The Warriors are the villains this time around

May 30, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30, right) celebrates with forward Draymond Green (23) during the fourth quarter in game seven of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 96-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
May 30, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30, right) celebrates with forward Draymond Green (23) during the fourth quarter in game seven of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 96-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The Golden State Warriors have gone from being everyone’s favorite to the NBA’s biggest villains.

The 2016 NBA Finals will feature the same two teams as last year’s championship series.

Stephen Curry‘s Golden State Warriors will host LeBron James‘ Cleveland Cavaliers for the second year in a row. The Warriors are coming off another historic season while the Cavaliers cruised to the top of the Eastern Conference. Many of the players will be exactly the same.

But the roles have drastically shifted.

James, for many, is public enemy no. 1 for several reasons. Since 2010’s “Decision,” critics have called James a coward and a choker, citing the willingness of previous generations’ stars to stick with their original team, away from their competition. James joined Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach and spent the next four years as the top villain in the league.

In his first stint in Cleveland, James was a fan-favorite for non-Cavs fans. He juxtaposed Kobe Bryant, who was still chasing (and winning) rings with his Los Angeles Lakers. After joining the Miami Heat, NBA “purists” claimed to hate the “self-proclaimed” King. His failure in the 2011 Finals brought joy to even casual fans. His victories in 2012 and 2013 hurt his detractors who tried to discredit his titles. In 2014, he lost to a rejuvenated San Antonio Spurs team who had the support of everyone outside of Wade County.

Following his third Finals loss, he returned home to the city that burned his jersey and publicly ridiculed him. The “Chosen One” was going home to bring a championship-starved city their first professional title in fifty years. For those that were on the fence about James or those that only hated him because it was the cool thing to do, this was enough to make him likable again. The fun superstar who danced at All-Star weekend was back, eliminating the antagonizing world-eater.

But, again, James built a “super-team” of sorts, forcing a trade that sent the first overall pick Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota for All-Star Kevin Love. The power forward would join a team that already featured two All-Stars in James and the young point guard Kyrie Irving. Building this team still drew the same criticism, pushing the unfair narrative that James cannot do anything without joining other stars.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors were making their move, jumping from good to great. Steph Curry exploded, giving us jaw-dropping highlights on a nightly basis. The Warriors, slowly, but surely, became everyone’s favorite. The NBA’s darlings. Curry, with his baby face and small stature, became a champion for the underdog.

The Warriors played exciting basketball that drew comparison to Magic Johnson‘s “Showtime” Lakers. After spending years as a cellar-dwellar behind nearly everyone in the Western Conference, the Warriors were finally in the upper echelon. The organization was completing their overhaul of the Warriors’ brand, prioritizing high-character individuals to go with their game-changing talent.

It became clear pretty early that the Warriors and the Cavs would face off for the title. It was the seasoned veteran James chasing his third ring going up against Curry who was seeking his first. It was a story of David and Goliath and the little guy gets the support every time. So, naturally, the casual fans swung Golden State’s way.

Despite all his efforts to repair his image, James was still the bad guy. He represented everything that was wrong with the NBA in the eyes of many. He stood for vanity, cowardice, flopping, and whining for uninformed fans everywhere. Curry, on the other hand, was league’s shiny new toy who beat the odds and worked until he reached greatness.

The roles have switched in this year’s iteration of the NBA Finals.

The Golden State Warriors have become everyone’s favorite team to hate. There’s a tug-of-war between the over-the-top fanaticism and blind hate surrounding this team. People tune in to watch them lose and feel more joy when they do fall than when their own team wins.

People will say anything to discredit the Warriors or make themselves feel better. Some of it is in good fun, but a lot of it has become ridiculous and pathetic.

To say the Warriors were great this year would be an understatement. Every night, Curry and the Warriors were shattering some seemingly untouchable record including the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ single-season wins record. The Warriors have been the best all year long and they haven’t been afraid to show it. From dancing and shimmying to turning around with shots in the air to bench celebrations, Golden State has ruffled some feathers.

They’ve dominated the national conversation, mainly with people discussing just how great they really are. As they inched towards the record, it became harder and harder to logically dismiss their place in league history. The Warriors were called “lucky” for beating a Cavaliers team without Love and Irving so they silenced all their doubters.

The Warriors are ushering in change and that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Curry is the face of the social media era, doing something in less than 6 seconds every time he takes the court.  Draymond Green is challenging everything even the brightest basketball minds held to be true about how big men should look and play. Klay Thompson and Curry are shooting at historic rates. Golden State is leading a revolution, both on and off the court.

People hate the exposure and the fawning over the Warriors’ greatness. The haters come out from their caves in hordes when Curry misses a shot or when the Warriors lose a game. There was almost a nationwide party when the Oklahoma City Thunder pushed the Warriors to the brink of elimination and if they had finished the job, Warriors opponents would have celebrated as if an oppressive dictator was overthrown by a just hero.

The Warriors and the Cavaliers face off again in the NBA Finals and while there are still those that absolutely can’t stand anything that LeBron James does (looking at you Kobe fans), there might be even more who want to see the Warriors fail. The city of Cleveland is now a sympathetic community who deserve a title while the classless and pretentious Bay Area should fall.

The Warriors have “lived long enough to see [themselves] become a villain” (note: this is actually my second time using this Dark Knight quote). Curry has transformed from the NBA fan’s favorite to the most-hated. Comparisons to Michael Jordan and other greatts have only further angered fans and experts who put inferior generations on a pedestal.

The threat of a dynasty looms large and, unless you’re a Warriors fans, you don’t want that.

The Warriors are the villains in this series and that’s fine. They embrace it. The enjoy silencing hostile crowds and doubters everywhere. They’re not the new kids on the block that everyone wants to see succeed for the first time; they’re champs looking for more. Legacies will be made and damaged by the time this series is over. They don’t care what people want to call them.

As long as it’s prefaced with “champions.”