we fans ridiculously questioned his motives and competitive drive.
How could he possibly care about winning if he wants to leave the best team in the Eastern Conference?
When a player inks a big contract with a lottery team, there’s that same skepticism about his desire to win. Why would anyone want a player who chooses a big payday over a winning environment?
And yet, when Kevin Durant subjugated his ego and his alpha role in a quest to better himself as a basketball player and person, feeling Warriors provide him a better chance to win a championship he was panned for the move. The traits which appeal to many players in the league are at the core of this Golden State Warriors run. Two-time MVP Stephen Curry, the centerpiece of the Warriors’ dynasty, has been willing to take a step out of the spotlight to fit Durant into the team fabric. Draymond Green took a bit less money to make room for Durant’s bulky salary. Andre Iguodala, who could start on most other title-contending squads, has been willing to come off the bench. Others, such as David West and Zaza Pachulia, have sacrificed bigger salaries to round out the roster at a discount. All in pursuit of winning.
Combine that team-first culture with a fun, new age offensive style, which first appealed to Durant. Take all this and you have a formula for four-time All-star Demarcus Cousins taking a significant pay cut to sign with the Warriors for one year—an effort to repair his value following Achilles injury and numerous questions about his explosive personality. This recent deal, inking one of the league’s most polarizing players who is also coming off an injury that has shortened careers and rendered others ineffective, is the tipping point?
That team-first dynamic and joyful style that led to his decision should make Golden State appealing. It’s clearly the kind of culture that players seek and other teams should try to emulate. Sure, the Warriors have been lucky. Curry’s ankle injuries kept him in Golden State’s control for a more reasonable price tag than someone of his stature. It helped the Warriors have the necessary cap space for Durant. So, too, did the cap spike in 2016 that coincided with Durant’s free agency. But which dynasty hasn’t benefited from some good fortune?
The Warriors also had to be positioned well enough to be appealing to Durant a few years ago and Cousins this off-season. They used quality drafting to build the foundation with Curry, Green and Klay Thompson, among others. They didn’t spend wildly on a contract that hamstrung the organization.
In turn, the Warriors have raised the bar for everyone. The Rockets are better because of the Warriors. The Cavs made moves repeatedly with the Warriors in mind. Golden State has forced teams to be smarter when it comes to draft picks, trades and free agency signings, and the Warriors have forced opponents to spend more and go deep into the luxury tax to stay competitive — all of which makes for a better NBA league.
Perhaps it’s true that the final chapter of this upcoming season can already be written. But the story is always the most exciting. Amazing things happen every night in the NBA. Focusing solely on who wins the championship and turning your eyes away from the rest means missing out.
Just think about the abundance of storylines this upcoming season. LeBron James will try to lift the Lakers back to prominence for the first time since the Kobe Bryant Era. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are coming back from injuries to possibly take the Boston Celtics, a team that lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, to the game’s grandest stage. The Philadelphia 76ers are a year older, more experienced, hoping the process will finish with a trip to the NBA Finals. Giannis Antetokounmpo has morphed into an MVP candidate, one who has become must-see TV.
There are young stars elsewhere looking to take the same step. The Rockets, driven by heartbreak in the conference finals, are eager to erase those haunting memories and dethrone the Warriors with a healthy Chris Paul. These are the same Rockets that surprisingly took the Warriors to Game 7. The Oklahoma City Thunder hung onto Paul George, giving them title aspirations. How poetic would be if Durant’s old team and ex-teammate end up becoming the Warriors’ roadblock?
This league is about stars and those are shining all across the NBA. Just a few months ago, the Western Conference finals featured six of the league’s 25 best. The NBA Finals featured quite possibly the three most important. Who doesn’t want to watch games with that level of talent sharing the court?
If watching a joyful and unselfish group that is perhaps the best team ever assembled isn’t your thing then there’s plenty left over for you to see regardless of who wins the Championship. Maybe the Warriors will win it again this year, their fourth in five years.
But that’s exactly what sports are all about — a chance to witness greatness.