To the victor go the spoils of popping bottles, confetti showering down from the ceiling, photo ops with ear-to-ear Kodak smiles and a parade through the downtown streets to celebrate a season of championship success.
This is life for the Cleveland Cavilers following their historic rally from a 3-1 series deficit to clinch the franchise’s first-ever NBA title.
On side B are the would’ve-could’ve-should’ve contemplations, gut-wrenching sleepless nights, tears of heartache and ‘better luck next year’ clichés associated with finishing in second place.
This is life for the Golden State Warriors after coming up short in their quest to clinch back-to-back NBA crowns.
The Warriors enjoyed a June-to-June yearlong run of greatness. During this span, they raised a championship banner, jumped out the starting block to defend their belt by going 20-0 en route to setting an NBA record with 73 regular-season wins and provided solid evidence in the barbershop/barroom debate for dubbing the Splash Brothers (Steph Curry and Klay Thompson) as among the greatest backcourt duos of all time.
However, in a world where cynicism is an involuntary ritual of daily life like breathing, many will completely dismiss the Warriors’ accomplishments by throwing salt in the game of their legacy.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
Perhaps the biggest commentary will be a knock on their 73-win total during the regular season. Golden State eclipsed the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls to lay claim for the best mark in league history.
Nevertheless, the pundits will disregard their feat because the Bulls crossed the finish line hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy. As a result, their championship shortcoming adds a noticeable blemish on the shine of their sleek sports car.
Foul or fair, these references and more will be hurled at the Warriors throughout the summer and for years to come.
Golden State now finds itself sitting at the dinner table alongside the 1983 Washington Redskins, 1998 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Hurricanes (football), 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats (basketball) and 2007 New England Patriots as squads which posted historic numbers in the regular season, only to lose out on a title.
Sharing an unfortunate meal with the aforementioned teams equates to cutting through a dry steak and suffering from symptoms of heartburn afterward. Just like its dinner guests, Golden State will agonize over multiple missteps which played a factor in its demise.
Among the assortment of lowlights the Warriors will mull over all offseason: Draymond Green’s suspension in Game 5. A season-low 11 points in the first quarter of Game 6 and shooting a dismal five-of-19 from the field in the fourth quarter of Game 7.
The League MVP, Curry, played like the polar opposite of the man who was unanimously voted to win the sport’s highest individual honor, dropping 17 points with four turnovers in Game 7. In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Steph tossed up brick after brick and was careless with the basketball.
He later lamented during the press conference about ‘taking the good with the bad’ and how this will fuel the team to regain their elite stature next season.
The Warriors prolific 2015-16 campaign was a remarkable run for the ages. Their entertaining brand of basketball captivated the nation and won over the hearts of fair weather as well as die-hard hoops fans. They re-wrote the record book and elevated the level of competition of their contemporaries.
Their clashes with the Spurs, Thunder and Cavs drew massive TV ratings. These games also dominated the social media sphere with posts and memes flooding timelines at break-neck speed.
Golden State deserves all the praise for their accomplishments over the past year.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
However, right, wrong or indifferent, sports is a bottom line business. The undeniable fact which cannot and will not be overlooked is their accolades are limited to the regular season. They now must enjoy a huge slice of humble pie, go back to the drawing board and diagram the right plays to return to the championship podium.
The Miami Hurricanes in 2002, New England Patriots in 2007 and Kentucky Wildcats in 2014-15 brought home a straight-A report card of perfection for their respective regular seasons. However, when Googling the champions of those years, the search engine pulls up Ohio State as the NCAA Football champs, the New York Giants as Super Bowl winners and Duke as NCAA Basketball’s crowned prince.
As painful as it might be, there are those who will utter the “choke” word when describing Golden State’s failure to capture a chip. This argument gains more momentum when bringing up their 3-1 advantage in the series.
Golden State was favored to successfully defend their crown. Although the team and their fans don’t like it, the Warriors’ are living on the side streets, looking over the fence at the neighbors residing in the plush subdivision of championship legends.