The Golden State Warriors Complete Sweep Of Cleveland Cavaliers To Become NBA’s Back-To-Back Champions And The Sport’s Latest Dynasty

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry shoots the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James during the fourth quarter in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday in Cleveland.
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Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry shoots the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James during the fourth quarter in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday in Cleveland.

Other teams would be delighted to have such terrible issues. But the reigning NBA champions had so much talent and so little incentive for so much of the regular season that it became a chore for them to unleash their electrifying style of play. They were bored. And they were the only team in the NBA that could afford to be. That’s how good they were.

The Warriors are now the back-to-back NBA champions after crushing LeBron James and the other Cleveland Cavaliers, 108-85, on Friday night to complete a Finals sweep of the greatest player of this basketball generation and create the sport’s latest dynasty.

Golden State has three titles in four years—in the one season they lost to the Cavaliers, they had to settle for winning the most regular-season games of any team in NBA history—but this is the championship that elevates the Warriors into the stratosphere of teams good enough for long enough to define the eras in which they played.

The Warriors have an unprecedented winning percentage over the last four years, and their latest win launches them into the company of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000s (three consecutive titles), Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls of the 1990s (six titles in eight years), the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s (three titles in four years) and Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics of the 1960s (eight straight titles) as the best NBA teams of all time.

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This may not be the end of their run, either.

They still have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, a concentration of star power unlike any the league has ever seen, and the Warriors will begin next season the way they started and finished the last two seasons: as the heavy favorite to win yet another NBA title.

This season was more turbulent than any of the last three, but only because the Warriors understood they could be apathetic before the playoffs and still get away with it. They won only 58 games after winning 67, 73 and 67 games in previous seasons—another Golden State Warriors’ problem—and they found themselves battling mental fatigue and physical injuries in what felt like an interminable slog to the games that finally mattered.

The word that Golden State players, coaches and executives used to describe this season was long. The one person who could have made it feel longer was LeBron James.

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry defends Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James during the first half of Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday in Cleveland.
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Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry defends Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James during the first half of Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday in Cleveland.
This was the fourth consecutive Finals between the Warriors and Cavaliers. It may have been the best that James has ever been. It was also the worst his teammates have ever been. In what could be his last season in Cleveland—he’s a free agent this summer—James was brilliant even by his own standards. The other Cavs were bad even by theirs.

Which meant they were no match for their rivals. The Warriors disposed of them as quickly as they could. They survived a masterful James performance in Game 1 because of a miserable J.R. Smith blunder. And then Curry was sublime in Game 2, Durant had the game of his life in Game 3, and they both played Game 4 with an urgency that made it clear they didn’t want to play another game.

Curry had 37 points, Durant had 20 and they slapped hands, hugged in celebration and took their seats on the bench even before the game was technically over.

They wouldn’t lose again for the rest of the season.

If there were ever a point this year when the Warriors had problems—not Warriors’ problems, but actual problems—it was right around March 12. Curry was hurt. They had lost two in a row, and they were about to concede the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference to the Rockets. It was the latest date of any season in this dynasty that Golden State wasn’t sitting atop the standings.

But they didn’t panic. They had an epic party that night.

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The entire team attended a 30th birthday extravaganza for Curry. He arrived on a yacht and soon found himself on a stage singing karaoke while Green and Durant competed for the affection of his grandmother and Thompson danced so hard that he nearly injured himself. The next day, practice was canceled. The Warriors needed more time to recover.

It wasn’t that fun for most of this year’s championship run. It didn’t have to be. The Warriors had another party on the last night of the season anyway.

As it turned out, they were right: They really were too good.

The Golden State Warriors are an American professional basketball team based in the San Francisco Bay Area in Oakland, California. The Warriors compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the league’s Western Conference Pacific Division. The Warriors play their home games at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. The Warriors have reached ten NBA Finals, winning six NBA championships in 1947 1956, 1975, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Golden State’s six NBA championships are tied for third-most in NBA history with the Chicago Bulls, and behind only the Boston Celtics (17) and Los Angeles Lakers (16).

The team was established in 1946 as the Philadelphia Warriors based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a founding member of the Basketball Association of America (BAA). In 1962, the franchise relocated to the Bay Area and was renamed the San Francisco Warriors. In 1971, the team changed its geographic moniker to Golden State, California’s state nickname. The team is nicknamed the Dubs as a shortening of “W’s”.

Wilt Chamberlain and Stephen Curry have both been named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player while playing for the Warriors, for a total of three MVP awards. 18 Hall of Famers have played for the Warriors, while four have coached the team. Golden State holds the NBA records for best regular season with 73–9 and most wins in a season (regular season and postseason combined) with 88 in 2015–16, as well as best postseason with 16–1 (.941 winning percentage) in 2016–17.

