We as a nation are narrative whores, at least where sports are concerned. This is odd, given how few of us actually bother to read any more, but that’s a grouse for another house.
But in the day and change since Kevin Durant became a Golden State Warrior, the Warriors became (and this is only the most popular and therefore laziest version) the National Basketball Association’s answer to the Death Star.
Which, as I am sure that you in Nerdvania already know, was actually two Death Stars, both of which were essentially blown to smithereens in different Star Wars movies, one by Luke Skywalker and the other by miscellaneous rebel ne’er-do-wells.
This is, of course, stupid, because nothing is actually guaranteed except in the movies, and while the narrative has already been shaped as a Lacobian mandate to eat the entire NBA or be utterly shamed in the attempt, the truth is this:
The Warriors were already a Death Star of sorts, and so far only one planet – the 2015 Cleveland cavaliers – has been atomized.
[RATTO: Durant, Warriors can be one of NBA's most transcendent bullies]
You see, sports works like this. Teams are comprised of humans, and humans are fallible and self-centered and distractible and fragile and sometimes not even all that they’re cracked up to be. Frankly, most humans are at least slightly overrated.
It is why the 2016 Cavaliers and not the 2016 Warriors got to have a shirts-optional parade this summer, and why people are singing the praises of Renaissance Man LeBron James rather than Stealth Revolutionary Stephen Curry. The Warriors had the best regular season record, the newest invention of the sport, breezed through the first two rounds of the playoffs, and then dodged one bullet only to get clipped by another three weeks later.
These are actual deeds, not plot lines in a narrative decided ahead of time by sportswriters and TV producers and fans and all other members of the Self-Involved-Navel-Gazing-Experts Club. The Warriors didn’t fulfill the needs of their narrative masters because Curry got hurt and Harrison Barnes lost the ability to shoot a basketball and Andrew Bogut was too little in evidence before he got hurt and Oklahoma City figured out a way to bother them all and then Cleveland found a different way.
Why, narratives be damned, the Warriors weren’t invulnerable after all.
But now with Durant, they are even more invulnerably invulnerable, and they have apparently ruined the entire solar system by buying players rather than lucking into them through the draft.
Because, you see, buying players (or the alternative, obtaining by persuasion, skullduggery or leverage) is apparently the province of some franchises and not others. As in, the Los Angeles Lakers have been doing this since getting Wilt Chamberlain from Philadelphia in 1968 (the place which Chamberlain was traded to when he said he didn’t want to play in San Francisco any more three years before that), and Red Auerbach always enjoyed spinning a myth about trading the rights to the Ice Capades to the Rochester Royals in 1956 if the Royals would not draft Bill Russell.
This second story is largely debunked as Red being Red (among other things, the arena in Rochester already had the then-lucrative Ice Capades dates before the ’56 draft), but people like the idea of good teams getting ridiculously good, especially in a sport in which one ridiculously good player can so violently tilt the axis of power.
In other words, the only thing that actually happened here is that the Warriors broke with their assigned narrative role. They did not offer money no other team could, nor did they roll Durant into a carpet and spirit him away in the back of a Suburban.
But hey, the Death Star. Makes for cool graphics, and a foreboding tale pitting good against evil. Plus it has the added benefit of being sustainable without even the slightest hint of evidence. The Warriors got “too good?” Were the Celtics evil when they drafted Larry Bird a year ahead of time, or bamboozled the Warriors out of Robert Parish and Kevin McHale? Did the Lakers conspire with Satan to game the Kobe Bryant draft?
[POOLE: Analysis: Durant's impact for Warriors outweigh any negatives]
Let’s say all of that is true, because the idea of Beelzebub influencing a sports league should not be the exclusive domain of the National Football League. The point is, this isn’t new. In fact, it isn’t even old, that’s how far back this sort of thing goes.
What is new is the idea that the Warriors, who just finished making the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year for only the second time in their history, are one of “those” teams now. They have gone from maximizing the good fortune of drafting three cornerstone players, one of whom is an indisputably generational one, and hiring the right coach out from under of those “important” franchises that actually isn’t, to being crass commercial types.
In other words, they have abandoned the fluffy bunny-as-champion act that was never actually accurate anyway – one more idiot narrative that is really a palatable lie, the kind sports tale-spinners love to advance as though it was a metaphysical truth.
But all of this isn’t the same as actually doing what people are postulating with an almost hyperactive certitude. The Warriors are every bit as much a dynasty today as the Rochester Royals were in 1951 when they won the only title in that franchise’s history. They have tilted our perceptions, but they did that this year and ended up distributing Hello Kitty faces.
So never mind that moronic narrative stuff, and assume no championships have resulted until the confetti guns have fired.
Now if Chesapeake Energy Arena gets extra concert dates or an additional Disney On Ice visit, you can assume someone’s working on a new and even less believable narrative than this Death Star thing.
But wait. What if the Warriors hold an Imperial Stormtrooper Helmet night when the Suns come to town? I mean, nothing says imbecilic narrative quite like the marketing department.