By: Jeffrey Newholm
Basketball has come a long way since Four Corners offenses and a half-court two point shots. The NBA has spearheaded most of this change, blazing new trails and opportunities for now hundreds of millions of players worldwide. But even by NBA fast-break standards the Golden State Warriors have helped to paint a new picture of ball-play. Teams now race up the court in order to take lightning-quick threes, and the term Fast Break now applies to every possession. But is Golden State really anything new? And is this a cause for celebration, or concern?
Old Testament grouch Solomon bemoaned that there was nothing new under the sun, and this was thousands of years ago! And indeed, the concept of a Superteam didn’t originate with Golden State. When LeBron famously took his talents to South Beach to join Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, he created a team that would appear in four straight Finals. When James returned to Cleveland, it was the Cavs’ turn to go to three Finals in a row. And certainly there have been very strong teams long before LeBron. But Golden State is unique in one way: they made a dynastic turn with the talent already on the roster. For years the Splash Brothers of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were a fun diversion, but no more. When Steve Kerr arrived, he created a intense focus of play on both sides of the ball to create a championship machine. The Warriors, then, reached stardom in a more organic and enjoyable way.
Of course, other teams tend to take notes about the winners, and by now other teams are stealing the Dubs’ three point blueprint. The Cavs made threes almost as frequently when stealing the title in 2016. The Rockets launch upwards of 40 threes a game, and even middle of the pack teams play at a noticeably faster pace. Depending on one’s point of view, this either is eye candy basketball or a detour into an unwanted hoops circus. But whatever one’s view, there’s no reason for concern, and at least one reason to smile.
First note that free agent swings help to dynamically shake up old power dynasties. Even average teams are successfully joining the arms race against the Warriors. The Thunder retooled very well and teams are counting down the seconds to new contracts for LeBron and eventually Giannis Antetokounmpo. The stale Spurs are almost forgotten now, and the rigid Cavs can barely spark a single flame of excitement. The Warriors, then, are a tidal wave sweeping all boats into a beautiful new harbor. But fans should understand that all things in life come in cycles. Sports, a microcosm of life, is no exception, and examples are found more easily. UCLA won seven titles in a row and made a previously unsuccessful coach a wizard of history. Today, they’re a middle of the pack Pac-12 team. The Lakers were once “Showtime”; now they’re a rather bad thirty second commercial. Golden State fans should enjoy the ride, but it would be foolish to overinflate one’s ego.
The Warriors may not be completely new, but they’ve certainly breathed new life into a five month regular season. Writers now rush into print with even the silliest of rumors, like LeBron becoming a Warrior. Big men don’t clog the paint anymore; instead they set screens for the three point sharpshooters. In the case of Draymond Green, there’s even a need for three-pointing shooting from a mammoth stud himself. And when-not if-a new power or style turns the page into a new era in the NBA, the Warriors will not be forgotten, but remain a chapter that precedes an even greater age of basketball ahead.