The Golden State Warriors are the most likeable team in the NBA. Maybe in all of sports. That’s what makes them so easy to hate.
The Warriors are the insufferable favourite children of the NBA. They’re a freakishly large factory pop act who’ve had their personalities designed by a committee down in marketing.
There’s the fun lead singer who gets all the magazine covers (Steph Curry), the lovable clown (Draymond Green), the brooding heartthrob (Kevin Durant) … and Klay Thompson is also there.
They all get together and drive around the league in a bus piloted by Shirley Partridge (Steve Kerr) having adventures. At the end of every episode, they win. Every single episode.
Nothing ever changes. Same script. Same romp (with one small interruption from LeBron James that acted like a season-ending cliffhanger). Same applause track.
Unless it finds some way to change things up or faces some profound setback, even the greatest team eventually gets tiresome. Even James finally figured this out.
With five championship appearances on the trot, the Warriors have hit that point. Actually, they’re past it. Even the Warriors seem a little tired of the Warriors, and especially if you ask Durant. Nothing good can or should last. The Warriors are the exception that proves the rule.
You’re not supposed to say that in the NBA. Not about everyone’s cherished moneymaker, story-hole filler and listicle generator. That’s a buzzkill thing to say.
If you say it, people will come at you with, “You hate beauty in this world,” as if you’d suggested popping down to the nearest museum with a few cans of spray paint and a box-cutter.
But the Warriors aren’t beautiful. They’re perfect. Those are two different things. By necessity, beauty contains a flaw that highlights the whole. Perfection is difficult to bear for very long. It upsets the eye. Were that not the case, the only art in your home would be translucent orbs.
The Warriors aren’t all bad. There are some good things about them. They are fun to watch. True. They’re from Oakland, which gives them little-guy credibility. True. They never hurt anyone. Well, not that we know of.
But every time the America’s dad in charge of the team says something such as, “I’m not worried about Drake. I called him on his cellphone …” and the whole league goes, “Awwwww,” it makes me want to frisbee toss my laptop across the room.
(N.B. This is my own laptop, not a company laptop, and I’m not sure how the warranty works or if there is one so I have to satisfy myself with writing a churlish newspaper column about it.)
At a certain point, all great cultural things pass over into cute things. They have been neutered by overexposure and rendered huggable. It happened to the Beatles, and they at least had the sense to flee to the ashram in order to hide from it.
The Warriors are cute and they know it. They work hard to fulfill their cuteness quota by saying cute things and even being cute in their play. Every time Curry launches a three from half-court that he didn’t really need to take just that instant, that’s cute. He’s not thinking of winning. He already knows he’s winning. He’s thinking about leading off SportsCentre.
Even Curry’s trash talking is cute.
Here he is the other day discussing Canada, a country he spent a childhood layover in:
Q: Do you and your wife Ayesha (who is an actual Canadian) become Canadian when you go to Canada?
Curry: “What does that mean? We only wear denim and go watch hockey and say, ‘Eh?' ”
(It should be noted that the U.S.-based transcription service detailing this high-water mark in the history of journalism styled that last bit “Aye,” which is more of an HMCS thing.)
This is where it should stop. Where the Canadian West Coast attaché to something or other should run in with a writ of prohibition. But it does not.
Q: Do you get fries with that stuff in it?
Q: There you go.
Curry: “Not really.”
What is it, man? Is it “Yes” or “No,” because “Not really” is a dodge.
Curry is not responsible for the fact that the default of American journalists cogitating the idea of Canada for the first time is “Does the igloo come heated?” but he is, in this instance, the delivery device for that patronizing nonsense. Which is cute.
The expectation is that the Toronto Raptors will lie down and play dead in the face of all this cuteness. That’s how people would like things to go. Maybe win one or two to make it look competitive, but otherwise be overwhelmed by the crushing superiority of a perfect ensemble. More like a dance-off than a sports competition.
The Raptors are decidedly un-cute. They are charisma-free (which, bizarrely, is its own sort of charisma). They are also foreign, which is suspicious. Remember – if you see something, say something. You just know America is this close to saying something.
There is a strong element of manifest destiny to all this. Basketball is the only American sport that is global. While they’re happy to stoke the worldwide spread, it’s important to them that the sport’s power centre remain stateside.
Losing at an Olympics is one thing. But giving up the NBA title suggests a shift in the way the league could conceivably see itself – as something that needn’t be constrained by international borders. It’s the thin edge of the wedge.
Though the Raptors roster is about as Canadian as the Queen, you can still expect a lot of “U-S-A!” to suffuse this series. Especially if Golden State goes down. A little harmless cross-border skirmishing does sound like fun. We don’t do it enough any more.
What would be even nicer is a team so far outside that it’s standing in the parking lot judo-flipping the most insider-y franchise in all of sports.
In retrospect, the Warriors might even appreciate it. There is no dignified way for their era to end, though it must. Everyone will leave or the good players will get old. The team will wither. Nobody wants that.
Instead, they could collapse like an imploding casino. In Canada. Surrounded by a bunch of hooting, denim-wearing, poutine-gobbling philistines. That would be better than cute. That would be punk rock.