The Modern Day Gold Rush
It’s May 25 and the NBA Finals start in a week. The Warriors swept, while their Eastern adversaries(not calling them rivals because I may offend a grown man with two kids) vie for a chance to retain the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Like Joakim Noah, I’ve never heard of anyone who wanted to go to Cleveland for vacation. The sequel of the Warriors vs. Cavaliers, specifically Game 7, is a permanent scar on every Dubs fans’ heart. I can assure you that Warrior faithfuls remember the exact feeling, specific place, and surrounding company during the trading of haymakers down the stretch, Varejao’s horrendous minutes, the chasedown block, and Kyrie’s jumper. With one hand on the Larry O’Brien trophy, the crowning moment as “The NBA’s greatest team in history” never happened. Instead, Larry O’Brien left the city by the bay for a land where point guards think the world is flat.
For a full year, Warriors fans dealt with 3–1 reminders, bandwagon cams at visiting arenas, and above all undying criticism. With the introduction of Kevin Durant to a potent offense, some thought the Warriors would break their 73 win record. But, after close calls with sub .500 teams, off shooting nights, chemistry issues, injuries, a Draymond kick to the head, and the absence of poise (at times), the Warriors found themselves tying their wins in the 2014–15 season.
A die hard fan believes in superstitions. I shamelessly admit to not washing shirts, shaving, watching in separate rooms than friends/family if the Dubs are losing, switching seats or positions in a room, not going on social media, and even eating the last chicken wing after a heavy meal. The second I finished that wing, Stephen Curry hit a game tying three against the Pelicans to force overtime. So, as the Cavaliers and Celtics continue to battle for Eastern Conference supremacy, let’s delve into the parallels between the Dubs of 2016–17 and the Championship team of the 2015–16 season.
New Guy in the Town.
Leading up to the 2014–15 season, the Warriors were in search of a new coach. The organization found him in the form of Steve Kerr, an NBA veteran, Finals hero, proven champion, and a descendent of Phil Jackson/Gregg Popovich basketball. Though Kerr had no coaching experience under his belt, his resume speaks for itself. This season, the same front office that lured Steve Kerr, enticed the biggest free agent in the market: Kevin Durant. Brownie points for anyone can provide sufficient proof of any Warrior players in the Hamptons prior to the now “Hampton 5.” For those that don’t know the reference, Golden State flew out the Warrior’s death lineup minus the LVP of the NBA Finals to pitch convince KD to join the Warriors. And seven days leading to the ultimate test for the Golden State Warriors, I still can’t believe that Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are all on the same team. Waking up to the news of the Warriors’ new addition on Independence Day was much like Charlie getting the last Golden Ticket. The moment I received the “KD to the Warriors” message in a groupchat, I resembled a crying Chris Gardner in the Pursuit of Happyness clapping in exaltation. Yes, I did take a moment, stepped out of my apartment, walked up and down my block, and screamed, “WE GOT KD, WE GOT KD.”
As a lifelong Warrior fan who’s seen the likes of Mikey Moore, Bobby Sura, Larry Hughes, Danny Fortson, Adonal Foyle, Patrick O’Bryant, Ike Diogu, and Troy Murphy, I never thought the Warriors could assemble a lineup so glamorous it got dubbed(no pun intended) “The Hampton 5.” With the collection of players in the early 2000’s and post “We Believe Era” the best the Warriors could do was a “Colma 5” (shoutout to Bay Area folks that get the reference).
The Bay Area never had a rich history of basketball success by any means. Yes, we won a couple of titles, but losing seasons outnumbered successful ones. The insurmountable joy from Steve Kerr’s successful tenure, the team’s sudden burst of popularity, and Kevin Durant’s arrival is the modern day Gold Rush.
During the 2014–15 post season, the stars aligned for the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors faced point guard-less teams, avoided the Spurs, and faced 1/3 of the Cavs’ “Big Three.” For some reason, this diminished the credibility of a championship for the Dubs. But, every championship pursuit involves some kind of luck. Every Helmet catch, diving grab, playable lie from the rough, and forgiving bounce seemed to find the Warrior. This is not meant to diminish the 67 win season, MVP performances by Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala, David Lee’s usefulness in the Finals, Draymond’s defense, or Klay’s memeable moments. Championships don’t fall into laps, the Warriors played their brand of basketball at each turn of events. It just so happened that their best was a championship.
One can point to the injuries that made the road to the Finals easy this go around, but the real luck struck at draft night. The Warriors front office did their research, negotiated a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, and acquired Patrick McCaw. The rook has been nothing less than impressive. Immersed in a team filled with MVPs, allstars, and role playing veterans, McCaw’s efficiency was seamless. Unlike most fresh faces in the NBA, McCaw continues to thrive in this year’s postseason. Though McCaw is seeing less minutes thus far in the playoffs, the rookie spiked in almost every statable category from the regular season. His performance made Andre Iguodala recognize and prompted that McCaw receive a “Gilbert Arenas second round max.” One last note on the Warriors’ luck this season: Javale McGee’s resurrection. Take that for data.
Unlike the 73 win season, the Warriors of 14–15' and this year’s squad play without worry. This approach to playing basketball on the court and being playful off, is apparent in the hilarious banter amongst teammates. From Javale putting a sleeping Draymond on blankets, KD not giving a damn about Drake Night, Steph and Ian’s pregame rituals, Klay and Zaza’s back and forth on social media, to the merciless critique of fashion faux paus; it’s apparent that these guys are having fun. Though the world misses the Dubs’ rendition of Coco, Draymond doesn’t disappoint with his Bruno Mars binge. And who can forgot Klay getting existential over this toaster? (long live the Toaster Era)
All Dub Nation can do now is sit and wait. Though Western Conference Champions has a nice ring to it, that’s not quite the ‘ring’ the Dubs want. I am now at peace with last year’s NBA Finals. In the time since the last buzzer of the 15-16' season, I’ve had my fair share of smart-asses remind me of the taste of giving up a 3–1 lead. To these non-Bay Area natives, gym rat teenagers, dad hat/jogger wearing AAU players, supporters of unsuccessful basketball teams, and college intramural fiends, I say: We Believe. A motto used at a time when the Bay had to, this saying has more relevance than ever when a city of faithfuls and collection of superstar talent has gone through a welter of emotion in the last year. We, Dub Nation and our beloved Dubs, believe in superstition and in history repeating itself, but this time, in our favor.