Written by: Jacob Evans (@fastbreakjake1)
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What do Rodney Dangerfield and the 2016-2017 Golden State Warriors have in common?
They both don’t get no respect!
Though the Warriors lost to the Cavaliers on Friday night, it took a record-setting performance from Cleveland on their home floor to hand Golden State their first postseason loss. The Warriors have established themselves as a dominant force in the NBA, going for fifteen straight wins during these playoffs, an NBA record. Despite their loss, they are still poised to win a championship over LeBron James and the Cavaliers, leading the series 3-1 (Cue the “Warriors blew a 3-1 lead” jokes).
Golden State has cemented themselves as one of the greatest teams in history, and there should be no debate. They have Kevin Durant, a seven footer who can play any position and score effortlessly, Steph Curry, the man who redefined the term “range” along with fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson, who pairs elite shooting with elite defense, and Draymond Green, another versatile, do-it-all player. Yet, this Warriors team lacks one thing- the respect of their peers.
The sheer amount of “old dudes,” as Charles Barkley would call them, claiming their team could beat the Warriors has been simply ridiculous. Magic Johnson claimed that the Showtime Lakers would easily sweep the Dubs (A sweep? Really Magic?), Julius Erving claimed his ‘82-83 Sixers team would figure out a way to beat them, and Scottie Pippen proclaimed he and Jordan would’ve swept them too. Now, each of those teams has a legitimate argument to say they would win- but they aren’t the only ones to proclaim victory in a hypothetical series against Golden State.
Laughably, Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton have both concluded that their championship-winning Detroit Pistons team in 2004 would win too because they “played defense.” They conveniently forget that the Warriors know how to play defense too (0 points for the Cavs in the last 3:10 of Game 3) and that the Pistons managed only a paltry 90.1 points per game.
The Finals during this era of basketball were absolute slugfests, where both teams tried, essentially, to punch the other in the mouth. Detroit would never have seen a team with the skill and floor spacing ability of the Warriors. They might have been halfway decent at guarding Golden State in the Warriors’ half-court offense, but once Steph and Co. got going on the break, it would be game over. If LeBron is gassed by the fourth quarter while playing against these Warriors, I doubt Rasheed could run with Golden State over the course of just one quarter. Maybe if he had an oxygen mask on.
Not to be outdone, Stephen Jackson fervently believes the 2007 Warriors would beat this year’s version, even going as far as to say he “guarantee[d] it.” The We Believe squad certainly pulled off one of the greatest upsets in NBA history by beating Dirk Nowitzki and the #1 seeded Mavericks- but not all one seeds were created equal. This Golden State team has more versatility, shooting ability, and defensive prowess than those Mavs, and certainly much, much more than Jackson’s Warriors. Jackson also seemed to have forgotten that his team got bounced in THE SECOND ROUND. They didn’t even make the conference finals, let alone compete for a championship.
The sheer amount of vitriol directed at the Warriors prompted coach Steve Kerr to lay on a thick layer of sarcasm when addressing the phenomenon of players claiming they could beat the Warriors: “They’re all right, they would kill us. The game gets worse as time goes on. Players are less talented than they used to be. The guys in the ‘50s would’ve destroyed everybody. It’s weird how human evolution...goes in reverse in sports. Players get weaker, smaller, less skilled. I can’t explain it.” Kerr is right to deride these claims of superiority- his team has the longest playoff win streak in history, and is poised for victory over a team with the best player in the world (and the history of basketball, some say) and two other All-Stars.
Though I am fairly sure that former NBA players don’t heed advice from 20-year-old college students that were cut from their freshman basketball team in high school, but I hope they hear this: Please stop saying your team could demolish the Warriors. First of all, most of these claims are borne out of bias and pride. The Warriors really are an all-time great team, even if you think yours is better- no other team has ever had their sheer amount of firepower, or has come close to replicating this dominant postseason.
Second, there is a grand total of zero ways to determine a winner in a hypothetical series. Maybe these guys haven’t heard, but the human race is still without a time machine. However, if one hits the market in the next few years, I’m sure Steve Kerr and the Warriors will hop in to face off against Jordan’s Bulls.
Finally, these comments do nothing but distract from Golden State’s unprecedented, historic run and their unique playing style. These players had their time in the league and their shot to achieve greatness, they shouldn’t cast aspersions on a team for trying to do the same thing. If the Warriors blow another 3-1 lead, then they can proclaim themselves the better team. Until then, just watch the damn games and be happy with your own accomplishments.