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In appreciation of Warriors dynasty's most impossible feat

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Warriors NBA Finals

When Kevin Durant’s Achilles’ tendon snapped, followed one game later by the crumpling of Klay Thompson’s knee, all that the Warriors and their fan base had been for five years was lost. The dynasty ended as they typically do, with the ranks thinned into defeat.

Here they are two years later, Warriors and their fans, sitting outside the NBA playoffs watching team after team play through the nausea and angst that comes with seeing stars limp into the locker room, sometimes needing assistance.

Such sights remind us how lucky those Warriors were.

The most recent stars to fall are Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo after injuring his left knee Tuesday in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, and Atlanta’s Trae Young after rolling his right ankle two days earlier in Game 3 of the same series.

Before that, there was the Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul (shoulder/COVID), the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard (knee) and Serge Ibaka (back), the Utah Jazz’s Mike Conley (hamstring) and Donovan Mitchell (ankle), the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving (knee) and James Harden (hamstring), the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid (knee) and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (groin).

Even before the playoffs, the Boston Celtics lost Jaylen Brown (wrist) in May and the Denver Nuggets lost Jamal Murray (knee) in April.

With serious injuries coming at such a dizzying rate, alarms should be going off within every NBA franchise. No team should have the hubris to anticipate a burgeoning, as the Warriors did five years ago this month.

 

Luck is such an essential element.

The Warriors had entered the ring of champions before July 4, 2016, when Kevin Durant chose to ride with them. They won their first title in 40 years in June 2015 and provided an emphatic reply to the doubters by winning an NBA-record 73 games the next season before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a seven-game Finals.

Adding KD, however, cemented Golden State’s status as clear kings of the NBA. They tore through the 2017 postseason like no team had before, winning 16 of 17 games. They managed to post the rarest of feats, becoming the sixth franchise with back-to-back championships and the second to make five consecutive trips to The Finals.

Will we ever see a run like that again?

Will another NBA team live as the Warriors did for those five glorious seasons, particularly the last three, which were defined by prosperity in defiance of widespread envy?

Between serial player movement and the impact of injuries on a franchise, matching their feat seems unfathomable.

The Lakers, upon uniting LeBron James and Anthony Davis, hoped to achieve similar status. They won a championship in 2020, but it’s hard to imagine another insofar as the mileage is catching up to LeBron, and AD’s greatness comes with an injury asterisk. Nope.

The 2020-21 Nets, behind the Durant-Harden-Irving core, were supposed to be that team. They were justifiable favorites. Until injuries killed their chances. Next year? Maybe. But not five consecutive trips to The Finals, or even three. Nope.

Utah and Philadelphia in 2020-21 earned top-seed status in each conference. That should matter. Both were bounced in the second round and neither is close to being ready to dominate the league. Nope and nope.

The Bucks are good enough to compete for a title but they’d best confine “dynasty” thoughts to their fantasies. Nope. The Clippers, who felt they were onto something special two years ago, have no idea what to expect from Kawhi when he hits his mid-30s. Nope.

Much like the Warriors of six years ago, the Suns are young and talented -- but they also know Paul, their catalyst, will be 40 in four years. Nope.

The Hawks are young and talented and have the best chance to build something that will endure. The architect, Travis Schlenk, was a longtime member of Golden State’s front office and knows what it takes. But the offseason brings major financial decisions, most notably with John Collins. We’re going to see the limits of chairman Tony Ressler’s ambition.

RELATED: How do Warriors stack up against West playoff teams next year?

All things considered, what the Warriors accomplished between 2014 and 2019 becomes more impressive by the day. It’s moving toward myth. In a league that welcomes parity, they left that concept to the other 29 teams -- until their luck reached its expiration date on June 13, 2019.

Even as they now face critics of their work over the last two seasons, the truth is those Warriors were of singular status, one of one, likely unmatched for a very long time. Any appreciation now will only grow with time.

 

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