The Golden State Warriors’ five-year run in the NBA Finals has been mostly good for the NBA and basketball.
Having a superstar as likable as Stephen Curry and a team game that promotes playing together, Golden State has captured the imagination of the nation, as well as changing the game of basketball.
But all good things must come to an end, and the Toronto Raptors can snap Golden State’s two-year hold on the NBA title with a victory in Game 5 of the NBA Finals Monday night.
Not that the Warriors losing would be bad for Adam Silver and the NBA.
Everyone likes to see the best players and the best teams competing for the championship, but over and over again? There’s a reason that, as great as they’ve been, the New England Patriots are not the most popular team in the NFL.
People get tired of seeing the same players and teams winning championships, unless maybe they have to struggle some. We look back at the 1980s, and the Los Angeles Lakers made the NBA Finals in eight of the 10 seasons in the decade. But they only won five times. The dynasty that was Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others were actually swept in the NBA Finals twice during the decade.
During Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ run in the 1990s, with six titles in eight years, there were numerous questions of whether the team’s run was good for the popularity of the NBA.
Why all the questions? Because everyone loves to see variety, or an underdog making its way through the postseason for the first time. Toronto is a great story because the Raptors have never been this far. They’re not a team we’ve seen over and over — at least not in this incarnation — so they’re fresh and new.
Golden State, as good and likable as they’ve been, is a bit like a broken record right now. We start the NBA season talking about all the possible teams that could make it out of the Western Conference, and for five years straight, it’s been Golden State taking the West’s spot in the Finals.
There’s a reason a lot of people were excited when LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers and headed to the West last summer, and it wasn’t all Los Angeles Lakers fans. For eight straight seasons, whatever team James was on represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. This year, he’s gone, and we get a brand-new Eastern Conference champion.
Golden State may have made the Finals five straight seasons and won three of the last four NBA titles, but their loss to Cleveland in 2016 is what prompted them to push to get Kevin Durant.
All of a sudden, even in their third straight NBA Finals, the Warriors were exciting and new again. The storylines of how would Durant do and how would the team do with him in the lineup were a new reason for fans to watch.
Now, we’ve had three straight seasons of that. We want something new. Seeing the Houston Rockets or Portland Trail Blazers or some other Western Conference team would have given the NBA Finals even more of a fresh look.
And, assuming the Warriors don’t make a miraculous comeback in this series, Golden State will have to look at itself and try to figure out how it can get better. The free agency of Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and DeMarcus Cousins will force that, but it won’t just be a matter of bringing everyone back and running it again.
The Raptors have exposed some weaknesses in the Warriors, and changes are coming.
Just A Good Story
Lastly, Toronto winning the NBA title would be an example to the rest of the NBA. The Raptors certainly could have sat on their laurels and kept fan favorite and franchise staple DeMar DeRozan instead of trading him for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. They could have stayed with reigning Coach of the Year Dwane Casey instead of replacing him with a first-time NBA head coach in Nick Nurse. They could have stuck with their roster throughout this season instead of trading for veteran center Marc Gasol.
But Toronto made bold moves, and it’s paying off for them. The NBA, like most pro leagues, is all about copying what’s working for other teams. If being bold and making moves instead of just standing pat works for Toronto, we might see that being done by others around the league.
Nothing against Golden State. I love their brand of passing basketball that utilizes everyone on the team, especially when Durant is out and they don’t cater to him with isolation ball.
But it’s time for a change, and if that means the Warriors have to lose to bring it about, so be it.