After two dominating performances and a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors are looking like the NBA’s latest “super team.”
Many are crying foul at the unfairness of an already-great team, one with a championship in 2015 and an NBA-record 73 regular-season wins in 2016, having the audacity to add perhaps the second-best player in the league.
But, while the 2017 version of the Warriors may in fact be super, they are a bit different from the previous NBA super teams we have come to know and love, or hate.
These Warriors are not the result of three superstar free agents collectively deciding to come together to wreak havoc on the rest of the league, like the one spearheaded by LeBron James in Miami in 2010. James’s decision that year assured that James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would team up for the Heat and play with whoever else was willing to take the scraps left of the salary cap in exchange for multiple rings.
These Warriors are not the modern-era Boston Celtics, who acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in trades prior to the 2007-08 season to form the “Big Three.”
These Warriors are not even LeBron James’s most recent attempt at a super team, this time with the Cleveland Cavaliers. James, of course, joined the Cavaliers as a free agent from Miami and insisted that the team trade for Kevin Love in order to create yet another “Big Three” with Kyrie Irving already in place in Cleveland.
These Warriors are different. They are a team whose three stars prior to this season were all — get this — drafted and homegrown, and shrewdly, at that.
Stephen Curry was drafted seventh in the 2009 NBA Draft, after the likes of Hasheem Thabeet, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. Klay Thompson was the 11th pick in 2011, after Derrick Williams, Jan Vesely, Brandon Knight, and Jimmer Fredette. Finally, the Warriors drafted a true diamond in the rough, Draymond Green, with the 35th overall pick, fifth in the second round in 2012, behind too many busts to list. All three of these players exceeded expectations to become top-15 players in the league, thanks, in part, to the team’s development, along with its system of play.
The finishing touch to this potential (they still have to win two more games to be called champions) super team came in the form of one free agent, albeit a great one, in Kevin Durant.
You can argue that Durant’s decision to join Golden State was him taking the easy road to an elusive championship, but as referenced above, it was far from the most obvious or egregious attempt.
Nor is the NBA super team anything new or modern. It is the NBA.
Even before the Celtics’ modern Big Three, there was Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Before that there was Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy and the Celtics’ original Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. And let’s not forget that Celtics super team in the 1960s that included the likes of Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones and Tom Heinsohn and helped Russell accumulate many of his 11 world championships, or the Lakers roster with Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.
Durant and the current Golden State Warriors are business as usual in the NBA and actually more organic than the typical NBA super team.
Is it good for the league? It must be. The NBA is thriving financially, and although this season’s playoffs have been a snoozefest, this Finals series will likely break viewership records.
Is it good for the rest of the league and the poor franchises that cannot pull together a super team? Probably not. But the rest of the teams in the league are used to it. Only 18 of the NBA’s current 30 franchises have won a championship, and only 10 have won more than one.
So, don’t hate Kevin Durant or the Warriors, hate the game — or simply embrace the 2017 version.
Jamal Murphy is a contributor to CBS Local. He writes extensively about college basketball, the NBA and other sports, often focusing on the intersection of sports and social justice/awareness. Listen to Jamal on the Bill Rhoden On Sports podcast (iTunes & Soundcloud) that he cohosts with legendary sports columnist, Bill Rhoden. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @Blacketologist.