BOSTON – The NBA dynasties share some common traits that have helped them worsen their balance sheet from being a championship team to one that has been remembered for decades.
Among them: Each has had a generation player competing for Mount Rushmore in his position.
In the 1980s Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics battled Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was ruled by Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the ’90s, then passed a bright torch — a tournament here and there, but never twice in a row — to the San Antonio Spurs along with Tim Duncan.
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant entered the Lakers ’three peat bogs in the early 2000s.
And then there was … none. There were other players of all time – LeBron James, of course. And James’s Heat approached the top level in 2012 and 2013, becoming champions, but soon fell apart.
Dynasties demand more than that.
Patience. money. Ready to spend by the owner. And most importantly, the ability to “break” basketball and change the way we play or perceive it. That is why there was no new dynasty until Golden State and Stephen Curry merged.
Wearing a white NBA baseball cap on Thursday night, Curry hit a table with both hands in response to the first question of the night on the news.
“We have four tournaments,” Curry said, adding, “This one plays differently, for sure.”
Curry repeated the phrase “different hits” four times in a media session, perhaps appropriately. Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala together have just won their NBA championship for the fourth time in eight years.
“It’s amazing because none of us are the same,” Green said. “Usually, you clash with people who are the same. The most important thing for us is to win. That’s always the goal. “
Golden State has won with relentless and methodical efficiency, as has Duncan’s Spurs. San Antonio won five championships between 1999 and 2014. Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were All-Stars, though Duncan was in his own league. Their tournaments were widespread — Parker and Ginobili had not been in the NBA for the first time — but they were under constant threat because of their disciplined excellence.
“Steph reminds me a lot of Tim Duncan,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who has won two tournaments as a Duncan teammate. “Completely different players. But from the point of view of humanity, from the point of view of talent, humility, confidence, this wonderful combination that makes everyone want to win for him. ”
Unlike Golden State, Duncan’s Spurs influence is more subtle, which is appropriate for a team not known for its flash. Some of Gregg Popovich’s assistants have taken him to the team culture they saw in St. Anthony as a successful coach to other teams such as Taylor Jenkins of Memphis, Ime Udoka of Boston and Mike Budenholzerra of Milwaukee. Another former Spurs assistant, Mike Brown, has been Kerr’s assistant for the past six years. For San Antonio, sacrifice has been more important than anything else, both in sharing the ball accurately in the attack and in the fact that Ginobili was willing to accept the role of banker in his day, which will probably cost him individual praise.
The Johnson’s Showtime Lakers took over the fast-paced and creative basketball. The Bulls and Bryant Lakers popularized the triangle attack driven by coach Phil Jackson. O’Neal was so dominant that the league changed the rules for him. (The NBA also changed the rules for Jordan.)
However, it is possible that Golden State has changed the game more than anyone else, having been at the forefront of the 3-point revolution in NBA Curry’s 3-point shot, so much so that players of all levels are trying to be like him, much to the frustration of coaches.
“When I come home to Milwaukee and see my AAU team play and train, everyone wants to be Steph,” said Golden State Center Kevon Looney. “Everyone wants to shoot 3s, and I say, ‘Man, you have to work a little harder to shoot like him.'” ”
Golden State’s distinction isn’t just Curry, who has 3 career points more than anyone in NBA history. The team also selected Green in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft. At an earlier time, he would probably have been too short with 6-foot 6 to play forward, and not fast enough to be on guard. Now, the teams are looking for their own version of Green: a unique walker who can defend all five positions. And they often fail.
The dynasties also had coaches who were good at managing egos, Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles and Popovich in San Antonio.
Golden State has Kerr, who is also a common denominator in all three dynasties: he won three tournaments with Bulls, both with Spurs, and now has four more as Curry’s coach.
In today’s NBA, Kerr is weird. He has coached Golden State for eight seasons, and for much of the rest of the league the coaches don’t last that long. The Lakers recently released Frank Vogel, who helped him win the championship and was just two seasons away. Tyronn Lue coached the Cavaliers for his first season as a coach in 2016, and went on to do just over two seasons, despite reaching the conference finals for at least three years in a row.
Since the Golden State hired Kerr in 2014, with the exception of two other teams, the coach has changed: San Antonio, who still has Popovich, and Miami, led by Erik Spoelstra.
In a decade of plenty of player movement, Golden State has been able to rely on continuity to regain its status as the NBA king. But that continuity is not the result of a lovely bond between top athletes who want to continue to win together. . Not quite, though.
Golden State now has a structural advantage that many franchises may or may not have: the owner of Joe Lacob, who is willing to spend a lot of money on the group, to have the highest payroll including hundreds of millions of dollars in luxury tax. In the NBA, this means that Golden State has built a dynasty, in part because its stars are being paid to be together, rather than relying on the strict decisions of management.
The NBA’s salary cap is designed to prevent this from happening. Former NBA commissioner David Stern said a decade ago that in order to achieve parity, he wanted teams to “share in the players” and not collect stars – hence Lacob’s heavy luxury tax penalties. Compare Golden State’s approach to that of the Oklahoma City Thunder, which in 2012 exchanged it for a young James Harden instead of paying for an expensive contract extension. The Thunder could have had its own dynasty with Harden, Russell Westbrook and – a key part of the two Golden State tournaments – with Kevin Durant.
And there is another factor that every dynasty needs: luck.
Golden State was able to sign Durant in 2016 because of a temporary salary cap. Winning one or more tournaments requires good health, which is often beyond the control of the team. Thompson missed two consecutive years due to leg injuries, but has not suffered a setback this year since returning. Of course, Golden State has also seen some bad luck, such as injuries to Thompson and Durant in the 2019 final, which has cost the team that series.
The NBA’s heritage cemetery is “almost” full and “could have been”. Just the Golden State has – Now for the fourth time. There are more races left for Curry, Thompson and Green, but as of Thursday night, their legacy was safe. They are not chasing other dynasties to gain legitimacy. Golden State is now being persecuted.
“I don’t like to put a number on things and say,‘ Oh man, we can get five or we can get six, ’” Green said. “We’ll get them until the wheels fall.”