Dominant or not, the Golden State Warriors good for basketball
They were a glorious smoothie of fundamentals and FUNdamentals that both supported and rejected the ideology that offense must be outside the arc or inside the paint. Gregg Popovich and company worked instead to find an open shot from within the structure of the offense and the talents of its parts.
The Warriors “Light Years Ahead” braintrust wondered what that workspace would look like if it featured shots outside the arc as the best shot within the structure of the roster. Bob Myers and his colleagues built a program in that image. A Warriors squad that pushed that same Spurs team to the brink in the 2013 playoffs has now appeared in consecutive NBA Finals, won 143 games over two seasons, and pushed basketball to a better place.
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Golden State has combined with the LeBron-led Cavs to set records for NBA Finals viewership in consecutive seasons — the most-watched series in almost two decades. For a league with its eyes on continued growth, breaking records is important.
Think about the most fun you’ve had watching an NBA game over the past two seasons — no, wait, let me cut you off. It was the Warriors-Thunder “BANG!, BANG!” game last year. Or Klay’s eleven 3s Game 5 in last year’s Western Conference Finals. Curry going for 40 against AD and the Pelicans in 2015? You’re right; it was the 13 3s he made last week against the Pelicans.
The ping-ping-ping-shoot ease with which the Dubs play has a magic about it that is both simple and extraordinary. They lead the league in national TV appearances this year, and for good reason. They are both the most popular and most intoxicating team in the NBA, no matter which team you call your own. They are the newest enemy of a player we literally call The King, and often come out on top.
What’s fun about the Warriors is that there’s something to watch for everyone: Klay’s quiet ferocity, Draymond’s unpredictable cockiness, the clinical excellence of Iggy’s on-ball defense, Curry’s warm-up shot from the tunnel, Curry’s actual in-game shot from…anywhere. What you prefer to pay attention to when tuning in to a Warriors’ game is about you hold precious as a basketball fan. It’s all here.
It’s easy to tell when a team, player, or phenomenon has risen above the considerations of mere superfans and into the public consciousness. Simply open your ears. And if you’ve had them perked at any point over the past two seasons, you’ve heard these guys’ names a time or two.
Family members and friends that know I watch too much basketball will go out of their way to bridge the gap by mentioning Golden States’ latest achievement. My girlfriend will ask specifically how the Warriors are doing if she’s uninterested by whatever other topic I bring up surrounding the NBA. My father probably already looks forward to the day he can tell my children about Curry.
It would be silly to ignore how things have changed this year: Kevin Durant is a Warrior. No, hold on, let me repeat that: Kevin Durant is a WARRIOR. Yes, I know you know, but I’d like you to think about it again to get back to the proper mindset. Even after what happened this Tuesday, Durant’s move is still in play as the most surprising decision made this year.
I know things aren’t as smooth this year, and the Warriors have struggled against the Suns and Pelicans. That is through no fault of Kevin Durant’s. Sure, things have changed in the half court as a product of his ability to go get a bucket in any and every circumstance, but he’s done what he was supposed to do: raise the ceiling. The Death Lineup is outscoring teams by 25.2 points per 100 possessions, the team is 13.2 points better overall per 100 possessions with him on the court, and he has bailed them out of many poor early-season performances.
While Durant may have stolen some of the better-than-the-sum-of-their-parts magic that made the Dubs special over the last two years, he has irrefutably made them a more fun team to think about. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever been a basketball team whose existence in the abstract has been quite so intriguing. And the abstract has nothing on reality.
Look, this team has characters who on any other team would be villains — cocky, confident, exuberant guys who love winning. Their best player swings his shoulders after making video game shots; their enforcer kicks people in the gonads. And we love them more for it.
For a league in such a clearly explosive growth period like the NBA currently is, the rise and sustained dominance of the Golden State Warriors is a perfect storm. The Warriors are obviously great. What’s most impressive is that they’ve made basketball even greater, and the league’s fan base accordingly more passionate.