I really thought we were finally over this festival of “The Warriors are/are not better than Fill-In-The-Blank” arglebargle. I really thought when the ghost of Wally Osterkorn was dredged up in a séance to say that the 1955 Syracuse Nationals would have mopped the floor with this Golden State team that we had exhausted the entire tedious narrative.
But no. Klay Thompson said after Sunday’s 256-point Golden State win over Cleveland that the Warriors are better than the Showtime Lakers, and Magic Johnson responded with a cheery “No you’re not.”
It makes a person wonder if old people and young people simply aren’t meant to communicate at all.
Thompson was kidding, clearly, as part of a sensible answer Draymond Green was giving about whether beating the Cavs into plowshares proves that Golden State is one of the best teams of all time.
“I don't really look at are you the best team of all time, are we the best team of all time?” Green said. “Because I think it's all subjective. To say we're better than the Showtime Lakers, how can you say that? We never played them.”
Logical. Gracious. Defensible on every level. Perfectly within normal bounds of human discourse. And then Thompson went for an innocent laugh.
“We are better than the Showtime Lakers.”
Then Green continued: “Like saying we're better than the Bulls, it's like we'll never play them. It's two completely different eras. So I don't really get off on the ‘are you the best team of all times.’”
But that’s the deal. Something funny is said, it is stripped of its humor in the third retelling, and someone gets bent about it.
This is the problem with gauging the entire Warriors’ true intrinsic value argument. The numbers are sufficient if you measure by numbers -- they have won 170 games in two years, more than any other team in the sport’s history save the Harlem Globetrotters -- but “best” is like “most valuable” in that means whatever the user wants it to mean.
“Best,” in fact, actually means “favorite, based on biases and youthful experiences that are either sentimental, nebulous or just plain nonsense.” That’s why these debates persist -- because we’re bored.
And for this, we can blame the Warriors for threatening us with a drama-deficient Finals.
The Cavaliers are home for Game 3, and as geared up to mend the images of Games 1 and 2 as their roster and tactical matchups will allow. Of course, because we remember mostly the last thing we saw, most folks think the effort will be in vain. Put another way, a second LeBron James ain’t walking through that door.
But if the Warriors hold off the Cavs, and then again in Game 4 Friday, they will be the sixth team to sweep a Finals series since the now-renamed Washington Bullets in 1975 (2007 San Antonio, 2002 Los Angeles, 1995 Houston, 1989 Detroit and 1983 Philadelphia). And you know we’ll be back at it, trying to fit them in in the pantheon’s organizational chart. And worse, we’ll be trying to dragoon old players from great teams of the past to defend their honor by looking like fossilized coots. It’s a game they can’t win -- betray their deeds or betray those of the new generation.
Frankly, this looks like a job for Andre Iguodala, who, if we understand his passions correctly, will answer the matter of where the Warriors rank all-time by saying what we think is in his heart except in those times when he is discomforting James on the floor.
Namely, “No, Tiger Woods in his prime is better than us.” It’s hard to muster an argument for that.