Being NBA champions means you have a bullseye painted on your back. The Golden State Warriors are learning that, and suddenly, from a team everyone sympathised and cheered for as they won the NBA Finals, it seems they’re becoming the team everyone is hating more and more.
Obviously, sports hate is often just a misuse of the word. Generating strong, negative feelings might be the best way to put it. But if the Warriors, after 40 years without a title and most of those seasons being irrelevant, were a team so easy to fall in love with because of their likable star (Stephen Curry), their basketball style and the rival they faced in the finals (LeBron James and the Cavs), it’s not going to be the same anymore.
Just ask Kevin Durant. He might not be a champion, but he’s not the lovable up and coming superstar. His attitude itself has helped turn some people against him, but it’s just a matter of physics. Stay up there long enough, and more and more people will try to bring you down. The Warriors had their run as the lovable team. Now it’s time for a new kind, or at least someone different.
Stephen Curry had this to say about the criticism the Warriors have been getting from different directions on how they won the championship, with luck being mentioned again and again, as if it’s not part of every team’s title run: I apologize for all the accolades we’ve received as a team and individually. I’m very, truly sorry. Andrew Bogut, who didn’t have a lot to do for the Warriors winning the final (but a lot on the road getting there) was a little bit less sarcastic, as always: You’ve got to sit back and laugh at some of these boneheads.
Repeating is always more difficult than winning for the first time, for a number of reasons. Last season put the Warriors in a great position to establish something of a dynasty or at least close to that. A relatively young team with key players locked up for a while. This is their big test. Not to prove to everyone that they deserve to be champions. They were the best team last season. But to prove that they have a special place in history, among the greatest teams of all-time.