A basketball team is like a giant family. You eat together, you travel together. You share hotel rooms, planes, and buses. You get to know the inner complexities of each others’ stupid jokes. You develop slang and shorthand for your communications.
When tragedy comes, it is shared across all platforms, and it is shared by the community. By the family.
Before last summer, no team had ever been up 3-1 in the NBA Finals and lost. No team had ever had such high expectations. No team had ever won 73 games. No team had ever had a unanimous MVP. Headed into the playoffs, pundits were legitimately wondering if the Warriors could go 16-0 en route to their second straight championship.
But then of course, there was the “fall,” the “slip,” the “whatever you wanna call that” and the entire infrastructure of the operation fell through the floor. Stephen Curry could no longer transcend time and space. He was earth bound, vulnerable. In one moment—in a single unveiling of fragility—the Warriors were rendered beatable.
It’s funny how last minute disasters can avert a sure thing.
Ultimately, even though they were still heavy favorites, and even though they went up 3-1 in the finals, the Dubs lost to a team from Ohio. Standing on the very precipice of history, they punted away a chance at immortality. A team that would have been celebrated through the annals of NBA lore instead found themselves mocked and derided, as people from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and throughout the country danced and celebrated the dark, unprecedented turn of fate.
Some people just want to watch the world burn, I guess.
But that family, that band of brothers, regrouped. They went out and recruited the mother-of-all-NBA-free-agents, Kevin Durant, and then set about the process of getting better. For what else can you do, after failure? It’s the cliche to end all cliches, but after a fall you can either stay down, or get up. There’s no other option available.
The Warriors have taken all the noise around them—those derisive calls of “super villains” and worse—and turned up the volume for use as the soundtrack to their own dance party.
When things get weird, and when you fail—individually, as a group, or as a nation—remember what is actually important. Remember who your brothers are. Remember who has your back.
When Durant decided to join the Warriors after his own 3-1 heartbreak in the Western Conference Finals, he was derided for being a mercenary, for being selfish, for seeking the easy way out. But really, he was just searching for family. Searching for brotherhood. Searching for a tight-knit crew with whom to shoulder the burden of life’s travails.
In his own words:
“It felt like it was a perfect fit. It was something I was searching for when I sat down and talked to these guys. I wanted to see if what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen on the outside is really true. Do these guys really genuinely love each other? They work together. You hear family a lot. That’s just a word sometimes, but this is really a lifestyle here. You can feel it when you walk in the door, in the practice facility, everybody is just together. That’s something that I can appreciate as a basketball player and someone who values relationships. You can tell that that’s what they stand on, that’s what we stand on. I feel really grateful to play for a team like that and play with a bunch of players who are selfless and enjoy the game in its purest form. They make it about the players, they make it about the environment, so it was really an easy choice.”
The Warriors had long shared a sense of family, a sense of togetherness. Starting in the Mark Jackson era and extending through last year’s crushing defeat, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green have created an us-against-the-world mentality. Created a sense of fellowship and purpose. It speaks volumes that Durant, facing his own demons, and facing his own life-choices, chose to come to the Warriors. Because in the end, you sometimes do get to choose your brothers. You do get to choose your “family.” And then, those are the only people who you need to ride with. Those are the only people whose opinions matter. That inner circle. That timeless club.
When you hit hard times, you question who you are, and then find the people who remind you who you are and what you stand for. You take care of each other, absorb the blow, and move forward, possibly stronger. And who doesn't want to be a part of that?
Me? I’m riding with #TeamGSOM this season.
Okay, okay. And also #TeamBeatles. I won’t lie.
Happy Sunday, y’all. Be kind to one another.