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How the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry built a dynasty


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Amna Nawaz: Well, after a two-year absence from the playoffs, the Golden State Warriors are back on top of the NBA.

And the Warriors, often referred to as the Dubs, are staking a new claim on the reach and influence of their dynasty. They were led once again by Steph Curry, widely considered the best pure shooter the league has ever seen. There's also a lot of talk about Curry, his teammates, and where the Warriors belong in the pantheon of basketball history by changing the game.

We're going to dive into all of this with NBA writer Michael Lee. He's long covered the league for The Washington Post. And he joins us now.

Michael Lee, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thanks for being here.

Michael Lee, The Washington Post: Thanks for having me.

Amna Nawaz: So, this team, this core trio, in particular, on the Warriors, right, Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, they have won together before, their first championship back in 2015, a couple more after that.

But going into this season, there were a lot of doubters about whether they could pull it off again. Why was there so much doubt and how did they do it?

Michael Lee: Well, I mean, they missed the playoffs. I mean, just two years ago, they had the worst record in the NBA, and there were a lot of people wondering if they could ever bounce back.

Klay Thompson had an ACL injury and an Achilles injury, which most people can never recover from. Draymond Green looked like he was on the downside of his career. Steph Curry was still putting up big numbers, but they weren't impacting winning.

So it was easy the doubt that this team was going to come back and become a championship contender. But they made so many sneaky moves in those last two years, trading for Andrew Wiggins, drafting Jordan Poole, and just accumulating so much young talent, that they could really keep this dynasty going a lot longer than everybody anticipated.

And they just had a lot of faith. They had a lot of confidence that they had a foundational player in Stephen Curry who could deliver when it counted, and that the other guys would be able to step up and have the type of performances that could help them lead to another championship.

Amna Nawaz: You used that key D-word, that word dynasty we have heard so much, right?

Michael Lee: Yes.

Amna Nawaz: And there's a comparison to dynasties of the past.

Michael Lee: Yes.

Amna Nawaz: You look at the '60s Celtics and the '90s Bulls.

And even Curry, Steph Curry, last night after they won acknowledged the pressure that comes with that, said, I don't know how many other teams could have these kinds of records with comparison to these past dynasties and still come out on top of the mountaintop, as he put it.

So they now have titles in eight seasons. Is it fair to call them a dynasty? Is that what they have built?

Michael Lee: Absolutely.

I mean, and they were dominant, especially during that period where they had Kevin Durant. But this -- you always hear that you will never see another team like this built. And you won't, because, a lot of times, when you have a dynasty, you have a number one pick or top three pick that just turns into a Michael Jordan or Bill Russell or a Magic Johnson. You have these foundational players who you know, the moment you pick them, that you're going to win a couple of titles with these guys.

With the Warriors, no one knew Steph Curry was going to be the foundation for a franchise team. Klay Thompson was the 11th pick. Draymond Green was the 35th pick. So, when you're picking homegrown talent, they're actually picking in the back end of the lottery.

So the guys who they selected were not expected to be foundational pieces. And then Steph Curry's slow pace to become a superstar in this league, he didn't become an MVP until the sixth season, but he wasn't an All-Star until his fourth. So there are a lot of doubts about him, because he had injuries with his ankles.

And he signed in one of the best deals in the history of NBA, a four-year $44 million deal that really allowed this dynasty to take place, because they had to cap space to sign Andre Iguodala. And then they had a huge cap boon that opened up the space for them to sign Kevin Durant. It was unprecedented. It never happened.

And they were able to go forward and build a dynasty with that. And everyone thought it was over when Kevin Durant left. But, again, Steph Curry, he is somebody that is a unique player that we have never seen in this league, a 6'3'' guard who can dominate the game. We usually get that kind of dominance from a center.

But the three-point shot in the way he revolutionized the game and led this entire movement, this is his moment. And he's taking advantage of it.

Amna Nawaz: Michael, the dynasties of the past were playing at a different time. The game was played very differently in the league right now.

And you look at the way the game has changed, there's so much more reliance on three-point shots, where Steph is a master. So is it true? Has he changed the game? And is he the best shooter that we have seen?

Michael Lee: There's no question about that.

But I think that limiting him to just a shooter kind of diminishes all that he brings to the table. He has an impeccable handle. He can dribble better than anybody out there. He can finish at the rim, and he doesn't get tired.

The one thing about being a great shooter is like, what can you do beyond that? Well, he creates space for everybody on the floor. And just there's a fear that comes from whenever he crosses half-court. They know that that's his range.

And when you have that kind of ability, once you cross half-court, then you draw the defense right to you. And guys can just be themselves and play at a high level just because of your presence. And that's really what Seth has brought to the game.

I think a lot of time, they say, he's the greatest shooter we have ever seen. And, yes, he is the all time three-point shooter, but he's a great shooter. He's a great passer. He's a great dribbler. And he's a great teammate. Not many guys are going to be willing to step aside for another superstar to come in and flourish. Not many guys are going to look at young players like a Jordan Poole or a Andrew Wiggins to say, you know what, I have faith in you, I think we can trust you to come through in big moments.

And Steph has done that. His spirit has really lifted this Warriors franchise in a way that I can only find like maybe Magic Johnson or Tim Duncan with the Spurs, previous multiple-time champions. And I don't know if they're done.

The weird thing about this title is that I think they kind of are a little bit ahead of the curve. They have a stockpile of young talent that's just sort of waiting for a chance to break through. So they could keep this thing going for a little while longer. That's the scary thing about what's happening, is that this could be the beginning of another run for this group.

Amna Nawaz: All right, we're going to hold you to that prediction.


Amna Nawaz: We will have you back to see if it proves true.

In the meantime, they are a lot of fun to watch.

Michael Lee: Absolutely.

Amna Nawaz: That is Michael Lee. He covers the NBA for The Washington Post.

Thanks so much for joining us.

Michael Lee: Thanks for having me.

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