“How the Golden State Warriors Are Breaking the NBA”

“Would love to see the Warriors versus the Western Conference all-stars.” –Quincy Pondexter

“For a league that was making strides to catch the super-team that is the Warriors…the latest acquisition… sets the other 29 teams back quite a bit.” -Daniel Lubofsky,

“Golden State Warriors ruining basketball for everyone else” -Jeff Miller, Orange County Register

“NBA owners might lock us out now.”
-Jared Dudley

“Man cmon man!!!!”
-Patrick Beverly

And on, and on, and on…

With all this doom and gloom rhetoric you would think the Warriors were the ushers of some draconian hoops dark ages in which the rest of the league are just sacrificial fodder to the Warriors maw of greatness. But within these supposed dark times of dominance a very salient point is being ignored; greatness is the flashpoint by which the league is most brightly illuminated. Adam Silver may quietly bemoan the mechanisms by which Golden State has been able to compose a “super team,” but the commissioner has to reciprocally love that the league is a 24 hour news cycle unto itself. With the constant satellite narratives around the Warriors as teams are perpetually tinkering in a effort to keep up with the Dubs,  while every pundit with a platform (guilty as charged) has an opinion about what the Warriors are doing to shape the current and future landscape of the league.

Amidst the milieu of whiny protestations of fans, players and GM’s alike, is one universal truth that seems to be missing from the narrative of Warriors greatness; a rising tide raises all ships. And while the fans of sunken vessels that have been left in the wake of the Warriors fusillade perhaps would argue this point (see also the Clippers, the Thunder, the Blazers…) what is undeniable is that the Warriors brand of basketball has forced the rest of the league to have a long sobering look at what the hell they need to do. Think of the Warriors as just one in a long line of purveyors of basketball Darwinism.

The Warriors 2018 slogan was, “The time is now.”

The 2019 slogan should be, “Adapt or die.”

Dominance in basketball is no new thing, nor the notion of unfairness based on a hording of talent precipitating a dynamic shift in how the game is played. The 60’s-70’s Celtics forced teams to play with more creativity and open the game up from just a slog of midrange jump shots and put-backs. The “Showtime” Lakers taught teams how to run with impudence. Jordan’s Bulls were so damn stingy that teams changed to a means of bludgeoning their opponents into submission. The Spurs got the ball moving and the Heat showed teams how deadly you could be defensively by having the ability to switch everything.  

Great teams change the fabric of the league, and the rest of the league eventually figures out how to replicate the grain. The greatest eras of basketball are most often dominated by an apex predator followed by plucky prey nipping at the heels in an effort to claim the basketball zenith and shift the power dynamic. And the power always does shift–be it injuries, free agency, or the mere attrition of age and boredom, this too shall pass.
While the Warriors, if healthy -a far bigger if than is given credence in the minds of the shouting fatalist- will objectively have one of the greatest collections of talent ever assembled, this is not a new convention.  The ’96 Bulls, the ’87 Lakers, the ’67 Sixers, the ’83 Sixers, ’13 Heat, and the 86’ Celtics are just a few of the great teams in the history of the league who had a veritable cornucopia of hall of famer players. The ’86 Celtics in particular may the best example of how things can change quickly. That Boston team had been a juggernaut for several years, and the ’86 team in particular may have had the best 10-man rotation in league history, with 5 hall-of-famers and a bench of fringe stars. And yet in an odd parallel to the upcoming Warriors their dominance stood upon the shaky foundation of a free-agent all-star big man’s lower extremities, and an oft-injured superstar. And their projected greatness came and went in a  manner that was faster than any of those watching at the time expected. And that’s the crux here. The scales that weigh the superiority of the league teeter on a fulcrum point that is far more precarious than any prognostications can surmise. Things change fast.

Furthermore, what gets lost in the in the conversation of the Warriors infallibility, is just how fallible we’ve seen them be during this four-year run, and the clear questions of  both what functionally and emotionally this team will be like this year with the addition of Boogie and the deleterious effects of time, apathy, and departures.

Setting aside the obvious loss to LeBron and the counter-argument that the Cavs victory was a direct result of the beneficence, albeit literally kicking-and-screaming of Draymond Green, the Warriors have been more than tested on multiple occasions by teams that have had them as good as dead to rights.  And while there is no denying that the line of demarcation between a good team and a great team is their response to ominous adversity, we undermine the quality of teams that the Thunder and Rockets were when we forget that the Warriors were just a quarter away from an offseason rife with second-guessing and roster re-shuffling; or their own chance to sample the soup de jour they’ve served-up for the rest of the league the last four offseasons.

The historical mosaic of the league is riddled with the cracked tiles of teams that never quite became what they may have been because their beautiful image was crushed under the foot of a giant. The Sonics, the Jazz, the Sixers, the Blazers, the Lakers, the Knicks, the Thunder, and so many other great teams never quite got to the top because a behemoth blocked their way. And this era with the Warriors is no different. But that doesn’t change that those teams and the fight to budge the implacable forces that stood in their way still make for some wonderful moments of basketball. Just ask Adam Silver when he speaks of the ratings and current popularity of the game. All great stories need a villain, so while those around the league may opine for false parity, the reality is that a great common foe is far more galvanizing to fan and opposition alike than a horde of toothless bandits.

Finally, when we speak of those great teams of yesteryear, we don’t begin the conversation with sad tales of Patrick Ewing, Gary Payton, Ralph Sampson, Jerry West, or so many other former greats who hands are left unadorned of more jewelry. Rather, we speak of Michael’s tenacity, Magic’s creativity, Russell’s leadership, and the greatness that their respective teams came to exemplify. And so will it be with Steph’s shooting, Draymond’s toughness, and KD re-defining the term “downtown.”

The Warriors haven’t broken the code. Or destroyed the league. Or robbed us of drama or fun. Rather, just as those great indomitable forces before them, they have done quite the opposite. They have become a power that channels the brightness of the league through their prism of greatness and potential folly and every other team now must concentrate their own lights in hopes to shine as bright. And we should all be thankful for the luminance.


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