The Golden State Warriors are now some 15 months in to their turn as one of the best teams in basketball history. Last season, they won 67 games, the most in the NBA in eight years, and secured a championship in June against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This season’s Warriors make last season’s Warriors look like a team that hadn’t yet gotten loose. They started the year winning their first 24 games in a row, a record opening, and as of now have won 46 of 50.
Golden State’s brilliance is more than just statistical. The Warriors are a basketball idyll, a paradise of skill and collaboration. Their offense runs on nifty ballhandling, willing passing, and sublime shooting, with their point guard and reigning NBA Most Valuable Player acting as ringleader. A slim 6’3” and 185 pounds, with a bouncy jog and a barely post-pubescent tuft of beard at his chin, Stephen Curry dribbles with the intentional abandon of a card hustler, flings one-handed passes to all sectors of the court, and shoots better than anyone ever has.
It’s something of a curiosity, then, that one title Curry cannot claim without argument is that of the world’s best player. Figures within the NBA and observers of the league alike are hesitant to dethrone James, who has held the unofficial honor for a decade. If this may be ascribed in part to inertia, it also reflects a lingering suspicion of what Curry represents. He and the graceful, jump-shooting Warriors diverge from the brawny historical models of great players and teams, and there’s the sense among some in the sport’s establishment that they have not so much mastered the game as solved it, bringing about a basketball revolution that is not wholly welcome.