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The Warriors’ climb to the top was historic, and so was the fall

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What a run, and what an ensuing slide.

If you’re a Golden State Warriors fan, you know the truth: you’ll never root for a team as good as the Warriors were during their five-year run atop the Western Conference. A run that featured three titles, two MVPs, and one infamous owner comment about lightyears that is remembered as much for the accuracy of its sentiment as the inaccuracy of its science.

You’ve known this for a long time. Since long before the injuries mounted and the wins started to dissipate.

We knew after the 2017 NBA Finals that the highest high was reached — the only question was how long it could be sustained, and how slow the descent would be.

And now we have an answer to that second question: not very slow at all.

The rise to the top of the mountain was historically quick for the Warriors. In 2014, they were bounced from the first round of the playoffs. The ensuing offseason featured no notable player movement, with the hiring of Steve Kerr to replace Mark Jackson representing the only notable personnel change.

And then they won the championship in 2015.

The rest, in good times and in bad, is well-documented history, but both the ascent and the descent are jarring when you watch the timelines:

  • May 3, 2014: Warriors are eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
  • May 4, 2015: Steph Curry wins MVP
  • June 6, 2015: Warriors win the NBA Finals
  • May 10, 2016: Steph Curry becomes the first player in NBA history to unanimously win MVP
  • April 13, 2016: Warriors set the NBA record with 73 wins
  • June 19, 2016: Warriors lose the NBA Finals in seven games
  • July 4, 2016: MVP Kevin Durant signs with the Warriors
  • Feb. 19, 2017: Warriors send four players to the All-Star Game
  • June 12, 2017: Warriors win the NBA Finals after going 16-1 in the postseason
  • June 27, 2017: Draymond Green wins Defensive Player of the Year
  • June 8, 2018: Warriors sweep the NBA Finals
  • July 2, 2018: Warriors sign perennial All-Star DeMarcus Cousins

  • April 15, 2019: DeMarcus Cousins tears his quad
  • May 8, 2019: Kevin Durant suffers serious lower leg injury
  • June 3, 2019: Kevon Looney breaks his collarbone
  • June 10, 2019: Kevin Durant tears his Achilles
  • June 13, 2019: Klay Thompson tears his ACL
  • June 13, 2019: Decimated by injuries, the Warriors lose the NBA Finals
  • June 30, 2019: Kevin Durant leaves to join the Nets
  • October 30, 2019: Steph Curry breaks his hand
  • March 10, 2020: The Warriors fall to 15-60, their worst winning percentage since 2000-01
  • March 11, 2020: The season is suspended due to the coronavirus, ending the Warriors year
  • November 18, 2020: Klay Thompson tears his Achilles

The Warriors were the stonks up meme, and then the were the stonks down meme, with barely enough time to get a tattoo of Klay and Rocco in between.

We have no way of knowing if there’s a direct correlation. It reads like cruel poetry, but it very well could be that the Warriors paid the price of their success. They may have sold their soul to the devil, only their soul was their actual body parts and the devil was Mr. Larry O’Brien. Success requires sacrifice, and sometimes that sacrifice has long-standing ramifications.

Golden State played in the final game of the year five years running. That final game took place about two months after the regular season ended, which means the Warriors not only put an additional two months of games on their odometer every single year, but had two fewer months of summer vacation.

During the Warriors five-year run atop the West, Thompson and Green both played 104 playoff games, and Curry played 93. That’s the equivalent of one-and-a-quarter seasons, with nine fewer months off along the way.

Greg Oden’s entire career lasted only one more game than Thompson and Green played in the playoffs alone during the Warriors dynasty.

It can come back to bite you, and perhaps that’s what happened here.

Or perhaps they just received a 64-ounce bottle of crap luck all at once, the way they received an equally large vessel of great luck when Curry fell to them with the No. 7 pick, Thompson dropped to them at No. 11, Green slipped to the second round, and Durant became available during an unprecedented and rather ludicrous one-time cap spike.

Whatever the reason, the Warriors ascended the mountain with historic velocity. And they fell off it just as quickly.