Splash Brothers

The Splash Brothers are a duo of American basketball players consisting of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The two guards play professionally for the Golden State Warriors in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Excellent long-range shooters, they have combined to set various NBA records for three-point field goals by a pair of teammates, and each has won the Three-Point Contest. The two NBA All-Stars have won  3 NBA championships with the Warriors in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

The sons of former NBA players, Curry and Thompson were not highly recruited out of high school. They enjoyed successful college basketball careers before being selected in the first round of the NBA draft by the Warriors. Curry was chosen with the seventh overall pick in 2009, while Thompson was eleventh in 2011. In 2014–15, they became the first teammates in the league to be the starting guards in the same All-Star Game since 1975, and they were the Warriors’ first pair of All-Stars since 1993. They also became the first guard combo to be named to the All-NBA Team in the same season since 1979–80. The two helped the Warriors win the 2015 NBA Finals for the team’s first title in 40 years. Additionally, they were teammates on the United States national team in 2014, winning the gold medal at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Curry (Davidson) and Thompson (Washington State) in college

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were both born into athletic families. Their fathers, Dell Curry and Mychal Thompson, each had productive NBA careers, while mothers Sonya Curry and Julie Thompson were both volleyball players in college. Their brothers, Seth Curry and Mychel Thompson, also became basketball players.  Neither Stephen Curry nor Klay Thompson were highly recruited by college basketball programs.

Curry did not receive athletic scholarship offers from any major universities, and his parents’ alma mater, Virginia Tech, asked him to be a walk-on. He landed at a mid-major basketball program in Davidson College, a small private school in North Carolina. As a sophomore, Curry’s scoring and three-point shooting developed a national following as he led the Wildcats within a game of the Final Four in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The following season, he was a consensus first-team All-American and led the nation in scoring with an average of 28.6 points per game.

Thompson played at Washington State University, which was not considered a basketball powerhouse. Recruited there by coach Tony Bennett, he was only lightly recruited by the other Pacific-10 (now Pac-12) schools, prompting him to move from California to Washington. Thompson became a two-time, first-team All-Pac-10 player, and led the conference in scoring with 21.6 points per game in 2010–11. He finished his Cougars career holding the school record for most career three-pointers (242).

Golden State Warriors

Trading away Monta Ellisopened opportunities for Curry and Thompson.

Golden State selected the 6-foot-3-inch (1.91 m) Curry in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft with the seventh overall pick. Although the Warriors already had another lean, 6-foot-3, offensive-minded guard in Monta Ellis, Coach Don Nelson had a penchant for using small lineups in his Nellie Ball system, and had warmed to the idea of selecting Curry. However, Ellis announced at a media session that he and Curry were too small to play together. Two years later, while Curry and Ellis were still adjusting to each other, the Warriors added another scoring guard in the 6-foot-7-inch (2.01 m) Thompson, who they drafted in the first round with the 11th overall pick in 2011. Curry and Thompson had limited time together in their first year as teammates; the 2011–12 season was shortened to 66 games because of the NBA lockout, and Curry missed 40 games due to injuries. Towards the end of the season, Golden State traded the fan-favorite Ellis in a deal for center Andrew Bogut, leaving Curry to lead the team and opening the shooting guard position to Thompson, who provided needed size to their backcourt.

Thompson emerged as a star in the 2014 World Cup.

In 2012–13, Curry and Thompson combined to make 483 three-pointers, the most ever by an NBA duo. Curry set an NBA record with 272 made three-pointers, while Thompson added 211, at the time the 22nd best season in league history. Warriors coach Mark Jackson opined that the tandem was “the greatest shooting backcourt of all time”. Golden State advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs before losing to the eventual Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs. Curry and Thompson in 2013–14 became the first teammates to finish first and second in three-pointers, making 261 and 223, respectively. They also extended their combined three-pointer record by one (484), and together averaged 42.4 points per game. With Curry making 42.4 percent of his three-point attempts and Thompson converting 41.7 percent, wrote that “no backcourt in history has rivaled the Splash Brothers in both categories of 3-point volume and efficiency.” During the offseason, they were both members of the 2014 U.S. national team that won the gold at FIBA World Cup. The two combined to make more three-pointers than any other duo in the tournament, accounting for 43 of Team USA’s 77 threes in 13 games. Thompson established himself as a star in the international competition, and emerged more as Curry’s peer rather than his sidekick. He was the second-leading scorer for Team USA, averaging 12.7 points, while Curry added 10.7.

Curry holds the NBA record for most three-pointers in a season.

