We don’t know what’s next for the Golden State Warriors.
They lost their chance at a three-peat on Thursday, as the Toronto Raptors closed out the 2019 NBA Finals and won the franchise’s first championship. Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles trying to come back from an injury to save the team, and he won’t play much next season whether he picks up his $31 million or splits. Klay Thompson suffered a torn ACL in Game 6 — his second game-ending injury of the series — and is now an unrestricted free agent. Draymond Green is one year away from a huge payday and might end up on the trade market. It would be real bloody expensive to keep everyone together, assuming everyone decided to come back.
The dynasty just might be over. Regardless of whether it is or whether Stephen Curry and company find a way to keep it alive, it’s a great time to reflect on what an incredible run this has been over five years.
The Warriors won the West for five straight seasons, and won three NBA championships after going dry for the prior four decades. The Splash Brothers redefined elite shooting in the NBA. Steve Kerr revolutionized how the game is played. Green perfected playing spot center at 6’6. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston fought Father Time repeatedly and usually won.
We once ribbed the franchise’s management for claiming they were light years ahead of the rest of the league, but that was mostly true. They have been light years ahead, only caught by LeBron James at the peak of his powers and dynasty wrecker Kawhi Leonard.
Pulling off five straight Finals and three titles in five years would be an amazing accomplishment for any franchise. But given how straight-up awful the Warriors had been for most of the 20 years prior to the 2015 title — at least prior to Curry’s 2013 ascendance — it’s especially impressive. Outside of the two-year We Believe! sprint led by Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson, the most recent generations of Warriors basketball involved memorably mediocre stars, a revolving door of coaches, and truckloads of losses. Let’s not name names here, but it was a rough two decades.
And then this.
This has been the greatest run since the ‘90s Bulls — that’s the only comparison in the modern era, period. Of course the Warriors are proud. They should be. This has been a monumental era.
Curry had a shot — literally a shot, a classic Curry three from the right elbow off high-effort off-ball movement — to send this series to Game 7, and missed it. He’ll remember that shot. It might haunt him.
It shouldn’t, not after what he’s already accomplished. He’s the best shooter ever. You can’t hit them all. Steph has carried the Warriors for seven years, winning two NBA MVPs and earning those three championships. He should be proud every second of every day.
Klay has nothing to regret. He gave the Warriors every ounce he had this series. Durant put his body on the line when his team needed him, and it will cost him pain, a brutal recovery, and a season at the peak of his career. Draymond fought to the bitter end, sliding across the court for the last time in Oakland with the game clock ticking down.
The Warriors aren’t celebrating this June, but their fans and all of us who watched them these past five seasons should celebrate them, no matter what happens next.
(They are totally going to find a way back into the Finals in 2020, aren’t they?)