No one is born a villain.
Either you are labeled as such due to an unpopular decision, or painful experiences coerce you into taking on the role of a heel. Being under both circumstances is what makes the Golden State Warriors all the more scary entering their third NBA Finals matchup with the defending champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Dubs have embraced the bad guy tag since some lanky free agent joined them during the offseason. Already loaded with a trio of All-NBA regulars (a back-to-back Most Valuable Player, a two-time All-Defensive First Team member and All-Star, and a three-time All-Star), Golden State turned everyone against them by basically adding another MVP.
The cruel side of this double-edged acquisition? Golden State currently has nine players who blew a 3-1 lead in last year's playoffs, if you include those who remained with the team: Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Ian Clark, Kevon Looney, and James Michael McAdoo. People calling the best regular-season team in league history (73-9 record) a bigger choker than LeBron James hurts now more than ever, with Durant in the fold.
The Warriors would like to prove all of them wrong and assert their greatness by reclaiming what is rightfully theirs. Despite finishing with the best record (67-15) for the third straight year in convincing fashion, this group actually carried the heaviest mental burden than any other NBA team.
Rings will vindicate the efforts of its revamped supporting cast, particularly the "rookie" veteran big men. David West still remembers losing to the Miami Heat every year as a Pacer, while JaVale McGee, who has been solid this postseason, wants to be taken seriously as a player. Lastly, Zaza Pachulia's is eager to make sure his career won't be defined by that play.
Draymond Green still blames himself for that series-altering Game 5 suspension. This time, the Defensive Player of the Year candidate will do everything in his power to ensure GSW won't have to meet the Cavs five times. Bound to erupt after being dormant so far in the playoffs is Klay Thompson. He also knows better than to poke the bear by spewing mindless trash talk.
It's championship or bust for Kevin Durant, star of last summer's free agency who made what many consider a "cowardly move." His first title may actually encourage more hate, but that won't matter if he has a ring to show for it. Winning, after all, takes care of everything, wiping away the sting of OKC's 2012 NBA Finals defeat and the talk of LeBron always getting the better of him.
Believe it or not, no other Warrior yearns for this trilogy more than Stephen Curry. From being touted as the face of the NBA, Curry is now doubted whether he could stop his rival point guard. The image of Kyrie Irving hitting the game-winner in his face has been nightmare fuel for the unanimous MVP this season.
The outcome of the 2017 NBA Finals will be determined not by the superstar pedigree between the two teams, but who wants it more. This series will make or break the legacies of Golden State's supernova quartet. Crack those "3-1" jokes all you want, but we believe that the Warriors had gone through so much to commit the same mistake.
Dubs in 4.
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