The Warriors, Spurs And Hallucinated History
(originally written 2/17/16)
It's my pejorative name for any past event flagrantly discussed without regard to facts, truths or logic. Think conspiracy theorists regarding President Kennedy's assassination—they will try to convince you Lee Oswald was a paid hitman, even though no rational person believes a hitman would act without cash upfront, or depend on buses and cabs to escape the scene of the crime.
In the sports world, few have dealt with worse HH than the 2011 San Francisco Giants. In 2010, SF beat favored Philadelphia in the NLCS, then beat Cliff Lee (twice) and the Texas Rangers for the title. Yet, when the Phillies acquired Lee that off-season, all anybody heard was "The Giants will have to prove they can beat the Phillies now that Cliff Lee is on board!" or "The Phillies are the team to beat! No team has a chance against those arms!"
Most everybody with a platform treated the Giants' title as if it didn't happen (except me). The Phillies were favored to grab a third straight pennant in 2010...so in the minds of many, that's what happened. Hallucinated History.
The 2015-16 Warriors just went through something similar with the San Antonio Spurs, and it set me off for days. Weeks later, as you can see, I'm still not quite past it.
The Golden State Warriors, as you may have heard, are the defending NBA champions, and were off to a 40-4 start this year. The Spurs aren't too shabby either, at 38-6 including 13 straight wins entering their clash at Oracle Arena back on 1/25. Those are the facts. They are not in dispute. This isn't a Nigerian birth certificate or a Nixon cassette—zero doubt existed relating to the Warriors/Spurs performance records.
Yet, an ESPN column appeared a day or two before the game titled "The Warriors must prove they can beat the Spurs".
Shouldn't it have been the other way around?
Why would the defending champion and current frontrunner have to prove anything to anybody? Wouldn't the Spurs have to prove they can beat the Dubs? Aren't the Spurs the ones trying to close a gap? Had I hallucinated the past 150 or so Warriors games in which they've lost 24 times? It's the exact same garbage the 2011 San Francisco Giants dealt with.
I didn't bother to read the article; why up my blood pressure for no reason.
Besides, you didn't have to read the article to understand its basis—the San Antonio Spurs have been an NBA power for 17 years now, going to six NBA Finals, winning five and coming within seconds of the sixth in that span. In most non-title years they were strong title contenders, if not favorites. Their core four of Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have a lot of deserved equity built up—it's easy to think of them as champions, even when they aren't.
Conversely, Golden State's run among the elite is only three seasons old—and for you bandwagon fans, the Dubs were routinely destroyed by the Duncan/Popovich Spurs before that. Carved up into little pieces. Roasted over a spit. Embarrassed. Think Globetrotters/Generals, only without the trick shots—Golden State was utterly hapless against San Antonio at times, much like teams are against the Warriors today.
That's because—say it with me now—Golden State is the best team in the NBA! And when you're the best team in the NBA, that means the other teams, even the ones with a history of dominance, have to step up their game.
Which, as it turned out, the Spurs did not on January 25. Not by a long shot.
That still wasn't enough. (Too) many outlets were quick to discredit the win because San Antonio was without Duncan (sore knee). Some asinine thinkers tried to paint Popovich as a genius by sitting Duncan to breed future overconfidence in the Warriors. I'm sure that ESPN columnist was among them.
Nevermind that those same Spurs blew out Phoenix by 28 without Duncan four days before—not the achievement it should be at this point, but humor me—would go on to blow out the Rockets by 31 without Duncan two days after, then win five of their next six minus the big fella—with the sole loss at the hands of a team capable of beating them with or without Duncan (Cleveland).
Watch what'll happen in August. After Golden State sweeps Houston, OKC, and SA, then beats a fully-healthy Cleveland team—do not trade Kevin Love yet, Cavaliers; we need to prove a point—in five for another title, they will enter next season with Portland as title favorites because they signed Kevin Durant and traded for Dwight Howard.
What will it take for a Bay Area sports champion to be universally respected as such?