The NBA's Dark Knights
“You either die a hero a here, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – Harvey Dent (The Dark Knight)
This quote comes to mind whenever I think of the Golden State Warriors. Loved by the majority of the San Francisco Bay Area faithful. Vilified by a large chunk of fans for creating the best “SUPER Team” we have seen. I’m often left wondering how did this team that is primarily homegrown has gone being loved as one of the league’s most exciting teams, to being cast as its greatest villain.
The Warriors are one of the cockiest teams in the NBA. They take shots and run back without looking, they dance, they shout, without being called out the way that many teams would.
The heart of their team is the polarizing Draymond Green. While praised for his defensive tenacity he has built up a reputation as a dirty player, highlighted in the 2016 playoffs. From throwing down Michael Beasley against the Rockets, to repeated kicking Steven Adams below the belt. It was highlighted with his suspension from game five of the 2016 Finals following an altercation with Lebron James, that many believe cost the Warriors a chance at repeating as NBA Champions.
After a few years of promise under Mark Jackson, the Warriors had a coming out party under the lead of Steve Kerr. Posting a record of 67-15 and winning a NBA Championship in 2015. Despite winning the title, the team was met with criticisms for beating injured teams and people were turned off by the antics of the aforementioned Green at the team’s championship parade.
The Warriors took those criticisms from the 2015 campaign and parlayed them into a 73-9 record in 2016. The team’s owner Joe Lacob would dub the team “Light-years ahead of everyone else”. With those 73 wins it looked to be the case until the clock his 00:00 in game seven. People took this time to bash the team as Lebron, Kyrie, and Co. raised the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Their finals failure would lead to the moment that turned the Warriors from tweeners to full-fledged heels. The signing of Kevin Durant and the formation of the NBA’s latest “Super Team”. Durant and Golden State have been vilified ever since as if they were the NBA’s version of the Yankees and buying their way to a championship.
These fans forget that for the majority of their existence the Warriors have been among the NBA’s bottom feeders. With an almost permanent reservation for June’s Draft Lottery. Before the last 5 seasons, the Warriors had made the playoffs only six times since the 1986-87 season. In that time, they were never seen as a real contender.
The Warriors we see today were not a product of major trades like the 2008 Champion Celtics with Garnett, Pierce, and Allen. They were not built solely on Free Agency, like the Big 3 in Miami with Lebron, Wade, and Bosh. The Warriors were built through luck in the draft and in free agency since 2009 when they drafted Steph Curry. The Dubs acquired Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green through the draft. Green, now an All-Star, and Defensive Player of the Year contender was a second round pick. No one knew what these players would become but they created the core of 73-win team, and a team that has gone 13-0 as of this writing in the playoffs.
With that core in the draft, the Warriors supplemented it with free agent signings like Andre Iguodala, and Shawn Livingston before this season. We cannot forget the backlash from the Monte Ellis trade that brought Andrew Bogut into the fold. These signings and the Dubs missing on Deandre Jordan and Dwight Howard set the stage for their ascension from team on the rise to title favorite. They could not plan on Steph’s ankle issues allowing the team to sign him at a Wal-Mart discount.
All of these pieces fell into place for the Warriors to sign arguably the second best player in the NBA. This was not the 49ers and Cowboys taking 1-year flyers on Deon Sanders to put them over the top in runs to the Super Bowl. Of Curry, Durant, Thompson, and Green, only Durant was not homegrown. They did it how many people say it should be done, “build through the draft and supplement through free agency”.
“You can die a hero”, think of how fondly the “We Believe” 8th Seed Warriors are thought of. “Or you live long enough to become the villain”, these Warriors did not fade away after their magical run in 2013, and you see what they are now…