Riffing on the Warriors’ Title

In this little riff on the NBA championship series, consider yourself forewarned. I am going to reminisce about a moment from the Louisville Cardinals’ first national crown.

As if you’re surprised in the least.

First, the lead in.

As overwhelming as Kevin Durant’s offensive numbers were in the title run, as stifling as his previously underappreciated defense was — ask Kevin Love about that play late in Game 5 when he had it in the post and KD wouldn’t even allow him a breath — and as magnificent as he was holding off the last gasp of the LeBrons Monday night with key buckets, the transfer from OKC sealed the deal in Game 3.

Recall that Golden State tallied the last 11 points in that win in the City By The Burning Lake to take a 3 zed — Read: Insurmountable — advantage.

The capper in that tilt was a walk up trey from the left elbow extended with but a handful of seconds to play. Durant just about skipped into the shot. His adversary Mr. James, already showing signs of over exertion, peeled back to the hoop a bit quickly and couldn’t get out to cover.

Almost nonchalantly, KD fired. All twine.

He was ready for his Cecil B. DeMille moment.

Thus, as I’m wont to do, I was reminded of the evening of March 24, 1980. Market Square Arena, may it rest in peace.

With two and a half to play, the Louisville Cardinals had fought back from four down to Larry Brown’s UCLA Bruins to knot the score at 54 in the NCAA Championship game. The Cards grabbed an errant shot and the ball went immediately into the hands of Darrell Griffith, who four years earlier had promised his home town a crown, a pledge he had yet to keep.

He dribbled the same path down the hardwood as Durant last week. There were players filling the lanes to Grif’s left and right on the break.

Despite my delirium at the moment, with the prospect that my beloved Cardinals might finally win a title, I remember clearly thinking, “He will not pass the ball. This is the shot Grif’s been waiting to take his whole life.”

Net. Ball game. Title.

Same for Durant.

The moment he’d been working toward since a kid was present.

Carpe Diem.

Though the Cavs came back for a lone aberrant W in Game 4, the series was sealed when Durant played string music on that three the game before.

  * * * * *

The other series highlight that stands out, for me anyway, came in Game 2, when Steph Curry dribbled around and about LeBron, which deft maneuvering made James head spin like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”

I’m talkin’ this move.

Slo mo replays show that Curry probably double dribbled, touching the rock with both hands during one of his crossovers. Naismithian absolutists howled at the ignominy of it all.

To which I say, B F D.

I hate how the rules in the pros have changed. How extra steps don’t get called. Or hand checking. Or body blocking. But . . . it’s the nature of the NBA game. Something I accept since it’s the only hoops to watch after the first Monday in April.

Anyway, Lebron James committed the same gaffe — similarly uncalled — when bringing the ball past midcourt in the finale. He flinched apparently feeling some blindside pressure.

To which I say, B F D. Plus, you know, tit for tat.

Curry’s running “the best player in the world” in circles is a joy to behold, a highlight for the ages.

 * * * * *

Much has been made of Kevin Durant’s abdication to Golden State. As if it meant a Warriors title was a fait accompli.

He was far from the first to move on from one franchise to another for the sole purpose of seeking a crown. Sometimes it works. Kareem from the Bucks to the Lakers. Shaq from Orlando to the Lakers. Sometimes not. Karl Malone and Gary Payton to LA  LA Land.

And the purest example I always refer back to when this topic comes up is the 1969 Lakers. That LA team featured Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, who were three of the five best players on the planet at the time. All playing for the same squad.

Bill Russell’s Celtics still quashed them for the title, winning Game 7 in the City of Angels.

Best players don’t always make the best team.

In the Warriors case, they do. Durant fit in. Curry, Thompson, Green and Igoudala accommodated. One ball was enough. A team emerged.

Kudos to Draymond ever the facilitator on and off the court for catalyzing the joining of forces. Apparently, according to an article by Lee Jenkins in SI, Green texted Durant inviting him over. This, from the locker room immediately after last year’s loss . . . before the tempestuous one even took off his uni and headed to the showers.

Smart move, that one.

— Seedy K


One thought on “Riffing on the Warriors’ Title

  1. I was also in Market Square Arena that night, sitting three rows behind the Louisville second-half basket, and can still picture that shot.

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