The Warriors' Hot Take Window is Closing

Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

On Tuesday morning, Tim Legler appeared on Get Up and was asked for his opinion on the Golden State Warriors by Mike Greenberg. The Warriors, currently 10th in the West and a full game and a half behind the Los Angeles Lakers in the No. 9 seed, are clearly staring down the barrel of their own mortality. Stephen Curry remains consistently great, but Klay Thompson has been forced to undergo a public reckoning with his deteriorating skills while Draymond Green has not stopped hitting people as promised.

All that, combined with an increase in the quality of the competition in the conference has led to a 43-35 record and little real hope of an unexpected championship run. It should not come as a surprise, then, that Legler used his ESPN spot to declare Golden State's dynasty dead in the water.

Watching this segment irked me because it was presented as a hot take but is obviously not a hot take. That is not a shot against Legler. It is just representative of the larger ESPN ecosystem where the one and only goal is driving engagement through debate by throwing out grandiose, sweeping statements that catch the eye of the average viewer. And, to that end, Legler did well here. It does not matter that it's been obvious to many of us for over a year. Or that, in a vacuum, saying the 10th-best team in the Western Conference isn't going to win a title is merely stating the obvious. Golden State is still a hot-button topic.

Then the thought struck me-- how much longer will they remain that way? How much longer can daytime sports talk use the Warriors as an automatic engagement button, where spelling out what everyone can plainly see is still considered a hot take?

I don't think they have very long at all. I think this is the final season Golden State is in that category. In other words, their hot take window is closing.

For most teams, there is a limit on how long they can spend in the spotlight of debate. There are obvious exceptions to the rule (looking at you, Lakers and Cowboys) but by and large there is a lifespan for hot takes. No matter how much winning they've done in the past, no team can stay interesting forever. Individual players have significantly more longevity in this regard. No matter how boring the Warriors might be, Stephen Curry will always be talked about. But for teams, eventually the engagement rate falls. They stop getting A-Block segments on the morning shows. Their hot take window closes.

A really good, recent example of this is the New England Patriots. The Patriots reached heights few other teams in any sport have ever reached. For 20-odd years, if the production team was struggling to come up with a topic, they could just throw the Patriots at the wall and something would stick. Then, after Tom Brady left, they became so mediocre and boring that networks like ESPN slowed down discussion considerably. They did so to the extent that New England's 2023 season, a death knell for the greatest modern dynasty in sports that led to the ouster of Bill Belichick, felt like it was almost undercovered. It was still talked about plenty, but nobody was ripping off takes like Legler above. It was obvious to everyone and, more importantly, people were bored. Hot takes about the Patriots didn't exist. They were just observations or talking points to get through.

The Warriors are reaching that point. This is, in all likelihood, the final season of the Curry/Thompson/Green core. Thompson is a free agent this offseason and who knows how long Green is going to last. If and when Golden State changes things up, it'll be an interesting topic to cover. There will be plenty of discussion. Maybe even some hot takes. But they won't be the Warriors anymore, the golden goose of viewership that will save any lagging NBA studio discussion.

The Warriors' championship window is already closed. Soon, their hot take window will too. And that, more than anything, will signify the dynasty really is over.