Seven most ridiculous things NBA legends said about Warriors
7. Charles Barkley
"I don't like jump-shooting teams. I don't think you can win the championship beating good teams [by] shooting jumpers." -- Charles Barkley, 2015
Sir Charles definitely earns the lifetime achievement award, and you need not look any further than his current beef with Draymond Green to see why. Barkley clearly hasn’t been a fan of the Warriors, but I won’t knock him too much for the knock that started it all.
After all, the Warriors’ first championship marked a turning point in basketball history and (somewhat) reasonable skeptics can always be found at such junctures. You can’t say the same about everyone else on this list.
6. Oscar Robertson
"[Steph Curry] has shot well because of what's going on in basketball today. In basketball today, it's almost like if you can dunk or make a 3-point shot, you're the greatest thing since sliced bread." -- Oscar Robertson, 2016
If you use “sliced bread” in an argument, you belong on this list. But, you have to feel for the Big O. One of the greatest -- and, for my money, most underappreciated -- players in the history of the sport made plenty of cogent points about Curry and the modern NBA, directing most of his criticism at coaches who (in his eyes) don’t send enough pressure at Curry.
But Robertson’s comments sold Curry short. Curry didn’t just make a 3-point shot en route to becoming the league’s first unanimous MVP in 2015-16, he ultimately made an NBA-record 402 of them at a 45.4 percent clip. Robertson was an unprecedented great during his time, but he failed to recognize Curry similarly pushing the game forward.
5. Julius Erving
“When you have a team with the makeup of our team back then, we could play slow, we could play fast. ... We would have figured out how to play against this team and how to beat this team.” -- Julius Erving, 2017
Erving shouldn’t have his doctorate revoked. After all, the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers he spoke of were damn good. They finished one loss shy of sweeping the postseason … just as the Warriors he was comparing his 76ers to did!
Golden State’s 2016-17 squad arguably was its best, thanks to the introduction of superstar Kevin Durant. Those Sixers were four-deep at center, guard and forward, as Erving noted in the aforementioned interview, but “finding a way to win” just doesn’t cut it as an overarching thesis, especially when you’re comparing teams across eras.
4. Shaquille O'Neal
“[We] would've let Stephen Curry drive to the basket, and I would have laid his little a-- out a couple times. Period.” -- Shaquille O'Neal, 2020
Shaq’s early-2000s Los Angeles Lakers are the last team to three-peat, and we might not see another one for some time. When both players were on, there might not be a better duo in NBA history than O’Neal and the late Kobe Bryant. Until the ‘16-17 Warriors, the 2000-01 Lakers’ 15-1 run arguably was the gold standard in NBA playoff history.
But the idea Curry would shy away from contact? Come on. Curry doesn’t live in the paint, but he certainly hasn’t been afraid of going there in his career. A dynasty-era Curry wouldn’t have minded an invitation to the lane, either, considering he made nearly 63 percent of his shots at the rim from 2014 through 2019. Calling Curry soft is as tired an argument as lamenting O’Neal’s relative lack of rings due to laziness.
3. Rasheed Wallace
“Oh, we’d run through them. Not even close. We play defense.” -- Rasheed Wallace, 2017
Ball Don’t Lie, but ‘Sheed’s just wrong. The 2003-04 Detroit Pistons were a dominant defensive team, smothering opponents en route to an NBA championship despite lacking an out-and-out superstar and setting a league record by holding five consecutive opponents under 70 points. Considering the state of the game, that record is just about untouchable.
Wallace said this of the ‘16-17 Warriors, who defended pretty damn well. Golden State was second in the league in defensive rating, just like Detroit. Sure, those Warriors allowed more points per game, but they played in a season when teams attempted far more 3-pointers. The Warriors defended differently than those Pistons, but it’s not like they didn’t defend at all. That context gets lost in cross-era conversations, and Wallace's comments epitomize that.
2. Magic Johnson
“We would probably sweep ‘em.” -- Magic Johnson, 2017
Magic’s quip about the “Showtime” Lakers just about pretty much epitomizes the genre. An all-time team? Check. Extreme hyperbole as a result of supreme confidence? You got it. An unprovable position? Yep.
When Draymond Green was presented with Magic’s comments during the 2017 NBA Finals, all he could do was laugh. I’ll leave the further rebuttal to Mychal Thompson, Magic’s “Showtime” teammate and Klay’s father, who said the following of playing the Warriors: “I moved my feet very well for a big man as I compliment myself. But when I think about switching out on Steph Curry, I break out in hives.”
1. Stephen Jackson
“They’re great. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not taking nothing from them. But we could beat them. We could beat them. We would’ve beaten them.” -- Stephen Jackson, 2016
Never forget that, in the middle of the Warriors’ 73-win season, Cap’n Jack basically said “Remember ‘We Believe?’ “ The 2006-07 squad forever won Golden State fans' hearts with a first-round upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks, but that doesn’t mean they’d win against any of the title-winning teams that followed in their footsteps, let alone the 73-9 iteration.
It’s no coincidence Jackson tops the list and is the player who retired later than any of his fellow entrants. He saw these Warriors up close before their dynastic days, and that surely shaped his perception. Plus, as Reggie Miller noted in 2016, you can’t really expect the most competitive people on the planet to say, “No, these Warriors would kick our a--es.” It’s completely understandable Jackson thinks his plucky, 42-win Warriors would beat their record-setting successors.
But that doesn’t make his answer, and the exercise of asking ex-players in the first place, any less ridiculous.