Stephen Curry is not humble. He may look the part of gentle, thankful man due to his abiding faith, his focus on family and his general inclination to be soft-spoken. But the on-court evidence has piled up, slipped over and piled up again. Curry knows he is pure basketball excellence, and he's not afraid to remind everyone of that every time he hits the court.
One could argue that incredible success has delivered this crown of hubris unto Curry's head. Partial credit should be afforded to Curry's teammates, especially Draymond Green, a man burning with swagger every minute of every day. But it's not just Green, either: Andrew Bogut has a sharp tongue for critics, Steve Kerr has a dry wit that bangs hard when you swish it around for a moment and Andre Iguodala likes to have fun at overmatched opponents' expense. Witness Iguodala's snide and fully accurate assessment of the Rockets' defense during Monday's Game 2.
"It kind of feels like playing a scrimmage in practice," Andre Iguodala said of a playoff game. pic.twitter.com/fBWXRvMlgO— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) April 19, 2016
Iguodala is talking about taking on a bigger offensive role amid Curry's absence and he's comparing the experience of having a large offensive role to how it works in practice. But in saying the game -- a competitive playoff game -- feels like a practice scrimmage, he's making it deadly clear how seriously the Warriors take the Houston threat, which is (rightfully) not seriously at all.
Hubris among NBA players -- stars and subs alike -- is nothing new, exciting or worth fretting over. All hubris does is fuel schadenfreude and Crying Jordan memes when failure eventually arrives. For Golden State, that could be this spring or it could be in 2027. For the Warriors are indeed great and built to last unless they are undone by their own success, unless they start believing their own hubris, unless they get a little too cocky and start to suggest they are exceptional by virtue of their own brilliance.
[Warriors franchise owner Joe Lacob] boasted that the Warriors are playing in a far more sophisticated fashion than the rest of the league. "We've crushed them on the basketball court, and we're going to for years because of the way we've built this team," he said. But what really set the franchise apart, he said, was the way it operated as a business. "We're light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we're going to go about things."
No Steph Curry 35-footer packs more hubris than Bruce Schoenfeld's New York Times Magazine profile of Lacob and the Warriors' venture capitalist management. When the story hit before the playoffs, it drew attention for an overall tone of mild condescension and for two quotes: the light-years nonsense (the Spurs will take your call when you have 14 more 50-win seasons in a row) and this one about Steph himself.
[As] Lacob sees it, Curry's dominance on the court, though essential, is inextricable from everything else he's done with the franchise over the last few years, from knocking down the office walls to the Ellis trade. "It's not just Steph Curry," he told me once. "It's architecting a team, a style of play, the way they all play together. It's all extremely thought through."
It takes real hubris to put the rise of Steph Curry on equal footing with your decision making as the rationale for your team's historic greatness. You know how we can tell Lacob trotted out some insane, inane, self-promoting hubris right here? Because, per Sam Amick, Lacob texted Curry to explain the quote as soon as the story hit the internet. If it's really "not just Steph Curry," you don't really need to treat Steph Curry's ego like a china doll, do you? Potentially alienating the best player on the planet surely won't affect your ability to stay light-years ahead of the competition.
Perhaps that's uncharitable, but nothing about Lacob or the Warriors commands charity. Lacob bought a team that happened to have a future MVP no one thought would be a future MVP on it. Lacob's front office negotiated a below-market extension for said future MVP due to injury history. The future MVP stays healthy thereafter, and excels beyond expectations.
Then a brilliant front office led by a man who has become a brilliant GM -- Bob Myers -- makes some excellent personnel decisions. You hire the perfect coach (Steve Kerr) at the perfect time, despite the fact that the guy has no coaching experience whatsoever. You win a championship and follow it up with a historic regular season. A single championship, followed by an amazing regular season ... and you're out here talking about being light-years ahead of every other team, and about how important your "architecting" of the team is compared to your superstar point guard?
This is the purest form of Warriors hubris, of Silicon Valley exceptionalism, of wildly premature triumphalism. When given the opportunity to respect the competition, Lacob instead touts his success. When offered a chance to distribute credit, he claims it for his own. When afforded a path to noting the incredible impact of luck on all of this, he cites his "extremely thought through" plan. This is peak hauteur, and this could leave a mark.
For Golden State already has a considerable target on its back by virtue of being the reigning champs and the best team ever. Narcissus died admiring his own reflection, and if the Warriors keep swallowing their own compliments, they just might do the same.