NBA · Sports

Don’t Criticize Excellence Embrace It

The Golden State Warriors won the NBA Championship last week to cap off one of the most boring NBA playoffs known to date.

That’s the headline most news outlets have flaunted this past week, and they are right. Both the Warriors and Cavs have been dominant all season and if you are any type of NBA fan you knew that the NBA Finals was going to be Warriors vs. Cavs III. That creates only 2 weeks of entertaining NBA basketball for the whole year… fans don’t like that. This leads to fans pointing fingers towards the Warriors, Cavs, and especially Kevin Durant for creating ‘unfair’ super teams.

Before I get to super teams, let’s dive deeper into ‘The Decision Part 2’ by Kevin Durant. The focus is always on how Durant took the easy way out and joined the ‘enemy’. That theory is hard to fathom when the NBA hasn’t seen a true rivalry in years; the majority of the league’s top players have solid friendship and great respect for each other. No team truly hates any other team. With that being said, there are three things that went into the decision that people shy to the side: Jealously, Culture, and Goals.

Travel back to the time that you were in high school, whether that was 3 years ago or 20 years ago, there is one thing we can all can say we experienced, jealously. It might have been the star athlete, the prettiest girl, the smartest student, the person with the nice car, the most popular person, or anyone that had a trait that you wish you had. Those specific people may have not directly affected you on a personal level, but for some reason there is a high level of frustration when you think about that person. Why is that? It’s due to you having a desire for something that you can’t obtain at that moment and letting their envy of anyone who contains that trait turn into anger (see the response Clay Travis receives on Twitter). Let’s fast forward to adult life, for those who have reached that point, and look at the company you work or have worked for. Is there work place drama? Are there conflicts between employees due to work performance? Do some employees hate other employees for no major reason? This all arises when one employee has something or did something that the other employee wish that had or had done. Again, nothing personal is in play here. Jealously doesn’t disappear after high school. Let’s bring this full circle, who are arguably the most successful current players in their respective sports? LeBron James, Tom Brady, Sidney Crosby, Floyd Mayweather, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Bryce Harper. Now, who are arguably the most disliked current players in their respective sports? LeBron James, Tom Brady, Sidney Crosby, Floyd Mayweather, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Bryce Harper. Success entices jealously. A year ago before Durant changed teams it would have been ridiculous to include him on the dislike list, but now it only seems right to include him. Why is that true? He, personally, didn’t change anything but the color of his jersey, so seeing him successful with the Warriors super team rubs people the wrong way. Same theory, different situation. Don’t let jealously cloud your judgement.

When a person chooses which college they want to attend, what are the factors that go into that decision? Academics, cost, housing, location, and even dining. Although, what do all those have in common? They all describe the college’s environment and culture. Every high school student is seeking that feeling that when they step on campus they feel at home. The same can be said when deciding which organization someone will work for. They want to be surrounded by people striving for the same things they are, constantly improving their own skills. Think about Apple, Google, and Amazon, what ultimately sets them apart from other companies is their culture. Culture is extremely hard to develop and even more difficult to maintain; that’s why many teams can win a championships, but few teams can regularly win championships and reach the big stage. The teams in the 21st century that developed championship culture are the San Francisco Giants, San Antonio Spurs, UConn Women’s Basketball, New England Patriots, Alabama Crimson Tide, Los Angeles Kings, and now the Golden State Warriors. That’s not a long list for nearly 17 years, exemptlifing how hard is it to develop a successful culture. Notice, the Oklahoma City Thunder is not included on that list. Now, I can’t speak on the exact culture the Thunder have cultivated; however I know it is not up to par with the culture the Warriors have created. I’m not saying this culture difference is due to Russell Westbrook, who I believe still has a good relationship with Durant, it’s due to all the players, coaches, and management of the Thunder that are not yet on championship level; The Warriors are on their own level. Don’t give Durant a difficult time for joining a better culture because most people, if given the opportunity, would transfer schools or switch jobs to join a more sophisticated and successful culture.

