This column was originally published June 20 in a special section commemorating the Warriors’ NBA Finals victory.
The Warriors’ first title in 2015 was the sweetest.
It came as a surprise — even to the Warriors themselves — and ended forty years of what was generally roundball ineptitude in the Bay.
But seven years later, even after an incredible span in which the Warriors turned such success routine, this 2022 title — the fourth won by the quartet of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Steve Kerr — stands alone as the Warriors’ best.
Yes, that 2015 title packed a punch, but there’s a deeper, richer taste to this victory. This, friends, is one to savor.
Don’t forget that belief in this team was hard to find even as the playoffs started. The Warriors limped into the postseason — literally, in the case of Curry. They were a team that provided more questions than answers.
Golden State had spent the previous two years crashing, burning, and rebuilding. In 2019-2020, they had the worst record in the league, a byproduct of a depleted, post-dynastic roster, Thompson’s season-long absence due to a torn ACL, and Curry’s broken hand, which kept him out for all but five games.
Then, last season, they lost both of their play-in tournament games and missed the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Even when the Warriors came out strong this season, it was fair to believe that the Dub Dynasty was dead.
But Green had one big question that he was happy to ask anytime he had the chance: “Who is going to beat us?”
Green was keen to point out that when the Big Three — him, Curry and Thompson — started every game of a playoff series, the Warriors had never lost.
How right he proved to be.
Thompson — who missed nearly 1,000 days with not one, but two catastrophic leg injuries — returned to the floor in January. He rounded into form late in the postseason, playing some of his best games.
Green might have lost a step or two, but his mind is as sharp as any in the history of the sport, and in the big moments of the big games, that intelligence was unmistakable on the floor.
And Curry? He was simply sensational the whole way through, winning his first NBA Finals MVP in the process.
For those three and the irreplaceable Kerr, this fourth title is validation.
Their reputations were already unimpeachable here in the Bay. They will have statues outside of Chase Center. Their jersey numbers will hang in the rafters forever. They’ll all head to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
But this title declares that all who wished to undercut or underrate the Warriors’ success were wrong.
They didn’t sneak up on the league this time. Nor did they “ruin” it by bringing in one of the game’s greatest players as a free agent, as they’d done with Kevin Durant after the first title.
The Warriors were, for the most part, a known entity in this new age of NBA parity. They were one of the many teams that entered the postseason with a good shot at winning the title.
And then they went out and beat everyone, straight-up.
A title is not won by only three men, of course. And that’s another reason why this Warriors triumph is so rewarding.
This championship would have been impossible without the team’s culture of accountability and improvement or the organization’s vision for the future. It’s validation for both as well.
On one end of the spectrum, the Warriors were seen as too old to win a title. The core had too many miles on the odometer and this roster’s veteran minimum contracts weren’t exactly given to top-flight ring chasers.
On the other end, the Warriors were too young to win a title. Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and even Jordan Poole were Not Ready For Prime Time Players. James Wiseman — the one-time No. 2 overall draft pick and the Warriors’ reward for their NBA-worst record in 2020 — didn’t even play this season.
And then there was the middle class — the players in their mid-to-late 20s prime. But was Andrew Wiggins’ prime good enough? Were Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II anything more than bit players on a fringe playoff team?
All three generations had their moments, and their struggles this season, but they jelled in the playoffs, and, particularly, in the Finals.
Perhaps that was Kerr’s magic touch. Maybe it was a bit of luck, too. Either way, it worked.And the cool part is there’s no telling how many more times it can work in the years to come.So few expected this team to be winning another title. What’s to say now that they can’t win a couple more?
The second half of this dynastic run might just be getting started.
But whether this championship proves to be the start of a new run or the end of the old one, this will be the most satisfying and rewarding title, because it was the toughest one to win.