After the Golden State Warriors defeated the Houston Rockets to clinch a spot in the NBA Finals, Bay Area media reported that the Warriors players were hardly celebrating. No champagne bottles were popped, no cheers erupted behind closed doors; instead, players sat around the locker room, looking at their phones and talking with family.
It was not a moment of arrogance or self-congratulation. This Warriors team had enough to be arrogant about: it boasted a historic 67-game winning season, its first MVP since Wilt Chamberlain earned the honor for the Warriors in 1960, and the winningest rookie head coach in all of NBA history.
Nevertheless, players and fans alike knew that all the victories and accolades paled in comparison to the prospect of ending a 40-year championship drought and taking home the NBA Championship to a hungry fan base.
But why this team? Why now? After all, the team is particularly young, with 12 of its 15 players under 30 years old. The team is set to face LeBron James and all his brilliance in the NBA Finals. In the preseason, only one member out of 28 experts in an ESPN survey picked the Warriors to win the NBA Championship, and that writer opened his explanation by admitting that he was open to criticisms of favoritism, as he was based in the Bay Area.
The answer, I think, has a few key parts. It begins with the only player who still stands from the 2009-10 season, the first season that I started watching the Golden State Warriors and NBA basketball. The story of Golden State’s present success, and my own love story with this team, has its roots in a scrawny 6-foot-3 point guard who, as Georgetown basketball fans know better than anyone, has the ability to ruin another team’s entire season.
The Warriors’ story begins with Stephen Curry.
The new face of the Warriors’ franchise was a wonder to behold, even in Golden State’s dismal 26-56 record during Curry’s first year in the NBA. The young guard offered glimmers of hope to a weary fan base and shows the promise to potentially catapult the franchise out of the depths of the Western Conference and into the limelight.
Whether it was in small moments like his first triple-double from his rookie year, making him the first Warriors rookie to earn one since 1993, or his comebacks from repeated ankle injuries, the quiet, humble, yet fiercely competitive and superbly talented Curry became the superstar that defined Golden State basketball.
Curry’s ascension to his present status as Golden State’s hero is in part due to a front office that emerged out of the sale of the Warriors in July 2010. New majority owner Joe Lacob promised to put Golden State on the map, and he delivered on that promise, often at the expense of his own pride. Risky moves from Lacob and General Manager Bob Myers, most notably trading marquee player Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut in 2012, and the lack thereof, like keeping Klay Thompson instead of trading him for Kevin Love, emphasized the team’s focus on defense, team chemistry and building a championship-caliber team.
Nevertheless, to put the success of an entire team on one spectacular player or on a few men making decisions behind closed doors ignores other human aspects that have made this team tick and maintained its success throughout the season. This is a team with players that have repeatedly swallowed their pride in the pursuit of success, most notably Andre Iguodala, who possessed an admirable open-mindedness to playing sixth man throughout the season. Iguodala understood that starting the younger, burgeoning Harrison Barnes gave the team an advantage, and his selflessness helped the team flourish.
Several players on the team were also asked to accept an unpopular decision made by the front office when Head Coach Mark Jackson was fired in the offseason and rookie head coach Steve Kerr was hired as his replacement. Jackson was notoriously close with several top players on the Warriors team, including Curry and Draymond Green, but each of those players successfully put their personal feelings aside and bought into Kerr’s coaching style.
So why this team? Why now? The high-scoring “Run TMC” trio of the 1990s couldn’t do it. The historic “We Believe” team that upset a first-seeded Dallas Mavericks team in 2007 couldn’t do it. Why these Warriors?
Because 40 years is a long time to be without an NBA Championship. Because the words “Warriors” and “defense,” words that seemed contradictory not so long ago, easily go together these days. Because those players who won a jaw-dropping 67 games in one season sat in a locker room and said that winning the Western Conference just wasn’t good enough — because this team had the guts and the grit to ask for more.
Kara Avanceña is a rising junior in the College. She is a former Senior Sports Editor of The Hoya.
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