Let me take you back to game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals. After watching Klay Thompson tear his ACL and a depleted Warriors squad fight until the bitter end, I was devastated, but proud of the Warriors’ performance. They gave it their all given the circumstances. They just came up short.
Most people were calling it the end of a historic dynasty in basketball. It was a good run, but without Klay or KD, and an aging Steph Curry, supposedly the window of ever returning to the promised land was shut closed. I guess it was time to make way for the new young rising studs in the NBA. Right, Barkley?
However, I didn’t lose hope. With the emotions of that gut-wrenching game still reeling, I penned my thoughts on this very blog in the wee hours of the night from a no-frills hotel in the Italian countryside.
I proclaimed, “…in my humble opinion, this story is not yet over. There are blank pages waiting to be written in the legacies of this all-time team and its future Hall of Fame players.”
Listening to Draymond and Steph after that loss reinforced my seemingly misplaced hope.
“Everyone thinks it’s the end of us, but that’s just not smart,” asserted Green.
Curry followed, “I wouldn’t bet against us…I definitely don’t think it’s over.”
And despite every reason to not believe, god damn it we were right.
Fast-forward to tonight, June 16th, 2022, and I am again in a foreign country, this time Colombia. I am simultaneously praying that the torrential rain doesn’t knock out the power and grinning as I watch the prophecy come true.
Steph Curry pulls out his newly created ‘night, night’ celebration as he drills a dagger three. Draymond looks like the vintage version of himself — an absolute pest on defense. Andrew Wiggins is keeping Jayson Tatum locked up in prison. And Jordan Poole, one of the youngsters that many once thought were not ready to deliver on the big stage, is an impactful part of the rotation.
I can’t help but chuckle — not only at Steph Curry telling the Boston Celtics to go to sleep, but at the insurmountable odds that were overcome for this moment to come true.
None of this was supposed to happen. Coming into this season, the reasons why the Warriors shouldn’t win heavily outnumbered the reasons, if any, why they should.
Let’s not forget, after that 2019 Finals loss and an untimely injury to Curry, the Warriors were the worst team in the league. Even in the following season with a healthy Steph, the Dubs only marginally improved by getting bounced out in the play-in tournament.
After coming off two disappointing seasons, people were calling for heads to roll; Fire Kerr, trade Draymond, we should have picked Lamelo, etc.
And there were plenty more reasons for pessimism.
Klay Thompson was shaking off rust after not having played basketball in 941 days.
Andrew Wiggins, a reclamation project that could never live up to his potential, didn’t want to get vaccinated (a requirement to play in SF).
Going against the advice of Curry, Draymond, and most fans, the Warriors decided to sign Gary Payton II instead of Avery Bradley.
And in spite of the traditional method of dumping young players and assets to acquire ‘win-now’ veterans a la LeBron, the Warriors’ front office decided they would try something new: keeping and developing their teenagers while trying to win a championship at the same time. That had never really been done before. Why would anyone believe that now was the time it could?
Finding reasons to doubt the Dubs was like picking low-hanging fruit, and the expert analysts loved to pounce on it.
In the preseason, FiveThirtyEight gave the Warriors a 0.5% chance to win the title.
Even when they had proved all the naysayers wrong and made it to the Finals, ESPN still gave the Warriors only a 14% chance to win.
The reason, of course, was the Celtics unstoppable league-leading defense. But while everyone was fawning over the Celtics D, the Warriors defense outshined them, holding the Celtics offense to less than 100 points in four(!) of the six games.
I was getting 2012 World Series vibes where no one would shut up about Justin Verlander and then Pablo Sandoval took him yard three times in game 1. Good times.
But here we are. While Marcus Smart is probably icing his ass from his Oscar-worthy night spent on the floor, Steph Curry is smoking a cigar somewhere getting ready to fly home and watch his fourth banner get raised to the ceiling of Chase Center.
Andrew Wiggins is humbly laughing his ass off at all those who thought he’d never amount to anything.
Klay is already thinking about his next boat ride in the Bay where he can apprecaite all the sacrifce and hard work it took to even play basketball again.
And let’s not forget about Loooooooney. The 26-year-old trapped in the body of a senior citizen was able to shake off his injury-prone reputation and play in every damn game of the season. What a legend.
All these unsuspecting factors are what make this ring feel so sweet. Just about every step of the way was unprecedented territory. I mean, did you see Steph Curry burst into tears before the buzzer even rang? It’s hitting him in a similar fashion too.
Now that the Warriors core unit of Draymond, Curry, and Klay have reminded everyone what they are capable of, they step back into the familiar territory of being the hunted, not the hunters. After what we’ve just witnessed, there’s no reason to think that the Warriors can’t repeat the feat and earn another title next year, especially with the anticipated development of the rookies on the roster.
But before we get too ahead of ourselves, I’m going to let this one sink in. This sleep is going to hit different tonight. The dynasty is back. Steph Curry and cast have proved that what most said was impossible was, in fact, possible.
Now I’ve got a flight to catch back to the Bay to attend this victory parade. See you soon, California.
Featured image credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports