One of their best players fouled out with a meager five points on Tuesday night, and another one of their starters did not even sniff the floor in the final two games of the season, and yet none of that mattered. This is part of what, after last night’s NBA Championship-clinching 105-97 victory, at least puts the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors in the conversation about the best professional basketball teams of all-time: They could beat you in all sorts of ways, from all kinds of directions, with any number of combinations, in a varied array of styles.
It only seemed appropriate that the MVP of this series, Andre Iguodala, was a guy who’d come off the bench all season until the NBA Finals, a guy who, in the aftermath of victory, declared that his game “was always [about] doing everything.” That’s the kind of team that the Warriors were: Their roster was filled with guys who could do everything (like Draymond Green, who finished off his year with a triple-double on Tuesday night), guys who could pick up Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on off-nights, guys who were willing to step into roles and step out of roles (see: Andrew Bogut, who stepped aside in the Finals) and whose collective effort wound up overwhelming the singular efforts of LeBron James, who played one of the best individual series of all-time.
The misperception of some — including that of Phil Jackson, the man who had tried to hire Steve Kerr to become head coach of the New York Knicks before Kerr wisely chose the Golden State job instead — heading into these playoffs is that the Warriors were a finesse team, a perimeter team, that they weren’t built for the grind of the playoffs. They began by overwhelming the best up-and-coming young player in the league in New Orleans’ Anthony Davis; they continued by finding their way against a physical Memphis team that attempted to overwhelm them with interior size; and they kept it going by overwhelming Curry’s only real competition for the Most Valuable Player Award, Houston’s James Harden.
And then they outdid LeBron James.
“Whatever matchup we needed, they just played,” Kerr said, dismissing the false narrative that this team was nothing more than an offensive juggernaut, given that it also played the best defense in the NBA according to the numbers. “What really wins is the combination of great offense and great defense.”
The Warriors did it while facing down the ignominious history of a franchise that had been doomed to four decades of failure. They did it under the leadership of an owner, Joe Lacob, who not long ago had been booed on his own home floor after trading away guard Monta Ellis for Bogut (who, Finals aside, wound up becoming one of their key cogs).
But now, there is nothing but brightness ahead: An impending move to San Francisco that could open this team up to the kind of wild adulation that the Giants have enjoyed amid their extended championship run, the (potentially) protracted era of Curry and Thompson and Green and the other core members of the Golden State roster, and the beginning of what might be a legendary coaching career for Kerr, who made all the proper adjustments to keep his team from falling victim to a series of traps laid by the opposition.
This was not just one of the best teams of all-time, but also one of the most likable teams, renowned for its sloppy half-court shooting competitions during practice, adored for the fact that its star player looked and acted a lot like an average guy (even if he didn’t often play like one). Who knows if they can maintain that likability — and that level of success — as the years go on, but it’s not often that a team captures a championship with such vigor and style, in a way that might literally change the way professional basketball is played. Already, they’ve done everything. And it may only be the beginning.