The 2021-2022 NBA season has finally concluded in fairly predictable fashion—with the Golden State Warriors, a rag-tag squad of scrappy underdogs (which happens to include four superstars) heroically clinching victory over, well, them.
The path to this outcome was a hell of a ride, fraught with intrigue, conspiracy, “astonishment,” and Twitter shade. Indeed, the Warriors may have “won,” or something, triumphing over Jayson Tatum’s Boston Celtics—but isn’t the real championship ring the friends we made along the way?
Let’s talk about the other many winners and losers of the season and post-season.
One winner: monopolies. Since 2015, when this iteration of the Steph Curry and Klay Thompson-led Warriors first won a championship, their team has won four out of the last eight years and gone to the Finals every year since 2015, except in 2020 and 2021. I, for one, am curious to hear President Biden’s plan to address the Warriors Industrial Complex, because any less than an executive order to break up this team is frankly a stunning policy failure.
And one loser: me—a disgruntled former Bay Area resident who is tired of watching Tesla engineers and Facebook employees get to be so happy all the time.
Let’s dig into the rest:
Before the Warriors and Celtics won their respective conference titles and squared off in the finals, let’s not forget the real winner of this season. Sure, Sixers-turned-Nets guard Ben Simmons didn’t touch a ball all year, vanishing in the wake of an especially humiliating performance throughout the Sixers-Hawks 2021 Playoffs series. Simmons at once sought out a trade, anything to get the hell out of Philly (which, sure, understandable), and went so far as to take his phone to practice when he was required to show up.
As action around his requested trade stalled, Simmons, taking a page from the organizers of the great Pullman Strike of 1894, withheld his labor, refused to work, and eventually his demands were met: In February, he was traded for Nets guard James Harden in a historic move that’s now being called the first lose-lose trade in league history.
Speaking of withholding labor, Simmons wasn’t the only one helming the burgeoning anti-work movement this season—due to his vaccination status, Nets guard Kyrie Irving couldn’t play home games, and effectively spent most of the season being paid full-time for a cute little after-school, part-time job. Someday, Irving and Simmons will wield their labor organizing prowess to win us the coveted four-day work week.
It’s not just Steph (and Seth) Curry’s parents, Dell and Sonya, who got divorced this season (and now, might I add, appear to have done a partner swap with another divorced couple—good for them!): Divorce came for a lot of NBA duos. Look no further than the messy break-up of the Nets’ James Harden and Kevin Durant, and the equally messy break-up of the Sixers’ Simmons and Joel Embiid. At the very least, Dell and Sonya didn’t take their shit to Twitter or not-so-subtly body-shame each other. And speaking of the Simmons-Harden trade being a lose-lose, it seems both Embiid and Durant might be feeling some buyers’ remorse about their new partners.
With a single tweet, Celtics shooting guard Jaylen Brown saved his team’s season. Shortly after his Jan. 31 tweet declaring that, void of any context, “The energy is about to shift,” the Celtics went from a distressing 26-25 win-loss record to go 25-6 the rest of the season. You can attribute this to dedication (or roster adjustments) or anything you choose, but we all know what really sparked this shift in the energy: Brown’s tweet.
Boston haters—who are apparently a vast demographic that includes former Boston resident and current Jezebel editor Lauren Tousignant—really had a rough go of it until the last three games of the NBA Finals. Under the leadership of rising stars like Tatum, Brown, and Marcus Smart, the Celtics really almost pulled this thing off, narrowly clinching tough Game 7 wins against monster competitors like Jimmy Butler’s Miami Heat and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks to get to the finals. But the shift in the energy could only propel them so far amid the sudden absence of Tatum’s basketball abilities, and to the great relief of a Boston-hating nation, they were ultimately routed.
