Steph Curry optimism kept the Warriors arrogance alive throughout the summer. But two days after the NBA season officially started, the Golden State dynasty fell to its crushing death. It was bloody and quiet.
The opening night of the Chase Center in San Francisco showcased the lone Splash Brother who was helpless in the face of Patrick Beverly’s defensive brutality. D’Angelo Russell was an afterthought, just another young player of which the Warriors have too many to expect a playoff run. It was a bit shocking to watch the Warriors look ordinary at times, and awful at times. They were the patient who suffered a brain bleed and no longer walks without a limp. They are just different. The only reason it matters is because we are used to seeing (and hating) elite teams who dominate everyone else. When once upon a time greatness takes the elevator down to the everyday folk floor it feels wrong. And then you remember. The NBA does this. It eats its own.
The Bulls dynasty ended abruptly and they were a catastrophe for a decade. The Lakers dynasty ended with Shaq’s trade and it took four years and the acquisition of Pau Gasol to see the light. The Magic Johnson dynasty ended with a loss to the Bulls in the Finals. A few months later, he acquired HIV. Larry Bird’s bad back ended his run. The 60’s Celtics wrung every ounce of excellence out the ball and then they just dissolved. Dynasties are created. They are born. They live out a few years. And then they die.
What made the Warriors dynasty unique was they didn’t just win, they changed the style of play. The Splash Brothers incentivized three point shooting. The 30 footer at the beginning of the shot clock was now a thing. Curry and Klay Thompson were artists shooting off the bounce, draining catch and shoot j’s, moving the ball and then reposting for a corner three. They defended and played with fun. They liked each other. They were Strength in Numbers. They were lightening in a bottle once Steve Kerr became the coach after Mark Jackson developed Curry and Thompson. Watching the Warriors was entertainment. They were all likeable. They had to work hard to get this far, no one was a teenaged prodigy. They had incredible chemistry, the kind you can’t create on a spreadsheet or a piece of paper.
The Warriors run was nurtured during the playoffs when Donald Sterling’s racism went viral and the Clippers and Warriors had to deal with it in a first round series, of which the Clippers would win in 7 games. It was the Clippers and not the Warriors who were slotted in as the next conference champion. But the Warriors and new coach Steve Kerr went on a tear. They beat LeBron James and an injured Cavaliers team. The Warriors dynasty was born.
Last night, on October 24, the dynasty died. It was ceremonial. The moment Kevin Durant walked out the door, we all knew it was over. Klay Thompson’s injury, Andre Iguodala’s trade, Shaun Livingston’s retirement, Oracle Arena’s divorce, was icing on the cake. It was over. Fantasizing about how Steph Curry was going to carry a bunch of average players was put to bed in Game 1. The Warriors champions couldn’t sugarcoat it either. It wasn’t a mirage or a bad night. It was the new Warriors normal.
Bluntly, Charles Barkley said the Warriors were not making the playoffs. He wasn’t being a visionary. It was obvious. Now what about the Warrior fans?
How do they excite themselves with Omri Spellman and Jordan Poole? The Warriors are rebuilding until Klay returns. Steph will be more of himself without Pat Beverly draped all on him but will his shotmaking be enough of a draw? Like all dynasties buried in the dirt, the fans take a lot longer to let go than the players. Fans cling to memories and remind themselves of what used to be. What used to be for Golden State was dominance.
Rest in peace Warriors exceptionalism.