Everyone has goals: short term, long term, career, personal, etc. (If you do not have any goals I encourage you to stop reading right now and develop some goals for your life). Goals have an interesting way of leading you down a wild road to success. My road to Campbell University to play football was not how I thought it would go. It all started with a goal to play Division 1 Football. I never had a specific school in mind; I just knew that I wanted to compete on the highest level of college football. My junior year was average, I was more of a role player and didn’t stick out very much. This lead to zero interest from college coaches. Surprisingly, I was still in high spirits, but as you can guess that didn’t last long. During the summer before my senior year, my coach told me I was in jeopardy of losing my starting spot. This caught me off guard, I had been the starter since my sophomore year and knew that if I didn’t start my senior year I wouldn’t be able to achieve my goal. Eventually I won over my spot and started off the season strong, then the next roadblock hit me. During a meeting with my head coach, he said that I was a D-III player and that he will only talk to D-III coaches about me. That one hit me hard, because I knew that he was my sole outlet to college coaches. After that, I tried to brush it off and finish the season on a high note and I guess I can say that I did a good job of that, I was awarded defensive conference player of the year while leading my team to NCHSAA 4A eastern final (the furthest my school has ever gone). After the season was over, my coach still showed my film to only D-III coaches. It wasn’t until our relationship became stronger that I began talking to Division I coaches. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankful of my head coach, without him and the relationship he had with one of the Campbell coaches I wouldn’t a Fighting Camel (yes, that’s our mascot). After a few conversations with Campbell’s coach I decided to commit and the rest is history. This route was far from what I imagined it to be and I never thought I would end up at Campbell, but I achieved my goal. Similarly, Kevin Durant set a goal when he entered the league as a Sonic to win an NBA Championship. Nine years Durant spent in Oklahoma City trying to achieve his goal. During many of those years, the Thunder had championship caliber talent. Think about it, at one time the Thunder had Durant, Westbrook, and Harden all on one time. Two of those players will be number 1 and 2 on the MVP list this year and the other one was the Finals MVP. After 2 finals trips in 9 years and many free agent departures, Durant realized that the culture in Oklahoma City wasn’t strong enough to win a championship, even with the immense talent. As he hit the free agent market, Durant had his goal in the back of his mind and realized that Golden State was the best team capable to achieve his goal. If you asked Durant at the beginning of his career how his road to an NBA Championship would look, it would look nothing like it does today. Put yourself in his situation with the same goal, what would your decision have been?

The Golden State Warriors seem to surprise me every year. They are constantly improving and showing the world the excellence they possess. Many people see this as ‘unfair’ and ‘unearned’ because of their super team. Before, I analysis the Warriors super team let’s clear up one thing. The hate towards the Warriors players should be channeled to the general manager of each of the other 29 NBA teams. As you will see below, the general managers (Bob Myers and Jerry West) of the Warriors are the brilliant mind behind the super team. With that being said, let’s breakdown the 2016-2017 Golden State Warriors. Below, I included a table with every player on the Warriors roster, the team that drafted them, how many years they have been with the Warriors, their contract details, and how their 2016-2017 salary cap hit number compares to other players in the league that play the same position.

Name

Drafted By Years w/ Warriors Contract Expires Position Rank

Matt Barnes

Memphis 1 1yr / $383k 2017 N/A
Ian Clark Undrafted 2 1yr / $1.02 Million 2017

N/A

Stephen Curry

Golden State 8 4yr / $44 Million 2017 16

Kevin Durant

Seattle 1 2yr / $54.27 Million 2018 2
Draymond Green Golden State 5 5yr / $82 Million 2020

10

Andre Iguodala Philadelphia 4 4yr / $48 Million 2017

19

Damian Jones

Golden State 1 2yr / $2.48 Million 2020 N/A

Shaun Livingston

Los Angeles 3 3yr / $16.63 Million 2017

25

Kevon Looney Golden State 2 3yr / $3.55 Million 2019

N/A

James Michael McAdoo

Undrafted 3 1yr / $980k 2017 N/A
Patrick McCaw Milwaukee 1 2yr / $1.49 Million 2018

68

JaVale McGee

Washington 1 1yr / $1.4 Million 2017 52
Zaza Pachulia Orlando 1 1yr / $2.9 Million 2017

41

Klay Thompson Golden State 6 4yr / $68.98 Million 2019

10

Who are the center pieces of Golden State’s team? Draymond, Curry, Klay, and now Durant. 3 out of 4 of those players were drafted by the warriors; no free agent frenzy, just pure genius by the general managers. Next, who was on the Warriors before their first championship? Curry, Draymond, Klay, and Iggy. All of them are major contributors, in fact, with the exception of Durant, no one else on Golden State’s roster averaged more than 20 minutes per regular season game and 15 minutes per playoff game. Golden State’s success can be contributed to genius general managers and excellent player development. Before I get into the contract figures, I want to say that I’m aware of Curry’s contract and how it is partly skewed due to an injury the season before he signed it. After looking at all the contract numbers, one thing is prevalent, everyone is underpaid (exclude Durant, who has a max deal). Curry is paid less than Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe; Draymond is paid less than Enes Kanter and Bismack Biyombo; and Klay is paid less than Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum. All three of those players are clearly more valuable than the players that are paid more than them. Golden State’s success can be pinned to genius general managers, excellent player development, and strategic player contracts. But, what I told you that there’s another reason that trumps all three of these reasons. Players are chasing championships instead of money. This is partly due to players intrinsically valuing championships more than money and partly due to the league salary cap increasing 170% over the past four years. Players throughout the league are making more today than they ever have. This leads players to chase championship, a dream other than money, understanding that sufficient money is everywhere. In essence, everyone is able to get theirs. Appreciate the shift of values within players’ minds and don’t criticize excellence, embrace it!

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