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Steph Curry’s bond with Warriors contrasts with NBA superstar exits

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Taking a moment to appreciate the Unanimous MVP’s devotion to the Bay in a landscape where player movement dominates the headlines.

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

If you were going through a checklist of pros and cons for the Golden State Warriors’ offseason, there’d be plenty of sweet moments to celebrate, and some warts that could keep you awake at night. Surely some members of Dub Nation are up at 3AM walking the dark streets, a glowing red ember sparking on a lit cigarette, muttering to themselves, “How could the Warriors lose Kelly Oubre Jr.’s salary slot for nothing?!”.

But for the rest of us Warriors fans getting a good night’s sleep, a big part of the reason has to be Stephen Curry resigning this offseason for the foreseeable future.

I really hope Dub Nation isn’t taking this move for granted. The end of a superstar’s contract can loom over a team and tag a franchise with lame-duck status. When a star leaves, it can be years before the team recovers (ask Cleveland). Adding insult to injury, the fan base spends the whole season arguing over whether their MVP will stay, hyperventilating over every game performance and postgame interview, searching for clues to the future.

The worst (from a franchise’s perspective) is when the player is so good the team can’t dangle them in trade talks for fear of alienating them, with no guarantee of recouping their loss if the star does decide to walk. In light of Curry’s no-drama extension, here’s a few of the more jarring stories in recent memory of impending free agents who miffed their fanbases with their departure.

LeBron James leaves Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010

“The Decision” is probably the ultimate example of what every fanbase fears. “King” James, son of Ohio, left the Cleveland Cavaliers in a mind-blowing saga that broke Cleveland’s heart and had their owner ranting in Comic Sans hahahah. Check this deep dive from Secret Base to get the full breadth of how dramatic James’ exit from the former Eastern Conference champion was.

And here’s his first game against Cleveland as a Heatle. The crowd was on his NECK (but it didn’t stop him from laying the smackdown on his former team).

LeBron James leaves Miami Heat in 2014

Bron Bron went on the move again, this time after winning two titles in four straight Finals trips with his friend Dwyane Wade in Miami. By that fourth Eastern Conference championship in Florida, D-Wade was aging and not the star he once was. I’ll never forget Wade’s comment about James leaving Miami in an article discussing Wade’s inconsistent health during the 2014 playoffs:

But truth is, when James looks at his options and tries to determine which team has the best shot of winning a championship next season and beyond, a healthy Wade makes the Heat’s chances of keeping James.

“Just don’t solely put it on me,” Wade said, laughing. “That’s what I’m saying. Don’t put the X on me. ... There’s a lot that goes into, so just don’t say, ‘If Dwyane Wade doesn’t have the year that we’re accustomed to, it’s over.’ “

Here’s an ESPN forensics video for James’ departure from Miami, a move that angered Heat GM Pat Riley and spiralled the franchise out of championship contention for several years:

James would return to Cleveland after Miami and win a miraculous championship in 2016. But eventually he’d abandon the Cavaliers again after the Warriors incinerated “The Land” with extreme prejudice.

Kevin Durant leaves Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016

On May 24th, Kevin Durant’s Thunder took a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals over the Warriors. On May 30th, the Warriors eliminated OKC from the playoffs. On July 4th, KD announced his next chapter: joining the Warriors to create the most terrifying team since the ‘96 Bulls. The entire sports world lost their collective mind.

You really have to read this full article from our blog buddy Welcome to Loud City published two days after his departure, entitled, “Kevin Durant: From Servant to Sellout”. Pretty much every paragraph is a snapshot of the raw shock and hurt OKC fans felt as they watched their championship dreams die in front of their eyes as the Warriors assimilated their beloved hero to reach peak evolution. Here’s the quote that really struck a chord inside my gold-blooded heart:

Maybe that shame’s on us as OKC fans. But we really did buy his act which, again, makes all of this so painful. Any Thunder fan can probably recite the talking points we used in arguments with non-Thunder fans that loved to pick at our guys.

