The Warriors are worthy champions. The team posted 67 regular season wins, and completed their title run with an aggregate record of 83-20. They conquered the vaunted Western Conference and “the best player in the world” on the trot trailing no worse than 2-1 in any series, and responded to both series deficits by winning three straight games to close out the series. Throw in Steph Curry as MVP and their low key epic first round in game comeback against the Pelicans, and Golden State has produced a season of historical significance.
The story of their season is the contemporary balance of continuity, change and adaptability. The Warriors fired a successful head coach who enjoyed good standing with the players in favor of a first time head coach. They rejected a trade for All-Star Kevin Love preferring to keep their core of players together, but shuffled the core to start two young, and largely, unproven players ahead of established veterans including a former All-Star, gold medalist, and now finals MVP, who came off the bench for the first time in his eleven year career. Their fragile, defensive fulcrum at the outset of the season was surprisingly healthy at the end, but didn’t play a minute in the final two games as the team downsized to seize advantage.
The played big. They played small. They played great because they played together.
He is what he says he is, “the best player in the world”. In twelve seasons, he has taken his team to the finals six times winning two championships. He has won league MVP four times, but like Jordan before him, that does not approximate his supremacy over his peers. He is the greatest player of his generation, and in the discussion of greatest player of all-time.
He has, since the middle of high school, lived in an unprecedented age of social media scrutiny without scandal while delivering the promise of his vintage Chosen One cover shoot. In doing so, he has brought authenticity to the pretentious and otherwise absurd King James moniker.
His feats during this playoff run, and finals, were Herculean. I deliberately chose the word Herculean as James was not so much playing basketball as performing the role of a super hero. The odds were long against him, and his supporting cast, with rare and fleeting exception, was almost comically inept, but yet he forged ahead knowing not if it were possible, but only that no one else could or should even attempt this level of self-sacrifice. It was noble and glorious, but ultimately futile.
James is human. He misses shots, turns it over, blows defensive assignments and loses games including four out of his six finals appearances. He is aging, and it is uncertain how many more times he can be this heroic, but if you have ever rooted against him, hated on him, stop. Not for him because he has heard and handled it all, but for yourself because when he stops, you will not see his kind again for a long time, and in truth, the next one will belong to another generation anyway. Embrace and appreciate the genuine greatness in front of you.