The Golden State Warriors have captured their first championship in the Kevin Durant era and have officially cemented themselves as the NBA’s supervillains. Let’s retrace just how we got here beginning back in 2015.
November 2015: With Kevin Durant expected to become a free agent following the 2015-16 season, rumors begin to swirl around that the Golden State Warriors could be in the mix to swipe the 2014 MVP.
Multiple outlets begin to explore how the contract situation would workout should Durant sign with the defending world champions. Golden State’s front office had yet to sign Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli to contract extensions; if the Warriors pulled the trigger early, signing Durant would be fiscally impossible unless the team shakes up the very core of its roster. At the time of these rumors, Golden State had yet to lose a game. The Warriors wouldn’t lose until …
December 12, 2015: The Warriors lose their first game of the season to the Milwaukee Bucks after winning 24 consecutive games to begin the season. Golden State obliterated the record of most wins to start an NBA season, one previously held by the 1993 Houston Rockets and 1948 Washington Capitols with 15.
Throughout this historic run, Golden State’s perception as a ballclub slowly began to shift from basketball’s darling to being universally hated. The basketball world loved the Warriors because they were formerly the underdogs, the feel good story during the previous season. Reducing every opponent who stood in their way to the Washington Generals was fun for the moment, but it grew tiresome with Golden State racking up win after win. One of the Warriors’ record-breaking 73 wins during that historic season came on …
February 6, 2016: Golden State defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-108 at Oracle Arena. Durant once again torched the Warriors, dropping 40 points in the loss — by season’s end, Durant would average 30.9 points per game against Golden State, the only team he has averaged 30+ points against. Because Durant was already in the Bay Area, he decided to play photographer for a day at Super Bowl 50 on …
February 7, 2016: While Durant was on the snapping flicks, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green were on the sidelines to witness the Denver Broncos’ eventual 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers. Curry, raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a well-documented Panthers fan and has the opportunity to bang the team’s drum before the game while rocking a custom-made Panthers jersey with his name and number on the back. One can only imagine football wasn’t the only topic of discussion for Curry, Durant and Green that day. Golden State’s golden boy was all smiles to see his hometown team in the Super Bowl, but his charismatic grin faded by the end of …
May 24, 2016: Durant’s Thunder took a 3-1 lead on Golden State in the Western Conference Finals. The unanimous MVP, still not at 100 percent after spraining his right MCL in Game 4 of the first round against the Houston Rockets, was far from his typical, über-efficient self, shooting .419/.372/.864 in the first four games against Oklahoma City. The Thunder’s four-man combination of Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter and Durant was the perfect counter to the Warriors’ “Death Lineup” of Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. Golden State managed to defend home court in Game 5, defeating the Oklahoma City 120-111, but the Thunder still had the 3-2 advantage heading back to their home court, dubbed “Loud City” for a reason.
Durant and the Thunder looked destined to meet LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals, but instead of …
May 28, 2016 being the day Durant advanced to his second Finals appearance, it will be remembered as the game of Thompson’s life. With the Warriors desperate for someone to catch fire, Curry’s fellow Splash Brother dropped 41 points and a playoff-record 11 three-pointers on the Thunder, forever altering the history of the league. Curry recorded an overlooked 31/10/9 and Iguodala’s clutch play on the defensive end helped the Warriors force a Game 7. The Warriors would go on to win the series against Oklahoma City and take three of the first four games from the Cavaliers in the Finals. Up 3-1 heading back to Roaracle, the Warriors were destined to solidify the best season in NBA history. Unfortunately for Golden State, they ran into the man, the myth, the legend that is LeBron.
June 19, 2016: The Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to crawl back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to defeat the Warriors on their home turf. LeBron’s block, Kyrie Irving’s shot and Kevin Love’s defense on Curry as the game clock ticked down to its final seconds will forever live down in Cleveland sporting lore. Instead of being able to claim they had the best season of all-time, the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors will forever be remembered as the team which, for lack of a better word, choked.
Among the 10 Warriors who stepped on the court in Game 7, none felt worse than Green, who firmly believes his swipe at LeBron in Game 4 which resulted in his suspension in Game 5 cost them the series. The second-round-pick-turned-All-Star didn’t care that he put up 32/15/9 while knocking down six three-pointers and having to guard LeBron because in his eyes, the series loss fell on his shoulders. Green has an insatiable appetite to win by any means necessary, method be damned. With his play on the hardwood officially over for the year, Green and company would strategize off the court to turn a team which just fell short into the dynasty to end all dynasties.
July 1st, 2016: Durant meets with Golden State at the Hamptons. Curry, Green, Thompson and Iguodala are all in attendance. “We asked him how many championships do you think we can win with the way the team is now?” Green would tell The Undefeated. “How many championships can you win without us? How many do you think we can win together.” During the meeting, the man whose words resonated the most came not from the mouth of a player, but of GM Bob Myers. Myers told Durant, “Without you, we can (win) another title or two. Without you, you might win too. Together? We’ll win a bunch.”
July 4, 2016: At 8:38 a.m., Durant officially alters the landscape of the NBA for the foreseeable future. Durant tweets out an article he wrote for The Players’ Tribune announcing his decision to sign with Golden State.
The Warriors became the most hated team in basketball
Durant became the most hated player.
For the next 11 months, Golden State is held under a microscope seemingly every day without fail. Every loss is met with doubt. Every win is downplayed. Every accomplishment is cast aside. Anything short of perfection is seen as a failure to meet expectations. Three hundred and fourty-three days after announcing his decision, Durant has the last laugh.
June 12, 2017: Behind Durant’s 39 points in Game 5 of the Finals against Cleveland, the Warriors win their second championship in three seasons. Durant played the best basketball of his life, averaging 35.2/8.4/5.4 on an absurd .556/.474/.927 shooting and scoring 30+ in every game. In his tenth season in the league, one of the greatest scorers to ever grace the hardwood captured the long awaited ring and the title of NBA Champion.
But Durant’s superhuman performance didn’t just make him the Finals MVP nor just a champion. He, along with Curry, Thompson, Green, Iguodala and company, officially claimed a title only held by the few who crush and stomp on the dreams of the many.