When you think of the greatest NBA teams of all time, who comes to mind? Jordan’s Bulls? Russell or Bird’s Celtics? Magic and Kareem’s Lakers? The late 2010’s Golden State Warriors need to be part of that list. What the Warriors accomplished in a five-year span can be put against any five-year span in NBA history.
Formation of the Warriors Core
The story starts in 2009, when the Warriors drafted a baby-faced, injury-prone, sharp-shooting guard out of Davidson. Steph Curry lit up the college basketball world with his sweet shooting stroke and his Cinderella run to the Elite Eight in 2008. The Warriors were in desperate need of a face of the franchise a couple years after the “We Believe Warriors.” After a couple years of development, Curry became the darling of the NBA and became that face of the franchise.
In the middle of the 2011-12 season, the Warriors traded star guard, Monta Ellis to the Bucks for Andrew Bogut. This opened a spot up for another sharp-shooting guard in the starting lineup. Much like Curry, Klay Thompson lit up the Pac-12 and college basketball. Thompson dealt with some trouble in college due to a Marijuana arrest. The Warriors once again focused on the talent rather than variables surrounding the player to build the greatest shooting backcourt of all time.
Finally, to complete the core, the Warriors took a flier on an out-spoken leader, All-American and 2012 Big-Ten Player of the Year, Draymond Green. By his third year in the league, Green became the energy and the leader of the Warriors. Golden State seem to have stole Green in the draft, picking him up in the second round of the 2012 draft.
2015 Golden State Warriors
After hiring Steve Kerr, one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, as their head coach and inserting Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut in their lineup, the Warriors looked ready to contend. It all culminated in 2015 when Curry won his first MVP award. Thompson was able to stifle opposing teams with his incredible shooting and lockdown defense. Green’s high energy and physical defense played right into the high tempo and fast-paced offense that Kerr enacted.
The Warriors cruised to a 12-3 record in the playoffs, where they met the titan that is LeBron James. The Cavaliers were playing without stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. The first two games in the series went into overtime and were split between the teams. After losing Game 3, Curry and Andre Iguodala took control of the series and won three straight to win the Finals, 4-2.
2016 Golden State Warriors
Coming off of the 2015 championship, the Warriors were on top of the world. They followed their championship up with the most historic regular season in NBA history. The Warriors finished their regular season on April 13th, with a win over the Memphis Grizzlies. The win vaulted them to a regular season record of 73-9. Curry finished the season as the first unanimous MVP.
The Warriors once again dominated the playoffs, until they met the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder came out fast and strong, starting the series with a 3-1 advantage. The Warriors churned out a win in a hard-fought Game 5. Down 3-2 going into Game 6, Thompson put on the show of a lifetime. Thompson scored 41 points on an NBA playoff record, 11 three-point makes. His performance in Game 6 willed the Warriors to complete the comeback and win the series.
They once again met the LeBron-led Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. After a quick 3-1 lead, the Cavaliers found themselves in the same situation as the Warriors were in a couple weeks prior. With Green suspended for Game 5 and Iguodala battling back problems, Cleveland came back and forced a Game 7. James and Irving led the Cavaliers to one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, winning the series in seven.
2017 and 2018 Golden State Warriors
About a month removed from blowing a 3-1 lead, the Warriors made one of the biggest signings in NBA history. Former MVP Kevin Durant joined the team that had just went 73-9. Durant instantly jelled with Curry, Thompson and Green. Kerr popularized his famous death lineup, after acquiring Durant. Putting Iguodala at center allowed for the Warriors to run a “five-out” offense. This allowed for better movement off of the ball and more three-point looks. What the Warriors lacked in size on the defensive side of the ball, they made up for in offensive skill.
The Durant Warriors were a team that basketball fans have never seen before. Curry and Thompson, two of the greatest shooters of all time, almost felt like compliments to Durant, one of the greatest all-around scorers in NBA history. When Durant was off, Curry was there. When Curry and Durant were off, Thompson was there. On the rare occasion that all three of them were off, the Warriors had Shaun Livingston, David West and JaVale McGee, who could provide valuable minutes off of the bench.
These Warriors teams dominated the NBA and became one of the most polarizing teams in NBA history. Even so, the Warriors breezed through the regular season and playoffs, taking down LeBron’s Cavaliers twice in a row, avenging their 2016 loss.
2019 Golden State Warriors
Early in the offseason, the Warriors signed highly-touted free agent center, DeMarcus Cousins. With a lineup of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Cousins, it looked like they were not going to lose. After a hot start, the Warriors ran into a wall, dropping four in a row. The Warriors picked it back up and finished the season as the one seed in the West. The Warriors did what they always do and breezed through the playoffs with little to no challenge. They finally met a new opponent in the Finals, Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors. Injuries to Thompson and Durant spelled disaster for the Warriors. The Raptors ended up winning the series, 4-2.
In what felt like a last hurrah, the loss to the Raptors was the end of one of the greatest five-year runs in sports history. Durant’s contract was up and even with an Achilles injury, he signed with the Brooklyn Nets. Thompson’s ACL injury kept him out of all of 2020. Early on in 2020, Curry broke his hand and Green was the last one remaining. The Warriors finished 2020 with a 15-50 record, winning the second pick in the NBA Draft.
The great 2010’s Warriors team was finished. Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green revolutionized how the game of basketball was played. Even with being so polarizing, the Warriors etched their names in sports history. The 2015 championship was the first one for the team since 1975. Not to be lost in the shuffle, Leandro Barbosa, Andrew Bogut, Mo Speights and Quinn Cook were as big of a part as the starters.
The group of college misfits had come together to take the NBA by storm. The Durant Warriors are undoubtedly one of the greatest teams in professional sports history and will always be remembered for their shooting ability and villain moniker in the NBA.