Heroism versus villainy in sports is a rite of passage. The narrative and the storylines are sometimes even more important or relevant to the fans than the actual outcome of the games. There isn’t a better sport in the world that adheres to underlying plots than basketball. With the amount of player transactions, trades, free agent signings and all things in between, it creates a world where the implications of games, playoff series, and titles go beyond the final score. The past two seasons in the NBA have been especially great for these interesting storylines. Primarily because of one team: the Golden State Warriors.
As Team USA suited up to play against the China Men’s National Basketball team at Staples Center in preparation for next month’s Rio Olympics, that villainy reared its ugly head. As Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant took the court to represent their country in front of their fellow Americans, they received a loud chorus of boos and jeers. To someone less educated on the situation, they would think this was completely unjustified and uncalled for. However, taking in the context of what those players now represent within the NBA, you can see why this happened. To best understand why this was occurring, you need to consider everything leading up to that moment.
The 2015 NBA season featured a team, the Warriors, that were looked at as the new kids on the block, or even the underdogs in many ways. Yes they had the league’s best record, the league MVP and an offence that was transcending basketball, but they were still unproven. Winning the championship in 2015 silenced many of those doubters, but many still believed that their road to the title that year wasn’t completely earned. The Cavs were down their second and third best players, and it still took the Dubs six games to finally put them down.
Now, fast-forward a summer to the 2015/16 season. The Warriors enter the season with targets on their backs and a myriad of expectations for how good they should be. Coach Steve Kerr was sidelined for the first half of the season with a back injury that just didn’t seem to want to heal, which allowed assistant coach Luke Walton to step in and take the reigns. This uneasy transition from coach to coach didn’t seem to faze anyone on the court because the Warriors started the season like gangbusters going 24-0, losing their first game until December 12th against the 9-15 Milwaukee Bucks. The villainy behind the Warriors eyes began to percolate by this point. People saw their hot start and their style of play and either began to get jealous or just straight up pissed that this team could very well have the best regular season of any team ever. Steph Curry was already the unanimous MVP of the association, Green was becoming a dynamically offensive and defensive powerhouse, and Thompson was emerging as the best shooting guard the league had to offer.
Oracle Arena was widely seen as the epitome of basketball fandom over the last decade or so. The fans consistently came out and were as loud as anything, even when the Dubs weren’t very good. I mean, it wasn’t called “The Roaracle” for nothing. The 2007 team that put out the 67-win Dallas Mavericks was the payoff for all of those years of muck that the fanbase had to put up with. And ever since, the Warriors fans have maintained that same level of intensity and love for their team. However, at some point over the past two seasons, that same fanbase went from cute and fiery, to obnoxious and annoying. All of it came to a head during the Finals and the whole LeBron is a crybaby fiasco. After a record breaking season where a championship was all but sured up, Warriors fans acted accordingly when their team lost, which makes it so much easier to hate them.
Draymond Green’s Groin-Seeking Foot Missile
To go along with the fans blatant disrespect, an actual player for the Warriors presented his own form of disrespect (on multiple occasions). That player is Draymond Green. Coming into the playoffs, it was hard not to like Green. He was candid, honest, funny, and knew how to play the media to display his personality. It was all well and good off-court, but on the court he displayed another aspect of his repertoire that couldn’t be looked at with as much praise. On two separate occasions during the West Finals series with the Thunder, Green connected his boot with the groin of one, Steven Adams. The first occurred in Game 2, and the second during the following game in Game 3 (Note: neither of these warranted a suspension for Green according to league office). Then again in the Final series against Cleveland, Green was caught with a little too much contact to the nether regions of Finals MVP LeBron James.
Daddy and Wifey Coming to the Rescue
Adding to all of the on-court drama, the drama off-court could be seen as just as dramatic. After some comments made by a few select Warriors players, LeBron James took them personally and voiced his opinion about them. This prompted Klay Thompson to respond to the media claiming that James “must have gotten his feelings hurt.” While Klay’s dad, Mychal Thompson, added to that by saying James acts “too entitled sometimes.” It didn’t end there with Curry’s wife, Ayesha Curry, voicing her opinion about how the NBA is definitely rigged because her team wasn’t getting their way after Golden State’s Game 6 loss to the Cavs in Cleveland. Curry ended up recanting her statement and apologized, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the people backing these Warriors players are quick to criticize when it doesn’t go their way.
The result of the finals series was seen as retribution to many people. It was retribution to the Cavaliers franchise for finally winning one for “The Land.” It was retribution for basketball fans to see the Warriors lose after all of the various things that occurred that made it really hard to cheer for them. It was retribution for LeBron James and his quest to silence all of his haters and prove all of his doubters wrong. And most importantly, it was retribution for Steven Adams’ groin.
KD is what’s for Dinner
After a season where the Warriors toed the line between NBA sweetheart and NBA foe, they went out and did most typical thing a villain could do… They went and got stronger. Picking up Kevin Durant not only vaulted them into the spotlight as antihero, it turned Durant into the face of villainy throughout the league. People hated this move, and whether it is justifiable or not, it still doesn’t sit well with many people.
The Cavaliers conquered their demons and finally defeated their foe. It is the classic case of an action movie where the hero comes back from down and out and defeats the super-villain at the very last moment. The narrative writes itself. However, just like another classic action movie trope, the very last scene depicted the villain down and “dead,” but before the screen finally cuts to black, the villain’s eye opens. That eye opening (signing Kevin Durant) is the villain reawakening and telling the audience that yes the villain isn’t done, and yes there will be a sequel to the story.
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