“Russ really is a great leader, and he and KD really have a chemistry you don’t understand unless you watch them night in and night out.”

“I know Oklahoma City is a small town and LA and NY are big markets, but KD really is different. He doesn’t want all that stuff, just to play ball and make a difference in the community.”

We truly believed that putrid drivel, like with every bone in our body. And now we look foolish.

Must..not...LAUGH

By the way, here’s KD putting the boot to the Thunder’s throat as a Warrior.

Kyrie Irving leaves Boston Celtics in 2019

Funny enough, Irving was on that 2016 title team alongside James and gave the Game 7 dagger that wiped out the Warriors storybook season. After the Warriors avenged themselves against those Cavs in 2017, Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics (against James’ wishes). There in Boston, Irving looked to lead his own team to the promised land.

Unfortunately for Beantown, Irving was gone after only two seasons despite pledging his loyalty to the franchise. Here’s Matt Ellentuck breaking it down in a SB Nation article entitled, “How Kyrie Irving went from promising the Celtics he’d stay to signing with the Nets”:

Kyrie Irving just finished one of the most dramatic regular-season showings ... ever. It started with him committing to stay with the Boston Celtics before the first game of the year, and it ended with him doing the opposite. Irving is going to be a Brooklyn Net after agreeing to a four-year, $141 million contract to join Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan for the league’s newest superteam, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

A chaotic, disappointing year in Boston led to Irving being the Celtics’ scapegoat, and how much slack he deserves is still unclear. Irving was at the center of every mini implosion Boston had this season. He appointed himself the leader of the team from the get-go, and that came with mixed results. Whether it was him sounding off at teammates for not getting him the ball in crunch time, or creating headlines after making amends with LeBron James, all things Celtics had Irving’s name attached.

After his departure, Boston has yet to realize the championship aspirations that were birthed when he was traded to the Celtics from Cleveland. Even worse for the proud franchise, Boston fans suffered the indignity of Irving CLOWNING their logo as the Nets knocked the Celts out of the postseason a few months ago.


I was reaaally thinking of putting the “Durant leaving the Warriors saga” in here as it definitely:

  • Had the fanbase nonstop arguing over whether he would stay or go for the WHOLE season. I was doing a ton the recaps here at GSOM for the KD-years and that 2018-2019 season was filled with some INTENSE comments psychoanalyzing Durant and his relationship with the team.
  • Caused Draymond Green to have an oncourt implosion where he called out the two-time Finals MVP for having one foot out of the door.
  • The Warriors haven’t made the playoffs since he left. YIKES!

On the other hand... we just rehashed all that drama last week after the infamous Green-Durant Bleacher Report video. I don’t think I can add anything more to the discussion beyond the comment section in that article. Besides, my editors may tackle me for rambling this long.

And perhaps most importantly, although Dub Nation loved having KD on the team and is looking forward to his jersey being raised in the rafters at Chase Center one day, I don’t think the Warriors fanbase was as heartbroken over Durant’s departure as the previous fanbases in the other examples because... Curry was still here. (Can’t forget about Klay Thompson and Draymond Green of course). Warriors fans could rather easily thank KD for his hard work and sacrifices and wish him well with no real bad blood there.

As long as this team has Curry, the competitive joy remains. Shout out to the only Unanimous MVP in NBA history for not putting this franchise through that limbo by nipping his extension in the bud early. Dub Nation greatly appreciates it.

Were there any earth shattering NBA non-resignings that you think should be apart of the conversation?

Poll

As a neutral observer, which departure do you believe was the most painful to their franchise?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    LeBron leaves Cleveland 2010
    (672 votes)
  • 2%
    LeBron leaves Miami in 2014
    (25 votes)
  • 28%
    KD leaves OKC in 2016
    (278 votes)
  • 1%
    Kyrie leave Boston in 2019
    (12 votes)
987 votes total Vote Now