It’s amazing how one of the most apt observations I’ve ever heard came from a damn Batman movie.
“You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
If the Golden State Warriors had imploded after their 2015 championship, we would remember them as one of the most beloved teams of all time. But they didn’t, they broke records. Those awe-inspired by the impossible shooting by Curry and Thompson started to detest it.
I’ve already wrote enough about the shift in identity of my beloved Bay Area, and how the disappearance of its working class was breaking down its existing cultural appeal. These Warriors have more in common with the shiny entitled tech identity of new San Francisco than the traditional blue-collar rust belt identity of old Oakland. It’s easy to hate us now. Throw in a boastful VC owner in Joe Lacob, the infuriatingly perfect life of Stephen Curry, and the reliable jackassery of Draymond Green. I would hate the Warriors too if I wasn’t a fan. I’ve done the same to the Prime Los Angeles Lakers, The Big 3 Boston Celtics, and the Superfriends Miami Heat.
And when Kevin Durant decided to join the Warriors for the 2016-2017 season, basketball forums burst into fire and brimstone. The rich became richer, and the poor rose up in arms, clacking furiously away at their keyboards. Flames and despair being pinned onto every thread, with all who set eyes on the chaos turning into pillars of salt.
It’s an interesting position to be in. You live your life as a lovable loser, and all of a sudden, you win the lottery, marry a Victoria’s Secret Angel, and start driving around in a Lamborghini Mercy. You still feel like the same guy you were in the 1999 Kia Ddongcha(1), but you wonder why all of your former friends are starting to talk shit.
I always thought that winning a title would bring us to this point, but I was wrong. There’s another level of success that can only be validated by the whole world baring their claws to tear you right back down. It’s the kind of success that consolidates in the fear and resentment of your less fortunate peers. It’s because your peers know that luck is what drove this newfound success.
In order for the Warriors to sign Kevin Durant, events had to line up perfectly. If Stephen Curry didn’t take that contract, if the player’s union agreed to cap smoothing, if Klay Thompson didn’t carry the Warriors from the brink in Game 6 of the WCF, if Curry managed to sink a shot in the last five minutes of the Finals, it’s really hard to imagine Kevin Durant signing with us.
The two opposing arguments of this move have a lot of validity. It’s easy to understand both sides, which is unusual for something as polemic as this.
1. KD’s decision to leave the Thunder – a championship contending team with him on it – flies in the competitive spirit that makes the NBA special. Jordan never joined the Pistons. Kobe never joined the Celtics. To join the team that he came so close to beating last year, it reeks of weakness.
2. There’s no room to judge KD’s decision when we’re constantly told to take the best opportunity we can to achieve our goals. KD wants a ring. He has an exponentially higher chance of winning one with the Golden State Warriors than with any team vying for his services, the Oklahoma City Thunder included.
The problem I have with argument 1 is it’s ultimate subjectivity. There’s this unwritten rule that transcendant stars should stay loyal to the franchise that nurtured them. But guys like Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady, and Francesco Totti(2) don’t come around too often. So we abide by an unwritten corollary that transcendant stars should strive to burn the brightest by themselves, helped only by the drafting and nurturing of talent as opposed to buying superteammates on the market.
But that’s the problem. All these things are unwritten. They’re things we feel are right, but lack enough logical foundation to put them into stone. It doesn’t make sense to tie down superstars to the franchises that have drafted them, and while fans should get some return on their faith in those generational talents, these talents are human themselves. They have their own goals and desires, and will do what they feel is right to achieve them.
And of course, if you subscribe to argument 2, it implies acceptance of cowardice. To shovel off your own legacy by taking the path of least resistance, Durant is risking how he’ll be remembered when he retires. We romanticize those who face difficult mountains and celebrate their eventual triumph. It’s a wholly American story of a pauper becoming a prince through the sheer pull of their bootstraps. But now, Durant has all the help and assistance he needs to win a title, with probably the most talented team to ever grace the hardwood. The Golden State Warriors vaunted Death Lineup will now feature five All-Stars still in their prime years. It’s unprecedented. It’s un-American.
It makes the league less competitive, and competition is the backbone of the American identity and ideals of free-market capitalism. It ruins the dreams of 29 other franchises. The ring is an afterthought. You might as well call the championship now and wait for this team to inevitably break itself apart. The NBA is a joke, and there’s no reason to watch anymore games. Shut it down. Let’s go home.
The Golden State Warriors have become the Empire, the Horde, the Blitzkreig, the Legion. Unstoppable. Marauding. Evil. Comcast.
I’ve lived long enough to see us villains. I guess it’s a reflection of me that I don’t have any qualms about it either.