Something happened on the Golden State Warriors’ march to a third consecutive NBA title. The inevitable and assumed turned into an uncertain, then an unlikely. The best laid plans — and, oh, were they ever well-constructed on the foundation of Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Klay Thompson among others — went up in smoke one serious injury at a time. Sports’ greatest superteam lost most of its superpowers after repeated bludgeoning from the most human of Kryptonites: the breaking down of bodies.
Perhaps assuming future victories and ordaining champions was just as bad in the past. But it feels like we’ve reached a fever pitch and that an alarming amount of people want to look at things on paper, make up their minds, then immediately move on to which team can put together the best roster for next year and the year after.
Last night the record scratched and forced everyone to consider how we got there. To this surprising place.
The Toronto Raptors capitalizing on a serious of fortunate incidents to de-throne the Warriors was something few saw coming. Sometimes that happens. And independent of the teams and players involved, it’s beautiful.
Unpredictability is the core of sports. It’s among the top — if not the top — reason people watch. We can study and analyze and spin our way into believing we have the script for the upcoming season, but it’s all a fool’s errand. There is no pre-written outline. The plot goes where the bouncing balls and buckling knees take it.
The very thing that made this NBA Finals so unsatisfying: being robbed of a healthy Durant and Thompson and Cousins, is what can make sports so unsatisfying and pure.
Nothing is promised. There is no guaranteed happy ending. Forces with conflicting ideas about the narrative combine and fight for showrunner status. There is always drama, but knowing what form that will take is unpredictable.
This is not so much a criticism as an observation. Recently it feels like the entire understanding of what sports are, at their core, has been slipping. It felt like we all needed a reminder of our own hubris. And sports delivered that, at great cost to the Warriors.
Look, there is no cosmic forces at play here. Achilles can rupture under great stress. ACL tears. Mortal men have maladies. For this reason sports aren’t clean or tidy or without flaw themselves. The ecosystem is rife with imperfections and margin for error.
Perhaps this lesson will be the enduring legacy of the Warriors’ dynasty. This is a team precariously close to ripping off five straight NBA championships. Two were snatched away in eyebrow-raising fashion. One by Kawhi Leonard and some bad breaks, the other by LeBron James and a badass block.
It’s a team one looks at and wonders how it could lose. But it has.
Sports, until future notice, will keep requiring games to be played. Every now and then the unexpected is going to happen. It may feel like the wrong thing or unjust thing but it’s the counterbalance to all those euphoric moments of stunned joy.
Nothing is promised. Only the promise of more twists and turns. Best-laid plans have a way of taking detours.