Instead of the hate, let’s appreciate the Golden State Warriors

May 16, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates with forward Draymond Green (23) during the first quarter in game two of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
May 16, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates with forward Draymond Green (23) during the first quarter in game two of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The Golden State Warriors are breaking barriers in the game of basketball, and that has brought along with it plenty of unwarranted critics and doubters.

Ten years ago, the Golden State Warriors made it all the way to the (gasp) second round of the playoffs, and the entire fanbase lost its collective mind as we watched the Warriors barely sneak into the playoffs, upset the Mavericks in the first round and take the Jazz to six games. We jumped at every basket, every timeout by the opposing team. Oracle roared when the Warriors ran the Mavericks out of the gym, and the roof nearly fell off when Baron Davis destroyed Andrei Kirilenko.

I was still a young teenager, but already accustomed to the many and consistent failures of the Warriors franchise. I labored through a revolving door of coaches and draft bust after draft bust. I would get really excited a few days into a season if the Warriors were hovering around .500 and in the playoff picture, only to be dismayed when they dropped to the bottom of the standings within the first month.

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That was “normal” to us Warriors fans. Any sign of competence — finishing a season above .500, drafting a player who wasn’t a bust, not firing a coach after two seasons — was considered a positive step. (At some point, I learned that when I was in diapers, Latrell Sprewell had choked his own coach during a practice, and I laughed, wondering which team could be so dysfunctional as to allow that to happen. Then, I realized Latrell Sprewell played for the Warriors when I was in diapers, and it all made sense.)

We celebrated every little good thing that happened in the midst of these unbearable seasons, because that’s all we could celebrate. I went crazy when Derek Fisher hit a game-winner in a meaningless late-season game in March to beat the Bucks, and I couldn’t actually believe it when Jason Richardson hit that crazy spinning three to top the Mavericks on the road (and Bob Fitzgerald’s over-the-top screeches made it even better). Honestly, this shot right here was the peak of my Warriors’ fandom up until 2007:

Well, in 2017, we all just watched the Warriors advance to their third straight NBA Finals — and nobody even blinked. They set an NBA record by starting the playoffs 12-0, sweeping right through the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs, winning each game by a record average of 16.5 points. They walked right through the first three rounds of the playoffs like it was the preseason — a tune-up for the championship round, or the “regular season.” They didn’t need for their head coach to be on the sidelines or for Klay Thompson to show up or for Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant to exert much energy beyond what they would in a typical game. In essence, they sleepwalked their way into the Finals like they were playing 12 straight games against the Sixers in the middle of January. The Warriors are that good. There is literally statistical analysis to prove that the Warriors don’t even need to start trying in a game until they’re down by 15 points.

And while they rolled through the West, the NBA world sat and watched like it was all expected. We tuned in and shrugged with each win — maybe scrolled through our phones or even channel-hopped a bit — because these were all teams the Warriors are better than and should beat. Around the league, instead of being celebrated for their greatness, the Warriors were ripped for “ruining the NBA.”

Instead of appreciating the dynasty they were watching, people decided that it was a crime for a team to draft three All-Stars and sign one free agent. They were mad because a team had committed the heinous acts of developing talent through its draft picks, hiring a coach who put together a superb system and putting in charge a GM with the fortitude and vision to sign Kevin Durant. And this team wasn’t fair because they were winning too many games by too many points. To people who think this way, I’ll gladly play for you the world’s smallest violin.

But to the larger point, I sincerely hope that not just Warriors fans, but basketball fans appreciate what this team has accomplished and will accomplish, especially if they redeem themselves against LeBron in the Finals this year. A team this good and this close to perfect doesn’t come around very often.

You can roll down the list. Stephen Curry, the best shooter in the world and a two-time MVP, is arguably not even the best player on his own team. Klay Thompson, the second best shooter in the world, might be the fourth most valuable player on the team. Draymond Green is the most versatile player in the league and probable Defensive Player of the Year Award winner. And then there’s Kevin Durant, who is 7-feet tall and also happens to be very good at basketball.

Some teams don’t even have the luxury of having an All-Star on their team. The good teams have one, maybe two. The great teams have at least two, and maybe a third. The Warriors have four of them, two of them the most recent MVPs, all of them in their respective primes. That’s objectively insane.

And they all blend together. None of the four players — or anyone on the team, for that matter — has an ego. For a team that boasts an All-Star team for its starting lineup, they share the ball and pass the shots around so well, almost to a fault. (Basically, the opposite of whatever the hell Russell Westbrook is doing in Oklahoma City or James Harden in Houston.) To find four of the top-15 players in the league, put them on the same roster and not have any notable quarrels or flare-ups or ego-battles — that’s also an incredible accomplishment.

Golden State Warriors
February 15, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30), forward Kevin Durant (35), forward Draymond Green (23), and guard Klay Thompson (11) pose with their All-Star jerseys before the game against the Sacramento Kings at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

But nobody really talks about that. No superteam has been as universally disliked and under-appreciated as the Warriors have been. There’s plenty of chatter about the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead last year, Durant being a traitor for leaving the Thunder, Curry not being able to carry the load, Green being a dirty player, Zaza intentionally injuring Kawhi. Everyone is quick to point to the Warriors benefiting from opponents’ injuries in the playoffs, dismissing the fact that 1) this isn’t the Warriors’ problem, and 2) perhaps they might have won anyways? Have you looked at their roster?

The Warriors have nine days off until Game 1 of the NBA Finals on June 1. Over these nine days, there will be many, many hot takes ranging from “KD is a snake” to “LeBron still owns the Warriors.” Stephen A. Smith will scream his head off about something or other, Charles Barkley will say something completely irrational and Nick Wright will gush about how LeBron would still beat the Warriors if he had just one leg and wore a blindfold. Some idiot on Twitter will dispute that the Warriors are truly an elite team because they aren’t Michael Jordan’s Bulls, and anyone who isn’t better than MJ or goes undefeated in the Finals is a loser.

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It will be tempting to join the fray, to indulge in these pointless debates. But instead, let’s please take a moment or two to appreciate, to look at the Warriors’ current situation and relish what we have.

Because five years ago, when we were giving Andris Biedrins standing ovations for making two free throws and 18,000 people were booing the owner for trading Monta Ellis, did you ever expect for this franchise to appear in back-to-back-to-back championship rounds? Hell no. So soak it in. All of it, win or lose. Because whatever the Warriors have going on right now doesn’t come around very often. And it won’t last forever.