Hunter White is a history junior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Just as some predicted in July of last year when Kevin Durant began his next chapter, the Golden State Warriors waltzed their way into the fourth game of the NBA Finals, having faced a single half of actual competition. They fulfilled every monstrous prediction that a 73-win team who added the second best player in the league could have been met with; they are simply unbeatable. They are as top heavy as the 2013 Heat and as deep as the 2014 Spurs.
Facing the Warriors became certain death, and nothing short of a bad meniscus could conceivably slow them down. They are the Darwinian monster of the NBA super team ecosystem formed atop the corpses of Boston and Miami; they are so extreme that their hypothetical roster would have seemed utterly ludicrous if someone dreamt it up before it happened.
However, unlike their predecessors, there is something especially wrong in this new assembly of free-flying superhuman talent. A sense of futile exhaustion hangs over their circus-performances-masquerading-as-competition.
When the arguably second greatest basketball player of all time and perhaps the most athletic human being since Achilles has been reduced to a Washington General, one cannot help but feel as if we are being cheated out of some great course of history.
The difference between the super teams of the past and the Warriors of today comes down to the nature of their formation. Both the “Big 3” Celtics and the Lebron-era Heat were crafted out of the mud. The Celtics united long-suffering and talented veterans to fulfill over a decade of searching. The Heat created one of the most fascinating hypotheticals in sports: What if a great player built his own team? They were both filled with drama and emotion. Sides were chosen and heroes and villains were born.
The Heat started wearing all black and Boston was Boston: perhaps the most hatable city in the known sports universe. Legacies dangled over the abyss before our eyes and both experiments teetered on the edge of destruction thanks to the shoulders of Dwight Howard and a crafty German, respectively.
Even the pre-Durant Warriors had a chapter of this sort. Those Warriors were a wrecking ball of such unexpected and monstrous proportions, they seemed destined to change the nature of the game itself , despite standing in the shadow of the prodigal son seeking deification.
It was a drama of epic and poetic proportions, a clash of old and new, finesse and power, the individual and the collective. They battled and drew blood, a deciding showdown of mythic proportions seemed destined. Then, with an ending as unsatisfying and abrupt as when Rose threw the Heart of the Sea into the f**king sea, the greatest regular season team of all time traded their worst starter for the second best player in the league and history was preemptively rewritten.
“It’s just a business,” they say. “Who wouldn’t take a job that guaranteed future success?”
This is a true statement and a fair defense of Durant’s “hardest road,” but it also proves exactly why his decision has left such a sick taste in the back of our throats. Professional sports leagues (including the NCAA, but let’s not get into that hornets nest) are businesses which must conceal this fact. They must present themselves as connected to a city and to broad American ideas in order to keep the illusion that they are culturally important. They sell us a myth in the same way Don Draper would have marketed the Iliad.
In exchange for Kia commercials and overpriced tank tops, we get to lay some claim on history. We bear witness to century-long curses being overturned through the willpower of a team. We witness, in glorious high definition, the cost of greatness and an expression of American values far more convincing than stories of chopped cherry trees.
With every team relocation and blatantly self-serving action, from teams and players, the façade becomes all the more transparent and the industry’s churning profit motivated machinery, which wrings our hope and loyalty into yachts and villas, becomes all the more obvious.
In a perceived meritocracy, sports provide an ideal image of the American Dream filled with failure, determination and, hopefully, the proverbial mountaintop. Some make it, some do not, but never before has someone so close to the top given up the struggle and instead decided to tag along for the ride.
Every championship tells a story and the Durant Warriors tell us one we already know. The rich get richer and hard work and loyalty are already long obsolete. Without Durant, the Warriors might have become the greatest team of all time; with him, they were before the ball ever touched