Not to blame women for the failures of men, but the Kardashian Kurse—the phenomenon coined by many a male sports fan that posits dating a KarJenner will inevitably doom an NBA player’s career—is definitely real, and it had to come for Suns All-Star Devin Booker eventually. Two years into his relationship with Kendall Jenner, Booker stunningly seemed to be unaffected by the curse. Flash forward to Game 7 against Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks, during which, at one point, Doncic had scored more points than Booker and all of the Suns combined. Life comes at you fast! Sure, all of that was a month ago, but Devin, I repeat: You shouldn’t be alone tonight.
I have nothing against the actual members of the Warriors team, who all seem like lovely people, and wonderful dads (especially Klay). Like many teams consisting of lovely people, they happen to represent a city wrapped up in a number of unsavory squabbles right now—the Silicon Valley is, after all, nothing if not the capital of the American surveillance state. But more relevant to the Warriors, their meteoric rise in the last decade has been exploited by vulture-like developers, as the team’s surge in popularity eventually led to the abandonment of its Oracle Arena home stadium in Oakland, swapped for the billion dollar Chase Center in San Francisco in 2019. At the time, the Washington Post reported that many critics saw the move as “a symbol of gentrification and urban abandonment.”
Other critics have suggested the move to San Francisco “offers the potential of more gentrification” in the Mission Bay neighborhood, and “real estate price increases” in a city that’s already become virtually impossible to live in, lest you are, again, a Tesla engineer or Facebook employee. But congratulations to the Warriors, I guess!!!
Jayson, sweetie, I love you, but I’d stay off the internet for a few days if I were you.
Tatum, who was selected as a member of the All-NBA First Team for the first time this year, is a bonafide All-Star and has shattered a handful of records at just 19 years of age (he’s 24.) But the truth of his greatness coexists with another truth, which is that he vanished during this series against the Warriors. And suffice to say, his Twitter mentions are probably not the place to be right now—especially as the young star consistently names Kobe Bryant as his inspiration in all things.
Much has been made of how utterly screwed over Kevin Durant was on the Nets this season, between Kyrie’s anti-vax shenanigans, confusing vaccination policies from the NBA and New York City, and of course, the Judas-level betrayal of Harden’s departure. But the man has two championship rings and remains phenomenally talented. Harden, on the other hand, cannot seem to catch a break.
In his prime leading the Houston Rockets, even as he casually dropped 50 or even 60 points in regular seasons, Harden simply could not overcome the Warriors Industrial Complex in the Western Conference (particularly when Durant joined the Warriors, from 2017 to 2019) and teamed up with Irving and Durant on the Nets in a last-ditch effort to get a ring. What followed, instead, was a series of Shakespearean tragedies and twists—injuries, conflict, vaccine conspiracy theories, and ultimately, implosion. Still in pursuit of an ever-evasive ring, he decided to try his luck in Philly, only to be plagued by the same cruel twists of fate. This man is going to be the greatest NBA player of all time to never get a ring, and I am prepared to blame literally everyone and everything but him for that.
I am once again thinking about the outcome of the Suns-Mavericks series, and specifically, this tweet. I say this entirely non-ironically: Perhaps other NBA players would benefit from taking a page from the Luka Doncic book of success and swapping out a few lunges for just having a ball thrown at your head. It’s clearly worked for him!
Last September, as the NBA descended into chaos over players’ vaccination statuses, Ted Cruz predictably weighed in by offering his perennially unsolicited support to the handful of players who were reportedly refusing vaccines. This was apparently a wake-up call, because in the subsequent weeks, the Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins and the Wizards’ Bradley Beal very publicly announced their vaccinations. Anything—apparently even having a deep-state microchip inserted into your brain—to not be associated with Ted freaking Cruz!
This was, ultimately, not a great season to be a James Harden, Ben Simmons, Devin Booker, or Jaylen Brown fan—which I am, for my own reasons (horniness, mostly), despite having grown up in the Bay Area and currently residing in Los Angeles. But I lived through watching Harden miss 27 consecutive three-point attempts during a stretch of the Warriors-Rockets series in 2018, and I’ll live through the 2022 Playoff exits of my favorite players, which ranged from mildly embarrassing to irreparably cringe. See you all next year!