Dynasties come and go in sports, but the Bay Area has seen a wealth of riches in that department over the last half-century.
The A's thrived in the 1970s, Joe Montana and the 49ers were the "it" NFL franchise in the 1980s with Steve Young extending the run into the 90s. After a lull in the 2000s, the Giants kicked off the 2010s with three World Series titles in five seasons, handing off the baton to Steph Curry and the Warriors, who, of course, went to five straight NBA Finals while putting together the greatest collection of talent in NBA history.
Yes sir, it's been a memorable last 50 years for Bay Area sports, and even the 2000s had their moments, notably Barry Bonds taking a wrecking ball to baseball's history book.
With that in mind and with the sports world paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, what better time to debate the best Bay Area sports dynasty of the past 50 years?
The ultimate Battle of the Bay 🔥 pic.twitter.com/OrtU3Wcizi— NBCSAuthentic (@NBCSAuthentic) April 2, 2020
Let's start with the right side of the bracket.
1973-75 A's vs. 1981-90 49ers
Man, those 1970s A's were a lot of fun. They were brash, bombastic and had some of the most memorable personalities in the game. Reggie Jackson, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Vida Blue and Rollie Fingers. Let's not forget Fingers' impressive mustache. That thing was the stuff of legend.
Those A's, led by some of the game's great stars, won three straight World Series titles in '72, '73 and '74. They also won five straight pennants. They were baseball royalty.
In an era when before the MLB draft, teams could go out and sign whoever they wanted for however much money and owner Charles O. Finley was more than willing to dole out the big bucks for the best in baseball. The A's ripped through MLB. They burned bright, they burned fast and then they burned out.
Free agency came about and Finley lost most of his stars, with the New York Yankees signing Hunter and Jackson.
The A's dynasty was supernova majestic, but the Montana 49ers were something not of this world.
Coach Bill Walsh's West Coast Offense -- which focused on controlling the tempo with short-to-intermediate passes while developing new routes -- helped change the way football is played.
The 1980s 49ers won four Super Bowls while contending with the Dallas Cowboys, Washington, the Chicago Bears and New York Giants. They not only had Montana, who was seen as the undisputed greatest quarterback of all time, but they also had Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott, who still are seen as the greatest wide receiver and safety in NFL history.
Montana, Walsh and the 49ers were seen as the gold standard of the NFL, with owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. focusing on team nutrition, travel and lodging, which paved the way for the standard practice current franchises operate under.
The 49ers were the best of the best in an era stacked with talented teams. They had three all-time greats, were able to win titles with both Walsh and George Seifert at the helm, and, while this doesn't directly apply to said bracket, were able to extend their dominance by winning a fifth Super Bowl with quarterback Steve Young.
2010-14 Giants vs. 2015-18 Warriors
Bruce Bochy's Giants put together one of the weirdest dynasties in sports history.
Yes, we're talking about even-year bulls--t.
The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014, while doing pretty much nothing in 2011 and 2013.
The dynasty began years before, with a focus on home-grown talent. Matt Cain, who played a key role in the 2010 and 2012 titles, was drafted in 2003 and made his debut in 2005. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum was drafted in 2006 and made his Giants debut in 2007. Dynasty cornerstones Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt all were drafted between 2007-09. Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo made their MLB debuts in 2008.
The thing that made the Giants' wonky dynasty so unique was the collection of veteran castoff players who came in and contributed to each title. The Andres Torres, NLCS MVP Cody Ross, World Series MVP Edgar Renteria, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Melky Cabrera's of the world.
The Giants won their first title since moving to San Francisco in 1958. Those even years were magical. The Ross home runs against the Philadelphia Phillies, Bugarner's unmatched 2014 postseason, Lincecum's unquestioned brilliance.
But they gave way to years of disappointment. The honeymoon years where all you were left to think about is what the team in front of you looked like 12 months ago on their march to baseball immortality.
That up-and-down success is why this isn't close.
The Warriors' run is one of legend.
Three titles. Five straight trips to the NBA Finals. A 16-1 postseason in 2017. A 73-win regular season in 2016. The Warriors' "death lineup" picked teams apart in 2015 and 2016, cleaning up defenses with surgical precision as Curry shimmied his way through the history books.
Then, like giving Thanos a seventh Infinity Stone, the Warriors added Durant, one of the greatest players of all time. The NBA never stood a chance. Sensing blood in the water, the Warriors pounded the league into submission in 2017 with their apathy serving as their only true enemy.
The next season served as much of the same. Bored with the lack of true competition, the Warriors toyed with their opponents and then flipped a switch only they could possess, routinely turning a game from a nail-biter to a blowout in a matter of minutes.
When locked in they were an offensive threat the likes of which the NBA has never and might never see again. The best shooter of all time in Curry, one of the most gifted scorers of all time in Durant, another all-time great shooter in Klay Thompson, an NBA Finals MVP in Andre Iguodala and the do-it-all Swiss Army knife of Draymond Green.
But for all their offensive brilliance, it was their ability to become an impenetrable wall on the defensive side that truly set them apart. When they had to, the Warriors crafted a straight jacket what no team or star player, except LeBron James in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals, could truly crack.
They truly were one of a kind. This one, like most of the games those Warriors played, is a rout.
1981-90 49ers vs. 2015-18 Warriors
A heavyweight bout for the title of best Bay Area dynasty.
Montana. Curry. Rice. Durant. Lott. Klay. Walsh. Kerr.
Both teams changed the game and both became the model way to run a franchise.
One thing separates these two paragons of sports excellence: Domination of the era.
While the 49ers did win four Super Bowl titles in the 1980s and add one more in the 90s, the Cowboys, Giants and Washington combined for six during that stretch. During that time, the 49ers went 1-2 against the Cowboys in the postseason and 1-3 against the Bill Parcells-led Giants.
The Warriors' superiority over their rivals was never in question during their dynastic run.
They forced James Harden to meltdown during the 2015 Western Conference finals, forced the Houston Rockets to change their roster to try and beat them, then promptly humiliated them by coming back from a three-games-to-two deficit in the 2018 West finals and ripped their heart out by beating them in Game 6 of the second-round without Durant to eliminate them once again.
From 2015 to 2018, the Warriors were 63-20 in the playoffs. That's basically a 63-win season against the best competition over a four-year span. They went 265-63 over those four years, the first team to win more than 250 games in that amount of time since the Boston Celtics of the 1980s. That's a .808 winning percentage in the regular season and a .759 winning percentage in the postseason.
The 2015 Warriors were a fresh, new-type of champion led by a star who changed the way the game is played. The 2016 Warriors could have been the greatest team in NBA history if not for James and the Cleveland Cavaliers' historic comeback in the NBA Finals. The 2017 team was a behemoth. A super-powered juggernaut that stomped, toyed with and humiliated its opponents. The 2018 team was frustrating. They lollygagged through the regular season, winning 58 games while looking bored at the level of competition they had been served.
They messed around with Harden and the Rockets in the Western Conference finals, but eventually, their talent won out. They then notched the first Finals sweep in 11 years to finish off a run that might never be topped.
At their best and brightest, the Curry-Durant Warriors were a spectacle of excellence. Their brilliance was unmatched, their talent unrivaled. When they were playing you couldn't not watch, waiting in anticipation of the avalanche that was sure to befall whatever unlucky opponent was forced to step onto the court with them that night.
It was something rare, beautiful and frustrating. Like a dream you don't want to leave, it's brilliance was euphoric, unique and in the end, unsustainable.