BOSTON. NBA dynasties share some commonalities that have helped tip the scales from mediocre championship teams to ones that have been remembered for decades.
Among them: Each of the generations had a player who fought for Mount Rushmore in his position.
In the 1980s, Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics fought Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Los Angeles Lakers. Michael Jordan’s Bulls ruled the 90s and then passed the flickering torch—a championship here and there, but never twice in a row—to the San Antonio Spurs with Tim Duncan.
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant made their way into the Lakers’ three in the early 2000s.
And then there was nothing. There were other players for all time – LeBron James, of course. And the James Heath team was close to the top level, becoming champions in 2012 and 2013, but disbanded shortly thereafter.
Dynasties need something more.
Patience. Money. Owners are willing to spend. And above all, it seems, the ability to “break” basketball and change the way the game is played or perceived. That’s why there were no new dynasties before the Golden State and Stephen Curry merged.
Wearing a white NBA championship baseball cap late Thursday night, Curry slammed the table with both hands in response to the first question of the evening from the media.
“We have four championships,” Curry said, adding, “This one is definitely different.”
Curry repeated the phrase “different hits” four times during the press session – perhaps it was appropriate. Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala just won the NBA championship together for the fourth time in eight years.
“It’s amazing because we’re all different,” Greene said. “You usually clash with people when you are similar. The only thing that is constant for us is that victory is the most important thing. It’s always the goal.”
Golden State won with the ruthless and methodical efficiency of Duncan’s Spurs. San Antonio won five championships between 1999 and 2014. Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were All-Stars, although Duncan was in a league of his own. Their championship titles were scattered—Parker and Ginobili weren’t in the NBA for the first time—but they were a constant threat because of their mastery of the discipline.
“Stef reminds me a lot of Tim Duncan,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who won two championships as Duncan’s teammate. “Completely different players. But in terms of humanity, in terms of talent, humility, confidence, it’s a great combination that just makes everyone want to win for him.”
Unlike Golden State, Duncan’s Spurs influence is more subtle, which is fitting for a team not known for their temper. Several of Gregg Popovich’s assistant coaches passed on the team culture they saw in San Antonio to other teams as successful head coaches, including Memphis’ Taylor Jenkins, Boston’s Ime Udoka, and Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer. Another former Spurs assistant, Mike Brown, has been Kerr’s assistant for the past six years. For San Antonio, sacrifice mattered above all else, whether it was an accurate offensive pass or Ginobili’s willingness to take on the bench role in his prime, which likely cost him individual accolades.
Johnson’s Showtime Lakers was passionate about fast-paced and creative basketball. Bryant’s Bulls and Lakers popularized the triangle offense favored by their coach Phil Jackson. O’Neal was so dominant that the league changed the rules because of him. (The NBA also changed the rules because of Jordan.)
Regardless, Golden State may have changed the game more than any of them, being at the forefront of the NBA three-point revolution. Curry three-point shots have become so ubiquitous that players of all levels are trying to be like him. much to the dismay of the coaches.
“When I get home to Milwaukee and watch my AAU team play and practice, everyone wants to be the Stephs,” Golden State center Kevon Looney said. “Everyone wants to throw triples and I’m like, ‘Dude, you have to work a little harder to shoot like him.’ ”
It’s not just Curry who has more 3-pointers in his career than anyone in NBA history that defines Golden State. The team also selected Green in the second round of the 2012 NBA draft. In the previous era, he probably would have been considered too short at 6ft 6in to play forward and not fast enough to be a fullback. Teams are now trying to find their own version of Green, an exceptional passer capable of defending all five positions. And they often fail.
Dynasties also had ego-management coaches, such as Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles and Popovich in San Antonio.
The Golden State has Kerr, who, by the way, is also the common denominator of three dynasties: he won three championships with the Bulls, two with the Spurs, and now he has four more Curry head coaching titles.
In today’s NBA, Kerr is a rarity. He managed Golden State for eight seasons, while in most of the rest of the league, coaches don’t stick around that long. The Lakers recently fired Frank Vogel just two seasons after helping them win a championship. Tyrone Liu coached the Cavaliers to a championship in 2016 in his first season as head coach and left. just over two seasons later – despite the fact that they reached at least the finals of the conference three years in a row.
Since Golden State hired Kerr in 2014, all but two teams have changed coaches: San Antonio, which still has Popovich, and Miami, under Eric Spoelstra.
In a decade of runaway player movement, Golden State has been able to rely on succession to restore its status as King of the NBA. But this continuity is not the result of a fabulous bond between top-level athletes who want to keep winning together. . In any case, not really.
The Golden State have a structural advantage that many franchises today may or may not have: the owner in Joe Lacob, who is willing to spend tons of money on the team, including hundreds of millions of dollars in luxury taxes, to have highest salary in the NBA This means that Golden State has built a dynasty in part because its top stars are being paid to stay together rather than relying on fraught management decisions about who to keep.
The NBA salary cap system is designed to prevent this from happening. David Stern, a former NBA commissioner, said ten years ago that in order to achieve parity, he wants teams to “share players” rather than accumulate stars. hence the steep tax penalties on luxury for Lakoba. Compare Golden State’s approach to that of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who traded young James Harden in 2012 rather than pay him for an expensive contract extension. The Thunder could have had a dynasty of its own with Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, a key figure in two Golden State championships.
And there is another factor that every dynasty needs: luck.
The Golden State were able to sign Durant in 2016 due to a temporary salary cap hike. To win a championship or several requires good health, which is often beyond the control of a team. Thompson missed two years in a row with leg injuries but did not appear to have had a setback this year since his return. Of course, Golden State also endured some setbacks, such as injuries to Thompson and Durant in the 2019 Finals, that could have cost the team this series.
The NBA heritage graveyard is full of “almost” and “might have.” Golden State is simple It has – now for the fourth time. Curry, Thompson and Green may have a few more runs left, but as of Thursday evening, their legacy was safe. They do not pursue the legitimacy of other dynasties. Golden State is the one they’re chasing right now.
“I don’t like putting numbers up and saying, ‘Oh man, we can get five or we can get six,'” Green said. “We’re going to get them until the wheels fall off.”