The Warriors have finally become villains. Shall we count the ways?
From the annals of recent villainy, we have: an active groin-seeking missile, a mouthguard-chucking temper tantrum, a conspiracy theory that the NBA was somehow working against the greatest regular-season team in its history, the declaration that LeBron “I literally wept on the floor after ending Cleveland’s 147-season title drought” James was a bitch, and, when the epithet was not taken lightly, the firing off of baby bottle emoji and insinuations that James was something less than a man.
And then we have the fans — my god, the fans. They gloated and made stupid, boastful signs (more like “Most Valuable Baby”! Ha ha!!!!!!!!). When their team finally lost, coughing up a 3–1 series lead, they — residents of a region that has seen four championships in the last six years alone — whined that they wouldn’t get to go to another parade. They vaulted into the Patriots subreddit to ask Pats fans — Pats fans — how they managed to cope with their record-setting team falling short. Warriors fans lent themselves only too easily to a caricature: the nerdy, moneyed, holier-than-thou ritz of Silicon Valley, taking a break from ideating to hop into Ubers from the Mission. They went to SoulCycle every morning at 6 a.m. and back to New Haven every year for reunion. They wore J.Crew underneath their yellow T-shirts. They had the highest Kilimanjaro scalings per capita of any NBA fan base. Have you ever wanted to steal somebody’s lunch money so badly?
Golden State lost its shot at a championship (and basketball immortality), but in the process gained another distinction: The Warriors transitioned from plucky upstart to Thing Of Beauty™ to insufferable braggart vortex faster than any franchise ever. They bested even the Seahawks, who ushered in a dreaded tide of neon 12th men during the run to their first Super Bowl title in 2014.
How far we’ve come from a few weeks ago. The Warriors, after all, were America’s sweethearts. Has a team ever had more support from people who were not devoted fans? They were the perfect bandwagon team, all acrobatics, charisma, and glittering success. They were the most fun team, the most likable, the happiest, the coolest, the most exciting. They had stars; they had hams; they had airplane sing-alongs; they had adorable toddlers. They revolutionized basketball. They solved basketball. They saw the ceiling of the 1995–96 Bulls and didn’t break through it so much as waltz on up and out, having charmed the contractor into putting in a skylight for free. How could you not love them?
Warriors fans, too, were respected: For years, they were widely considered among the best in the league. In 2007, when the team scored its first playoff berth in more than a decade and upset the top-seeded Mavericks in the first round, the takeaway was: Golden State’s long-suffering diehards were a force to be reckoned with.
If you listened for it, though, you could hear this year’s Warriors straining to make their heel turn all along.
They seemed intent on finding haters wherever they could. Over the course of the season, the players used a group text message thread to disseminate criticism. In October, Andrew Bogut offered to let the Clippers kiss his championship-ring-adorned middle finger; in that same month Stephen Curry issued a faux apology for Golden State winning the 2015 title. Draymond Green can recite all 34 players drafted ahead of him in 2012, and his mother, Mary Babers-Green — who has cultivated her own corner of doubters, both real and imagined — wrote an open letter in February to all those “slinging mud at Golden State.” They told other teams to not even bother trying to emulate them. Majority owner Joe Lacob was profiled in The New York Times Magazine in April and spouted such grandiose inanities that the earth wobbled off its axis from the force of our collective eye roll.
But hey, failure is a rite of passage in Silicon Valley, right?