Warriors proving they belong as an elite NBA team

Larry W. Smith/Pool Photo via APGolden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) shoots over Cleveland Cavaliers forward James Jones (1) during the first half of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals in Cleveland

Larry W. Smith/Pool Photo via APGolden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) shoots over Cleveland Cavaliers forward James Jones (1) during the first half of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals in Cleveland

By now, there isn’t a single basketball fan in the world not convinced that the 2014-15 Warriors are a legitimate contender to take home their first NBA title since the ’70s.

Sure, the rest of the great teams in the ridiculously stacked Western Conference — all of which is currently looking up at the Dubs, and has been from jump — got even better across the board at Thursday’s trade deadline. Particularly the Oklahoma City Thunder, who acquired a solid starting center in Enes Kanter, making them an absolute nightmare of a first-round foe should their recent ascent continue.

The Warriors, meanwhile, felt absolutely zero urgency to make any changes and didn’t. And why would they? They clearly understand the value of great chemistry in the locker room, and theirs is off the charts.

And in a dual illustration of how deep they and the Western Conference really are, consider this: ESPN The Magazine recently busted out some fancy analytics that revealed their bench, which general manager Bob Myers and rookie coach Steve Kerr transformed seemingly overnight from a ragtag gang of liabilities to a balanced and enviable unit that includes a member of the 2013 West All-Star team (David Lee) and last year’s NBA All-Defensive team (Andre Iguodala), would be good for 39 wins and a No. 6 seed in the playoffs were they starting together somewhere in the East.

Stephen Curry pretty much erased any doubt that might still have been out there about the Warriors — along with any doubt that he deserved to be the top vote-getter — with his truly sublime performance last weekend during The Association’s All-Star festivities in New York.

You simply do not win an NBA title without one of the games transcendent stars, and Curry stands tall himself as such by (a) putting on a Larry Bird-type show in the 3-point contest by winning what everyone knew he should win with ease and elan, and (b) wowing the crowd in the actual game with some ballhandling showmanship that made even former Harlem Globetrotters great Curly Neal’s wizardry look pedestrian by comparison.

Curry, not LeBron James, officially became The Man.

Also erased last weekend, by the way, should have been any lingering questions as to which of America’s three major professional sports leagues is the coolest going. (Sorry, hockey fans, but the NHL is merely a stepchild to whom America has virtually full custody. It’s Canada’s biological child and we all know this.)

The NBA is the coolest by almost any measure.

Courtside-midcourt seats are superior to the NFL’s front row-50-yard line and Major League Baseball’s front row-behind the plate; new Commish Adam Silver is about 38 times cooler than his counterparts, if for no other reason than he acknowledges the reality and potential lead cash cow that is embracing legalized gambling; and with that freaky no-name’s jaw-dropping display of power ballet that was his victory in the dunk contest, which even at its worst is more interesting than the mind-numbing, seemingly endless MLB Home Run Derby, the NBA claimed the entertainment crown when it comes to All-Star silliness. The Pro Bowl doesn’t even merit mention beyond mentioning its lack of merit.

Hell, the NBA even has the coolest nickname: The Association. Way cooler than The Bigs — and this is coming from a guy who hosted a show called “Inside the Bigs”! The Association suggests accessible elitism, if that’s even possible.

The NFL? The League. Zzzzzzzz.

The NBA rules right now, and the Warriors — the only team among the Bay Area’s truly big-time teams that doesn’t polarize the region’s sports fans — rule the NBA.

Kind of puts the whole pitchers-and-catchers-reporting excitement in its place, doesn’t it?

Mychael Urban has been covering Bay Area sports for 25 years and has worked for MLB.com, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and KNBR (680 AM).Golden State WarriorsMychael UrbanStephen CurrySteve Kerr

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