Prior to the 2014–15 season, the Warriors considered breaking up the pair and trading Thompson for forward Kevin Love, but kept their starting backcourt intact by signing Thompson to a four-year, $70 million contract extension. That season, Curry and Thompson each scored 50 points in a game, just the seventh time it had occurred on the same team in an NBA season, and the first time since 1994–95. They both started in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game, becoming the first teammates to be the starting guards in an All-Star Game since 1975. Curry received the most All-Star fan votes of any player for his second straight All-Star start. Coming off NBA single-quarter records of 37 points and nine three-pointers during his 52-point game in January, Thompson was making his All-Star debut. He was voted onto the team as a reserve by Western Conference coaches before being named as a replacement starter by West coach Steve Kerr, who had become the Warriors coach that season. The Splash Brothers were the Warriors’ first All-Star duo since Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin in 1993, and the franchise’s first pair of starters in the All-Star game since Rick Barry and Nate Thurmond in 1967During All-Star Weekend, Curry and Thompson also competed in the Three-Point Contest, which was widely considered to have the greatest field of contestants in the event’s history. They both advanced to the three-man final round before Curry won the contest.

The Warriors finished Kerr’s first season with a league-best 67–15 record, the most wins ever by an NBA rookie coach, and won the 2015 NBA Finals for their first title in 40 years. Curry captured the NBA Most Valuable Player Award. Kerr had Curry guard opposing point guards, which Curry credited with keeping him more focused; Jackson had previously assigned that defensive responsibility to the longer Thompson. Additionally, Curry broke his own record for three-pointers (286), and Thompson again finished second in the league (239) as the two combined to make 525 threes, surpassing their previous record by 41 while converting an impressive 44 percent of their shots. They were both named to the All-NBA Team, with Curry being named to the first team, and Thompson earning third-team honors. It was the first time Warriors teammates were named All-NBA in the same season since Mullin (first team) and Hardaway (second) were recognized in 1991–92. Curry and Thompson were the first backcourt mates to be selected All-NBA since 1979–80, when Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson of Seattle were both named to the second team.

President Barack Obamaopined that he preferred Thompson’s jump shot over Curry’s.

In honor of their 2015 championship, Golden State visited the White House in February 2016, and President Barack Obama opined that Thompson’s jump shot was “actually a little prettier” than Curry’s. The Warriors entered the All-Star break in 2015–16 with a 48–4 record, the best start in NBA history. Curry was voted into the All-Star Game as a starter, and Thompson was selected as a reserve along with teammate Draymond Green. Curry was averaging a league-leading 29.8 points per game, and both he and Thompson were again 1–2 in the league in three-pointers made. They were again selected to compete in the Three-Point Contest, and Curry was a heavy favorite to win; the betting site, Bovada, listed Curry as the favorite to win with 10–11 odds, while Thompson was second at 9–2. Once more, the two advanced to the final round, but Thompson prevailed while Curry was the runner-up, outscoring him 27–23.

With 24 games remaining in the season, Curry again surpassed his NBA record for three-pointers, reaching 288 against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 121–118 win. He also tied an NBA record with 12 three-pointers in the game, including the game-winner from beyond 30 feet (9.1 m) in the last second in overtime. Curry and Thompson broke their combined record for three-pointers in a season after just 66 games, when the Warriors (60–6) became the fastest team in league history to ever reach 60 wins in a season. Golden State finished the season with an NBA-record 73 wins. Curry finished the season with 402 three-point shots made, and Thompson was second in the NBA with 276. Their combined total of 678 shattered their previous record by 153 shots made. They were also the highest-scoring duo in the NBA with an average of 52.2 points per game. In the playoffs, the Warriors rallied from a 3–1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals to defeat Oklahoma City, 4–3. Thompson scored 41 points and made an NBA playoff record 11 three-pointers in Game 6, and the Splash Brothers were the first NBA players to finish with at least 30 three-pointers in a playoff series. Their 62 combined makes exceeded the Thunders’ series total of 55.

In 2016–17, Curry and Thompson became the first two players in NBA history to make at least 200 three-pointers in five consecutive seasons. Curry broke the NBA record for most three-pointers made in a single game with 13, breaking the previous of 12 he held jointly with Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall. In 2017–18, the duo each made 200 three-pointers again to extend their record for consecutive seasons with 200 made. In Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against Houston, Thompson scored 35 points and shot 9-of-14 on three-pointers and Curry added 29 points and five 3’s to help the Warriors overcome a 17-point deficit and win 115–86, staving off elimination and tying the series at 3–3. The Splash Brothers outscored the Rockets 37–25 in the second half while shooting 11-of-15 on three-pointers.

The Splash Brothers nickname refers to the duo’s ability to “splash” the net with the ball, particularly on three-point shots, and is a play on an older nickname for another pair of Oakland teammates, baseball players Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, who were known as the Bash Brothers when they played for the Oakland Athletics. The term began in 2012 in a tweet from Brian Witt, a writer for the Warriors website. On December 21 against the Charlotte Bobcats, Curry and Thompson had combined for 25 points and seven 3-pointers by halftime, when Witt posted an update of their performance on the team’s Twitter account with a#SplashBrothers hashtag; Golden State would win the game 115–100. The Warriors liked the nickname, and encouraged Witt to continue tweeting it.