BOSTON — The N.B.A.’s dynasties share certain commonalities which have helped them tip the scales from being run-of-the-mill championship teams to those remembered for many years.
Amongst them: Each has had a generational player in contention for Mount Rushmore at his position.
The Eighties had Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics battling Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Los Angeles Lakers. Michael Jordan’s Bulls ruled the ’90s, then passed a flickering torch — a championship here and there, but never twice in a row — to the San Antonio Spurs with Tim Duncan.
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant sneaked in a Lakers three-peat at the beginning of the 2000s.
After which there have been … none. There have been other all-time players — LeBron James, in fact. And James’s Heat got here near the highest tier by becoming champions in 2012 and 2013, but fell apart soon after.
Dynasties require greater than that.
Patience. Money. Owners willing to spend. And above all, it seems, the flexibility to “break” basketball and alter the way in which the sport is played or perceived. That’s why there have been no recent dynasties until the union of Golden State and Stephen Curry.
Donning a white N.B.A. championship baseball cap late Thursday, Curry pounded a table with each hands in response to the primary query of the night from the news media.
“We’ve got 4 championships,” Curry said, adding, “This one hits different, needless to say.”
Curry repeated the phrase “hits different” 4 times in the course of the media session — perhaps appropriately so. Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala had just won an N.B.A. championship together for the fourth time in eight years.
“It’s amazing because none of us are the identical,” Green said. “You often clash with people while you’re alike. The one thing that’s constant for us is winning is crucial thing. That’s at all times the goal.”
Golden State has won with ruthless, methodical efficiency, like Duncan’s Spurs. San Antonio won five championships between 1999 and 2014. Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were All-Stars, though Duncan was in a league of his own. Their championships were unfolded — Parker and Ginobili weren’t within the N.B.A. for the primary one — but they posed a continuing threat due to their disciplined excellence.
“Steph jogs my memory a lot of Tim Duncan,” said Golden State Coach Steve Kerr, who won two championships as Duncan’s teammate. “Totally different players. But from a humanity standpoint, talent standpoint, humility, confidence, this glorious combination that just makes everybody need to win for him.”
Unlike Golden State, the influence of Duncan’s Spurs is more subtle, which is acceptable for a team not known for its flash. Several of Coach Gregg Popovich’s assistants have carried the team-oriented culture they saw in San Antonio to other teams as successful head coaches, including Memphis’s Taylor Jenkins, Boston’s Ime Udoka and Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer. One other former Spurs assistant, Mike Brown, was Kerr’s assistant for the last six years. For San Antonio, sacrifice has mattered above all else, whether in sharing the ball with precision on offense or in Ginobili’s willingness to simply accept a bench role in his prime, likely costing himself individual accolades.
Johnson’s Showtime Lakers embraced fast-paced, creative basketball. The Bulls and Bryant’s Lakers popularized the triangle offense favored by their coach, Phil Jackson. O’Neal was so dominant that the league modified the foundations due to him. (The N.B.A. modified rules due to Jordan, too.)
Even so, Golden State can have shifted the sport greater than all of them, having been on the forefront of the 3-point revolution within the N.B.A. Curry’s 3-point shooting has develop into so ubiquitous that players in any respect levels attempt to be like him, much to the frustration of coaches.
“When I am going back home to Milwaukee and watch my A.A.U. team play and practice, everybody desires to be Steph,” Golden State center Kevon Looney said. “Everyone desires to shoot 3s, and I’m like, ‘Man, you’ve started working a bit of harder to shoot like him.’ ”
The defining distinction for Golden State shouldn’t be just Curry, who has more profession 3-pointers than anyone in N.B.A. history. The team also chosen Green within the second round of the 2012 N.B.A. draft. In a previous era, he likely would have been considered too short at 6-foot-6 to play forward, and never fast enough to be a guard. Now, teams search to search out their very own version of Green — an exceptional passer who can defend all five positions. And so they often fail.
The dynasties also had coaches adept at managing egos, like Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles, and Popovich in San Antonio.
Golden State has Kerr, who incidentally can also be a typical denominator in three dynasties: He won three championships as a player with the Bulls, the 2 with the Spurs, and now he has 4 more as Curry’s head coach.
In today’s N.B.A., Kerr is a rarity. He has led Golden State for eight seasons, while in much of the remaining of the league, coaches don’t last that long. The Lakers recently fired Frank Vogel just two seasons after he helped them win a championship. Tyronn Lue coached the Cavaliers to a championship in 2016 in his first season as head coach, and was gone a bit of over two seasons later — despite having made it at the least to the conference finals three years in a row.
Since Golden State hired Kerr in 2014, all but two other teams have modified coaches: San Antonio, which still has Popovich, and Miami, led by Erik Spoelstra.
In a decade of rampant player movement, Golden State has been capable of depend on continuity to regain its status as king of the N.B.A. But that continuity isn’t the results of a fairy-tale bond between top-level athletes who need to keep winning together. Not totally, anyway.
Golden State has a structural advantage that many franchises today can’t or select to not have: an owner in Joe Lacob who’s willing to spend gobs of cash on the team, including a whole lot of hundreds of thousands of dollars in luxury tax to have the very best payroll within the N.B.A. Because of this Golden State has built a dynasty partially because its top stars are getting paid to remain together, relatively than counting on the fraught decisions of management about who to maintain.
The N.B.A.’s salary cap system is designed to not let this occur. David Stern, the previous commissioner of the N.B.A., said a decade ago that to attain parity, he wanted teams to “share in players” and never amass stars — hence the steep luxury tax penalties for Lacob. Compare Golden State’s approach to that of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who in 2012 traded a young James Harden relatively than pay him for an expensive contract extension. The Thunder could’ve had a dynasty of their very own with Harden, Russell Westbrook and — a key a part of two Golden State championships — Kevin Durant.
And there’s one other factor that each dynasty needs: luck.
Golden State was capable of sign Durant in 2016 due to a short lived salary cap spike. Winning a championship, or several, requires good health, which is commonly out of the team’s control. Thompson missed two straight years due to leg injuries, but didn’t appear to suffer setbacks this 12 months after he returned. After all, Golden State has also seen some bad luck, corresponding to injuries to Thompson and Durant within the 2019 finals, which can have cost the team that series.
The N.B.A.’s legacy graveyard is stuffed with “almosts” and “could haves.” Golden State simply has — now for a fourth time. There could also be more runs left for Curry, Thompson and Green, but as of Thursday night, their legacy was secure. They’re not chasing other dynasties for legitimacy. Golden State is the one being chased now.
“I don’t prefer to put a number on things and say, ‘Oh, man, we will get five or we will get six,’” Green said. “We’re going to get them until the wheels fall off.”