The Warriors had already won three championships prior to the 2021-22 season, but it was clear from the way they celebrated their victory in Game Six of the immediate past finals that they valued their fourth the most. There were ample reasons why, to be sure, and they were candid in their post-mortem. They went from runners-up in 2018 to National Basketball Association doormats following the departure of all-world Kevin Durant and the injuries to, and prolonged convalescence of, Splash Brother Klay Thompson. Meanwhile, two-time Most Valuable Player awardee Stephen Curry proved brittle even as defensive anchor Draymond Green seemed to have lost focus along with a step.
Indeed, the brush with mortality made the Warriors appreciate their ascendancy all the more. It would be disingenuous to say they didn’t expect to turn their fortunes around from last place to first in the league. If there was any surprise, however, it was the relative swiftness with which they were able to walk the talk. To this end, they certainly benefited from astute roster reconstruction. Erstwhile journeymen Jordan Poole and, to a lesser extent, Gary Payton II were revelations, while the likes of Otto Porter, Jr. and Kevon Looney remained productive in limited minutes.
Outside of the Big Three of Curry, Thompson, and Green, though, 2014 top overall pick Andrew Wiggins deserved major props. The Warriors faced supposedly superior competition, and yet the latter wound up being the single biggest reason for the Celtics’ underachievement. Newly minted first-team All-NBA Jayson Tatum emerged from the title series with astoundingly poor numbers along with the distinction of being the first player in postseason history to net 100 turnovers. From Cavaliers cast-off, the eighth-year wingman turned into a critical component of a continuing dynasty.
And, yes, a dynasty is precisely what the Warriors are. At a time of unprecedented depth of field and significant parity, the blue and yellow have become as close to a sure thing as there is in the NBA. Four Larry O’Brien Trophies in six tries through eight years will do that. Which was why Curry’s tears flowed in the aftermath. For once, he managed to showcase the singular skills that turned the league upside down and changed the sport in the previous decade. With no Durant to defer to and with the moment calling for him to be at his finest as a result, he delivered.
Considering the state of the Warriors, there is cause to argue that success will continue to bless the Bay Area. Whether or not that is true is immaterial at this point. One thing’s clear, though: it’s up to the rest of the NBA to disprove. Meanwhile, they’re left to stew in the sidelines while the champions bask in well-deserved glory.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.