Through two games of the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors are well on their way to winning a championship this year. It’s not because their opponent is bad, but it’s because the Warriors possess a collection of talent that really is incredible. Few, if any, teams in league history can go punch for punch with a team this good for 48 minutes.
Unlike the past few years, this Warriors squad fits the modern description of a superteam – a squad that has been assembled with the help of trades or free agency. While 75 percent of the team’s core (Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson) were acquired through the draft, its fourth star, Kevin Durant, came by way of free agency this past offseason.
So if you believe that definition of what a “superteam” is, Golden State is a superteam. When asked about how this all happened by Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, Durant credited an unlikely person: Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James.
But Durant has encountered a fraction of the static that James did since making his own controversial move last July. In part, it’s because James is simply a more polarizing figure. But it’s also because James blazed the trail and made it safer for Durant and other stars to choose their own paths.
“Once LeBron made that decision, it took a lot of the brunt,” says Billy King, the former general manager of the Nets and 76ers. “You sort of almost expect guys now to maybe leave and do what’s best for them.”
Indeed, it’s become routine to see the NBA’s greatest players actively pursue the chance to join other stars, form superteams and chase championships—all without concern for the dumpster fire raging in their Twitter mentions.
Though Durant says he did not consider James’ precedent, he readily admits, “He paved the way.”