Every time the Warriors do something great – whether it’s Steph Curry’s 17-point overtime explosion Monday or his unanimous MVP award Tuesday – there’s another retired player taking a shot at the accomplishment.
But why? What is it about the Warriors that a lot of retired players dislike or have trouble embracing?
“I don’t think it’s the Warriors so much as it is just the style of play,” NBA.com writer Ian Thomsen said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I disagree with it for a couple reasons, but just on the face of it, I think it’s just like you might hear from NFL players who grew up playing in the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust deal, where you ran the ball up the middle and if a wide receiver went over the middle, the defensive backs could go head-hunting. It was a violent game, and the men settle it for themselves and all that stuff. That dynamic exists in every sport. It exists in ice hockey with the old-time fighting and the goons. It exists in baseball where you would throw at a guy’s chin and there would be real brawls on the field. You would hit the other team’s batter and back and forth. It still exists there. And in basketball, it was a different style of play back in the day.
“It was a more physical, violent game,” Thomsen continued. “The big men ruled basketball. This whole idea of small ball, it just didn’t exist. And if you went into the paint, you accept getting knocked down. Remember Isiah Thomas getting knocked down by Karl Malone and taking 40 stitches or whatever it was over his eye? All those kinds of things, in every sport, used to exist – and they don’t exist anymore. So for people who had to play the hard way, where it was a real physical violent game – I think in every sport, there’s just a little bit of, ‘Well, it wasn’t like when I played.”
We’ve heard Oscar Robertson take shots against the Warriors, we’ve heard Scottie Pippen take shots against the Warriors, we’ve heard Tracy McGrady take shots against the Warriors. McGrady, in fact, discredited Curry’s unanimous MVP, saying it speaks to “how watered down” the league is.
Is all this Warriors hate a vocal minority, or is this emblematic of a large portion of retired players and coaches who feel the game is too soft and the Warriors are playing, in essence, flag football?
“Well, I think anybody that had to play in that era and had to deal with those kinds of threats and feel like just to play basketball you had to accept certain dangers – I think it’s probably a little bit hard to see guys now making a lot more money and not having to accept those physical risks,” Thomsen said. “It’s natural for you to say, ‘It’s not the hard game that I had to play,’ so you say it’s easier, it’s softer. But then I look at it the other way. I think it’s a more inclusive game. I think the NBA is much more entertaining than it was 15 years ago, when it was a defensive-minded league and the scoring per game seemed to be going down and you could just bottle up players. That was physical basketball that was senseless. It wasn’t an inspiring kind of play.
“The way I see the Warriors now, it’s a very inspiring style of play,” Thomsen continued. “It’s inspiring to the point where little kids want to be Steph Curry and they want to grow up to do what he does. Well, what could possibly be wrong with that? It’s a style of play that I think is the future of basketball. It’s the way basketball is played around the world. It’s the idea that it’s a skill game; it’s not a physical game and you don’t have to be a giant to play it. In some sense, the NBA was sort of behind the curve on all this and they’ve caught up and look where it’s taken them. It’s taken them to where this guy Steph Curry is just beloved by everybody.”