A time before 3–1 existed:
I think LeBron should shut it down for the rest of the season. What's the point. #OKCvGSW
— Hyphen Universe (@bhyphen) February 28, 2016
I wrote these words a year ago. At this moment, I just knew there was no stopping Steph Curry and the Warriors from walking to their second NBA Championship in a row. With seconds remaining in overtime, in a primetime road game on ABC, Steph Curry stepped across halfcourt. The Thunder were scrambling back on defense; a timeout they expected the Warriors to take never came. From 40 feet away, Steph Curry unleashed a three pointer, and I was so confident he had just won the game that I was already heading back to my bedroom to wake up Angel to tell the Warriors had come back to beat the Thunder. His celebration following his amazing shot was a foregone conclusion.
And at that moment, so was the NBA season. My only legitimate beef with Golden State last season was the fact that they broke my beloved Bulls’s 1996 league record 72 wins. That was the only reason I rooted against them in the playoffs. As I mentioned on my podcast previously, Steph Curry was having a moment, a moment where he was must-see TV (think Jordan, Tyson, Rousey, Roy Jones Jr.). The 40 foot game winner was the ultimate feather in the cap for the Warriors. They escaped numerous near losses just on their will to win. Steph was voted the unanimous MVP. LeBron James was no longer the most dominant player in the NBA. On February 27, 2016, there was no way the Golden State Warriors weren’t your 2016 NBA Champions.
One year later, 3–1 is what Golden State is known for, not for finishing a dream season hoisting their third Larry O’Brien trophy. Steph’s knee failed him in the first round of the playoffs and whether he’ll admit it or not, the injury hindered him the rest of the way. Klay Thompson went nuclear in OKC in Game 6, saving the Dubs from certain defeat and adding a 3–1 rally to their already improbable season. Draymond Green went full leg kick thug somewhere in the Western Conference Playoffs and he would pay for it by getting suspended in the NBA Finals when he tried the same shenanigans with King James. The Warriors may have lost Game 5 with Draymond but the series definitely swung. Game 6 featured the Cavs defending their home floor to force Game 7 (and even got Curry ejected late in the game). And Game 7 featured The Block, The Shot, The Stop and Cleveland’s first world title in years.
In a year’s time, Golden State has went from faces to heels, league darlings to Bad Boys Pistons-era hatred. The signing of Kevin Durant was the final straw and the team has even taken to wearing shirts emblazoned with the word VILLAINS. As we hurtle towards the rubber match between the Warriors and Cavaliers this spring, the outcome isn’t certain. Can LeBron bring a second straight title to The Land? Will the Warriors extract their revenge for last year’s heartbreaking loss? Can anyone else stop one of these teams from making the Finals?
One shot doesn’t win championships, especially not in February. But to think that Steph Curry and the Warriors didn’t win the title despite everything that went right for them last season is still unfathomable. As the NBA season winds down and the playoffs begin in the next few months, let us remember that anything can happen.
Even when your point guard takes a 40 foot 3 with time expiring in overtime instead of looking for the high percentage shot.