Photo Credit: USA Today
It had never been done before. Nothing in the entire situation had happened before. No team in history had ever won 73 games in a single season. No team had had one of its players ever win an MVP award by a unanimous decision. No team had had one of its player put up even close to the new record amount of made 3-pointers in a single season. No team had blown a 3-1 lead in the NBA finals, much less the team with the best record ever. No team had lost in the NBA Championship after setting the record for wins in a season. No team had signed an MVP player below the age of 30 onto their already 73-9 win team. Indeed, though they may have not won the ultimate prize of an NBA Championship, which they won the year prior, but the Golden State Warriors have accomplished dozens of feats over the past two seasons.
“Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors would be a great fit. If he were a robot, and did not care about anything besides making the best team.”
This was a quote by basketball analyst Mike Korzemba, before July 4th, 2016. He went on to explain that it just doesn’t sound like Kevin Durant to be so weak. He is too competitive a player to join the team that beat him, especially given how close he was to success himself. To be brief, he shocked the NBA. He broke the NBA. He joined the team that was in rising arguments as the best team ever even before his arrival.
“Weakest move I’ve ever seen from a superstar,” analyst Stephen A. Smith said only hours after the decision. “You leave? After you are on the cusp of making it to the NBA Finals yourself, or ultimately winning a championship for the franchise that you’ve been with since you entered the NBA? I think it’s incredibly weak.”
Instantly, Kevin Durant became a villain. There were so many destinations for him, and he went to the one that gave him the best chance to win a championship. But in the process of doing so, he ruined his reputation and became sports’ most hated athlete.
Doing so resulted in absolute hysteria. How do you predict how good a team is going to be if they have done something never done before? Could they win more than 73 games? No, that’s impossible. But it could happen? Can it? Is it possible? Ultimately, the media altogether thought the Warriors would be the best team this season, but 74 or more games was out of the picture. Still, the expectations were astronomical. That is until game one of this season.
On opening day of the 2016-17 NBA season, the Warriors were stomped by the visiting San Antonio Spurs by 29 points. Despite closely winning the next three games, the idea of Golden State somehow becoming a failed super-team, which would have been about as surprising as the failed 2013 Los Angeles Lakers became a possibility. Then, suddenly, everywhere you looked there were articles, videos, and any other type of persuasion based content describing how and why the Warriors were going to be a bust.
Let’s all be honest. It was the classic “living in the moment” that spurred such arguments. They started out the year with a 4-2 record, and those were the first six games of the new-look team ever playing together against top-tier talent. Had they ruined their chemistry? Sure, but it is not like that was going to stop one of the most talented teams in NBA history. They weren’t tall enough? Please, let’s not forget Zaza Pachulia, who stands 6’11”, was put on the roster to be at center and as well as Draymond Green at 6’7″ at power forward and Kevin Durant at 6’11” at small forward, all well tall enough to rebound the ball. Heck, even Stephen Curry has pitched in with rebounds. They have too many shooters and no one to pass? That’s true, however that was also a problem for their 73-win team last year. They had three really good shooters and still managed to distribute the ball well and get open shots. With four really good shooters now, it should not be a problem.
Still, I myself predicted the team would go through a rough start while adjusting to their new superstar. I thought they would be only around the .500 mark for the first 30 games or so, only to explode the last 52 games and rocket into the 1 or 2 seed. However, a team with a recent history for the ages somehow, once again, exceeded their expectations. They are still yet to lose since the loss to the Lakers, knock on wood. Since then, they have won 12 straight and beat the Lakers twice since they faltered. Indeed, now at 16-2, the Golden State Warriors have put on a show over the last 3 years that has allowed them to become one of the most historic franchises ever, putting their logo on the front of the future conversation of “who was the best team from 2010-2019?”