Programming note: Watch the re-air of the Warriors' Game 1 win in the 2015 NBA Finals over the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.
It was Steph Curry on the fast break throwing a blind, over-the-shoulder pass to Kevin Durant for the easy dunk.
It was Andre Iguodala stripping Damian Lillard or LeBron James and igniting transition offense.
It was Klay Thompson running through a maze of screens before getting the perfect pass from Shaun Livingston and firing one through the net.
We’re 24 days into this cycle of sports nostalgia -- it’s all we have in the absence of live events -- and rarely does a day pass without images of recent Warriors supremacy flashing across TV/computer screens. Fans are allowing themselves to reminisce. So, too, is the coach.
“That was pretty special era, with special teams,” Steve Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “The one thing that has always stood out to me, whether I was a part of a special team as a player or coach, or a fan of a special team, is that It’s not just wins and losses. It’s the style, and the connection with fans.”
The Warriors entered 2019-20 coming off the most impressive five-year run in NBA history, compiling a 322-88 record, for a .785 winning percentage. The three championships and five consecutive trips to The Finals are well-chronicled.
But the level of mastery on display is, in retrospect, nothing less than startling.
“There’s been this incredible momentum and connection with our fans over the last five or six years, and it’s tough to match that,” Kerr said. “Some of that is due to the incredibly high level of play. People come ... that’s what they want to see. Whether it’s like seeing a rock band at the height of their powers or an artist, it’s the same concept. They just want to see something beautiful and experience something beautiful. That’s the connection.”
It was Draymond Green squaring up to defend James Harden and stripping him for the steal.
It was Durant, staring down LeBron and then walking into a top-of-the-key 3-point kill shot.
It was Andrew Bogut slyly slipping an exquisitely timed pass to Curry and diving toward the rim.
“I always thought Bogut was one of the most underappreciated parts of our team,” Kerr recalls. “Those first two years, his passing, his dribble-handoff game, his defense, his working with Draymond on that end ... Bogut was incredible. Just an incredible basketball player, and he complemented that group perfectly.
“And then the team kind of morphs, different guys coming and going, and it’s still really about Steph and Klay and Draymond and Andre. But you see these key figures come in. Like David West, playing 15 minutes a night and picking people apart. It was beautiful to watch.”
The Warriors posted successive seasons with 39-2 records at Oracle Arena. Regular-season records piled up: 73 wins, 54 straight home victories, 34 road wins and 24-0 to open a season.
The shooting was superb, the ball movement wizardly, the defense ravenous. Above all, there was a visible synergy that often resulted in sequences that appeared choreographed.
It was Kevon Looney switching out on DeMar DeRozan and giving up nothing. It was JaVale McGee catching lobs, maintaining a presence in the paint and resuscitating his career. It was Zaza Pachulia setting a perfect screen or dropping a bounce pass backward between his legs.
It was Curry single-handedly destroying a defense, Green single-handedly stifling an offense.
“Even within that five-year run, the core was the same, but there were different guys who provided different things, different dynamics to our team,” Kerr says. “That was the apex. I don’t know that we ever reached a higher level as a group than we reached 2016, when we won 73, but the ’17 team was the best because of Kevin. Just the unstoppable nature of having the ability to always go to him anytime we needed to. That team was just devastating.”
Perhaps no accomplishment was more impressive than opening the 2017 postseason with 15 consecutive wins and becoming the first team to hang a 16-1 record on its challengers. They won closeout games by an average of 18.5 points.
One game, however, sends Kerr practically into a dreamlike state.
After coaching Games 1 and 2 of the first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, Kerr stepped away to cope with unrelenting physical discomfort. Lead assistant Mike Brown took over, and the Warriors posted a tight (119-113) win in Game 3. Win Game 4 and the sweep is completed.
“Our first quarter was almost unfair,” Kerr recalls. “I think we scored 40 points.”
Make it 45. The Warriors rolled to leads of 14-0, 22-3 and 35-9 before closing the quarter with a 45-22 lead and eventually coasting to a 128-103 rout.
“It’s like we had everything going,” Kerr says. “JaVale was getting dunks because (the Blazers) were so worried about all the shooting on the perimeter. We defended like crazy. That game just felt unfair.”
Indeed, it did, as did many others over a five-year span that might be better appreciated in hindsight and will be exceedingly difficult to equal, much less surpass.