Warriors Have Changed the Optics of Super Teams

The Golden State Warriors made history a couple weeks ago when they completed the sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers to win their third NBA Championship in four seasons. The Warriors became the first team to win three championships in four years or fewer seasons since the Los Angeles Lakers won three in a row from 2000-2002. Most people considered the result a foregone conclusion a whole year ago, being that Golden State has asserted themselves into a rare air of league-wide dominance.

With how the Warriors are currently constructed, they don’t have any signs of fading any time soon. Sure, if Kevin Durant rediscovers any semblance of competitive fire and chooses to pursue the challenge of winning with a team not already loaded with star players, then we could see them slip a little. But if the Golden State core stays together in an effort to chase the Bulls of the 1990s or Celtics of the 1960s, they’ll continue to force opposing teams to expend all bits of creativity in order to come up with a solution for the NBA’s latest dynasty.

It was just a few years ago that the basic NBA team building approach was to obtain a superstar talent through the draft who could evolve into a franchise player and surround that player with additional star and solid complementary pieces. Prior to 2016, it was easy to feel optimistic about your chances to win an NBA Championship by following that formula. But, the Golden State Warriors have completely changed the dynamic of the league, as teams have to figure out how to beat this “super team” by trying to form another, you guessed it, “super team”.

The concept of a “super team” was born during the 2010 offseason when Lebron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwayne Wade in Miami to go on an impressive run that culminated in two championships and four NBA Finals appearances. Everyone outside of South Florida was repulsed by the act of star players teaming up to basically form an all-star team. It was unprecedented in the NBA, and while most basketball purists would hope it was an anomaly, the desire to somehow takedown Golden State may have not only incentivized stars to team up again, it has made the concept completely acceptable to the viewing public.

If Lebron James teams up with Paul George and/or Kawhi George when free agency kicks off next week, the move will not face more than a small fraction of the national vitriol that James and the rest of the Miami Heat faced back in 2010. In a way, I’m sure there are some basketball fans that would love to see it, especially after the complete bore of this past NBA Finals. Let’s be real, a competitive NBA Finals of uber-talented teams is pretty compelling. 

Sure, there are a handful of young, talented teams that are arching towards being able to compete for a title. But it will realistically take a team comprised of multiple elite players like James, Leonard, and George to defeat Golden State as soon as next season.

With Lebron James coming off consecutive defeats to the Warriors in the NBA Finals, he certainly knows that he needs to surround himself with better players to have a better shot next year. I won’t be the least bit surprised if he soon finds himself on a team just as talented and high-profile as the 2010 Miami Heat. But this time around, I won’t fault him for a bit. Let’s hope he skips the ESPN special.


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Lebron Has Reclaimed the Role of “Good Guy”

What a difference a few years make. It seemed like just yesterday that Lebron James became public enemy #1 in the NBA when he left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in what was the most disgraceful hour of television of the past ten years. Sure, “The Decision” raised a lot of money for the Boys and Girls Club. So, it may be unfair to be 100% critical of the event. But if you take out the charitable benefits of the TV special, it was one of the most cringeworthy and embarrassing moments in sports entertainment history.

From the pompous delivery that James was “taking his talents to South Beach” coupled with the fact that he was conspiring with other superstars in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to form a “super team”, he officially put a target on his back and the Miami Heat became the league’s most despised team.

I’ll never begrudge Lebron James for leaving Cleveland back in 2010, nor will I blame any other superstar for leaving a team that fails to effectively build around their franchise player. It was how James left that made him such a divisive figure. Admittedly, I rooted very hard against the Heat during the 2010-2014 run of the “Big 3” that made four NBA Finals appearances while winning two titles. But in the 2017 NBA Finals, Lebron James is no longer the villain. He’s the good guy that everyone should be rooting for to prevail.

Kevin Durant has assumed that role. He arguably became the new NBA villain when he left Oklahoma City for the Golden State Warriors, the team that ended his season in the prior Western Conference Finals. It was commonly labeled as a cowardly move, and deservedly so. The Warriors, coming off a record-setting 73-win team added a top-five player to form the NBA’s next super team.

The last super team was the Miami Heat, led by Lebron James. One could argue the current Cavalier’s are also a super team, as James is surrounded by Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. While Cleveland is super-talented, you can at least concede they were built by conventional means. Irving was a top draft pick, James signed as a free agent (to the team that originally drafted him), and Love was acquired via trade.

Technically, Kevin Durant did not do anything wrong or commit a crime by joining Golden State last summer. But it warrants scrutiny, given the impact of competitive balance in the NBA and the fact that he abandoned a contender that was on the cusp of reaching the Finals last year. The second that signing occurred, there was zero to little doubt that we’d have a third consecutive NBA Finals of the Cavaliers against the Warriors. That’s bad for the league. It’s bad for any sport when the regular season starts with 28/30 teams all competing for bronze.

If Durant stayed with Oklahoma City, they would have been the biggest challenger of the Warriors (again) in the West. Instead, Golden State steamrolled through the Western Conference Playoffs and is the heavy favorite in the NBA Finals. If they win, it will undoubtedly feel “cheap”. When you have a team so unbelievably loaded as they are, anything short of another title would be considered a failure in today’s watered-down NBA.

Unless you’re a Bay Area resident, I don’t see how you can support the Warriors. They represent everything wrong with the NBA. They’re the new “bad guys”. As much as some people want to criticize teams for tanking, the formation of super teams is just as bad for the league, if not worse. A professional sports league with only two legitimate title contenders lends to a boring postseason. And that’s exactly what happened. These NBA Playoffs have been dreadful.

So I find myself doing something that I would have never envisioned after Lebron James formed a super team in Miami back in 2010: Rooting for him. As nauseating as the “Lebron vs. Jordan” debates have been and will intensify if he leads the Cavs over the Warriors, I’d love to see him do it.

The Warriors are a great team, but the addition of ring-chasing Kevin Durant makes them very hard to like. What’s that mean? Lebron is the good guy, the underdog and the player who has a chance to be a hero if he brings home another title to Cleveland over the “unbeatable” Warriors.


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