Why I (Regrettably) Abandoned The Warriors
(originally written 11/24/19)
Imagine falling in love with someone. (As a straight male, I'll use the pronoun "she" in this example.)
This girl has had a rough life. Her parents weren't fit to be parents, and as a result she was neglected, maybe even abused at times. No matter what she tried, she failed at it...often spectacularly.
Until she met you.
You gave her confidence. Attention. Care. Love. You nurtured her and encouraged her. Over time, she blossomed. She finished school, started a career, improved her looks, believed in herself. At first, you couldn't have been more proud of her improvements and achievements.
But then she changed.
The wallflower who once shied away from expressing herself now expressed herself to anyone and everyone who would listen, no matter the topic. She was driven almost maniacally by her goals and stopped at nothing to reach them. And empowered by her new figure—plus the attention that came with it—she began to flaunt herself whenever possible, making sure to appear wherever appreciative eyes could be found, doing whatever it took to draw those eyes to her.
And while you still cared about her, and were genuinely happy to see her doing well...you didn't like the route she took to get there. Her success changed her. Most of the traits that endeared her to you no longer applied.
You no longer knew this person, and accordingly...you no longer wanted to be with this person.
This is how I felt towards my Golden State Warriors after the signing of Kevin Durant.
When the Warriors lured Durant from the Thunder (and booted off most of the extra parts who helped turn them into title contenders to make room for him), they officially turned heel in my eyes. They'd become the new Heatles, adding a #1 star to a team that already had one—and in the process, damaging the rest of the NBA from a competitive standpoint.
Not to mention setting what I felt was a crappy precedent—who'd still respect Damien Lillard, for example, if he up and decided to join Golden State next summer? How would history have remembered, say, Hakeem Olajuwon if he signed with Michael Jordan's Bulls one summer?
While I liked Durant just fine in Oklahoma City, I didn't like Durant coming to a Warriors team I felt didn't need him. WHY take an axe to a winning roster for a guy who might cause problems if not allowed to chuck it as much as he's used to?
Time gave me some perspective. Sadly, I had to miss an entire season of Warriors basketball to get there—yup, I was so anti-Durant that I executed a boycott.
I now realize that, given Stephen Curry's proclivity to sudden freak injuries, we did need Kevin Durant, or at least somebody who could score 25 a night if Curry was laid up. The only reason every NBA team doesn't apply this strategy is that only about 5-10 dudes in the league can score like Durant.
Golden State was just fortunate enough to be his preferred destination. Just about any of the other 29 teams would have licked a toad to have Durant for just ONE season.
It's silly to now fault Durant for joining a team of stars, when the team he left was only a tick below the Warriors at the time. Remember: Oklahoma City was a win away from knocking Golden State out of the 2016 Western Finals. Their 1-3 punch of Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka was right there with Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
It wasn't like Durant hopped from a team of losers to join a winner. He left one winner for another.
Once I realized that, I softened on Durant a bit and started watching Warriors games again in early 2018. As I did so, I continued to reflect, to examine myself and my reasons for being the only person I knew not overjoyed by Durant's addition to the team.
Then it hit me:
I'd been a Warriors fan since 1992. During that time, they'd had about six winning seasons. They were almost always the underdog. Rooting for them was like rooting for the no-name challenger to the Big Boss Man on Saturday morning WWF Wrestling—you knew he wouldn't win, but he executed just enough clothleslines and suplexes to inspire hope that he could.
(Yes, kids, WWE used to air on Saturday mornings. I used to love me some Macho Man right after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But I'm not here to talk about the past.)
Rooting for the Warriors was fun because they were never favored to win anything. That's what made the 2015 title so special—it just kind of happened.
But with KD in town, the Warriors immediately became a power, the class of the NBA. And being on top, being the favorite, being expected to win wiped out just about all of their appeal to me.
The Dubs were now the girl in the above example. Their success changed them. Moved them right out of their working class 'hood to a new bayfront arena. Jacked up their ticket prices to obscene levels. Got rid of the "little people" who got them to the top and replaced them with an A-lister in Durant.
And while I still cared about them and wished them well...it just wasn't the same.
Turns out I was anti-Durant because he removed any question of Golden State returning to the top and staying there. Let me ask you this: would Taylor Hicks have had 1/5 of the support he got if he'd already won three American Idol competitions? A resounding no.
It took 2019's spate of injuries to all four Warriors All-Stars to really draw me in again, because they weren't expected to win, They were again underdogs. Many victories could be considered upsets. That's the style of Warriors basketball I grew up on—inferior. And it allowed me to actually look forward to the return of Durant and company.
Now the Warriors are 'dogs once more. What scraps are passing for their roster right now are not cohesive or talented enough to win. Curry and Thompson are hurt. Green is in and out of the lineup. Durant is long gone, the sting of losing him only softened by his current unavailability to Brooklyn (Achilles tear). Golden State has endured what used to be four months of losing in 32 days. It's going to be a very long year, at least until the Splash Brothers return.
Gee, maybe Golden State can sign a big-name free agent to help them return to contention. There's a thought!