Last week, I spent about an hour sitting right next to former Chicago Bulls center Bill Cartwright.
In the so-called "spare time" that I imagine myself having, I have helped to recap games for the University of San Francisco women's basketball team not only because I appreciate women's basketball and began covering Bay Area legend Jennifer Azzi's team a few years ago, but also because I just like being forced to write about something different every now and then. Cartwright, a Dons Hall of Famer, had shown up unannounced to watch his alma mater play in baseline seats at War Memorial Gym and eventually made his way over to the media table to do radio color commentary for the second half.
Like many NBA centers, Cartwright is an enormous human being. When he came over to the table, we had to remove the chair between us to make room for his legs. Even then -- sitting an imaginary seat away from him -- when he occasionally put his hands on his hips while contemplating a point, his elbows would extend across the gap to brush my arm. When I simply couldn't move any further over, I kind of just took it as an opportunity to say that I've literally rubbed elbows with a NBA champion who I grew up watching as a kid.
In contrast to his physical presence, Cartwright is a rather soft-spoken but clearly thoughtful man (judging by the number of times his elbows hit me while he was searching for just the right words to make a point) -- I could barely hear what he was saying on the air over the crowd noise of a sparsely attended game despite being able to hear the normal play-by-play announcer loud and clear. So we didn't exactly talk much. He did a halftime interview, transitioned right into color commentary, then was whisked away to meet with USF officials after the game who would probably love nothing more than for him to be more active with the athletics department. Other than a few routine words here and there, sharing a box score, and knowing glances or kind of chuckling together about something funny that happened during the game, we did the black man head nod and dap as he left, I started massaging my notes for the recap and that was it.
Yet I did catch the play-by-play man asking him about the Golden State Warriors and former teammate Steve Kerr at some point and thought to myself that I really should ask this man what he thinks of this Warriors team since he played with Michael Jordan's Bulls not long before they won 72 games. He was part of the teams that won titles from 1991-93 then was gone after the 1993-94 season, the only year he played with Kerr. I couldn't hear a word of that exchange and I never got an opportunity to ask him anything substantive otherwise, but I'm not even sure there was any point anyway.
At some point, I figured that he showed up at that game as many alums do: to enjoy a game at his alma mater, maybe reminisce about college days, and support a program that Azzi and her staff has really resurrected from the dead. They apparently asked him to do color after he showed up and weren't even sure when or how long he'd do it. Bothering him for another hot take about from an old head about the Warriors just seemed pointless. So I chalked it up to a cool experience and moved on with my night.
I mention all that to say this: I'm so sick of this old school vs. new school stuff that I don't even want to ask someone who might actually have some interesting insight about it. Putting him on the spot about it, of course any championship-level competitor is going to believe that his team could do anything, especially when that team thoroughly dominated the majority of a decade during a very different NBA era. We can probably assume he's thought about it at some point, but do we really need another of these hot takes? I guess I could've asked for an interview about it at some other time when he had a chance to think up something thoughtful, but I was exhausted and needed to get back to the East Bay.
Unfortunately -- and for reasons I totally understand (e.g. CLICKZ) -- most people don't see this question the same way. The problem is that the answers to it seem to be getting more absurd by the day. It's like a more ridiculous Dave Chappelle's Playa Haters Time Travelling skit in which they go to the future to just see who can get the best snap in.
Most of us have already heard about these takes -- and a few of they really do make for great FanPosts and FanShots -- and probably mocked them on social media. But as Joe Flynn of Posting and Toasting alluded to about former Bulls coach Phil Jackson's comparison of Stephen Curry to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, there are degrees of ridiculousness to these statements -- yes, comparing Curry to Abdul-Rauf is mild (and maybe even understandable) compared to what else happened this last week.
A quick rundown:
- First, I think Flynn's commentary on Phil Jackon's tweet is worth reading and considering before mocking it completely. I'm not going to delve too deeply into it because others already have (and there might even be another player to add to this stylistic, not productivity, comparison), but Kevin Pelton of ESPN probably tweeted the best argument in support of Jackson's point: Kerr made a very similar comparison back in 2015.
- NBA legend Oscar Robertson seems to believe that Curry wouldn't make it back in the day (h/t Daniel for writing up a FanPost about this one)
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar essentially agrees that someone just needs to "play them physically on the perimeter", as he said during an ESPN broadcast.
- Moving to comments about the team as a whole, Derek Knight already recapped Stephen Jackson's comments about the We Believe Warriors being able to beat the current edition of the Warriors (and, for what it's worth, that's a game/series I would totally be down to watch).
- Former L.A. Lakers player and Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw says the Warriors' success is predicated on the NBA's lack of dominant big men, according to V Anand of The Times of India.
- For reasons I'm not entirely clear about, Cedric Ceballos weighed in on the question and said his 1993-94 Phoenix Suns team could beat the Warriors, according to an article by Kevin Zimmerman of Arizona Republic.
- Andrew Bogut submits that his under-14 team in Melbourne could take the Dubs (h/t CurryUpOffense for his elaborate and hilarious FanPost about Fat Jimmy), which is awesome and could be deserving of a 30 for 30 episode ("The Babies that tamed the Baby Faced Assassin"?).
Of course, the Warriors have also responded. Curry's response has been well-documented (h/t CurryUpOffense for posting a FanShot with Curry's podcast discussion with Tim Kawakami and Marcus Thompson), but Kerr had a zinger of his own and Bogut's ongoing response to this has been great.
Bogut: "It's more just starting to get funny now bc they're just asking random ppl from random teams that didn't even win championships."— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) February 27, 2016
And Mary Babers-Green, Draymond Green's mother, submitted an extended commentary about the need to stop this insanity (h/t BordInDaEB for posting that as a FanShot). Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post also penned an article imploring the vets to simply come to terms with the current state of affairs.
Anyway, after sifting through all of this, I'm left with two lingering thoughts:
1. As Babers-Green, Bogut, and Dempsey have all alluded to, maybe people should just stop entertaining these questions and accepting this team on its own terms because there's no right answer or even way to reason through it (though I would LOVE to see We Believe play today's Warriors).
2. We really should just enjoy this moment and let history take care of itself. The greatest teams did a lot more than win one title; the greatest players won multiple individual awards. Let's just try to enjoy the Warriors journey down that path, regardless of where it ends.