Warriors’ Tone-Deaf Owner Thinks He Invented Modern Basketball

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty)

Back in March, the Golden State Warriors owned a record of 68-7 and were well on their way to setting an NBA record for wins in a season.

Team owner and Solicon Valley billionaire Joe Lacob was quick to lay the credit at the feet of the businesslike manner in which the Warriors are run.

“We’ve crushed [other teams] on the basketball court, and we’re going to for years because of the way we’ve built this team," he told New York Times Magazine. "We’re light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things.”

He said their greatness was "no accident."

“The great, great venture capitalists who built company after company, that’s not an accident,” he said. “And none of this is an accident, either.”

Never mind that the team had already drafted Stephen Curry before Lacob bought the team. And never mind that they were able to ink Curry to a steal of a contract thanks to serious ankle issues that have since dissipated. (Lacob would later call Curry to apologize for taking all the credit.)

After his comments, the Warriors lost two of their remaining seven regular season games, including one to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves, then went 15-9 in the playoffs en route to a runner-up finish behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team was 68-7 when he claimed he was smarter than everyone in the NBA, and went 20-11 after. They weren't "light-years ahead" of anyone.

But, as if striving to be the hilariously tone-deaf billionaire Gavin Belson of the HBO series Silicon Valley, Lacob is still claiming credit for stuff he didn't do.

Like inventing "small ball," or, the art of playing one or two nontraditional big men who can shoot and dribble, usually sacrificing some interior strength for an even greater offensive advantage.

“We drove this idea of small ball, and it’s a different style of play,” Lacob said at the Stanford University's Director's College on Tuesday. “Having said that, I think it’s important to know that whenever everyone else starts doing things, it’s time to start doing what’s next. We’re on to the next idea — How can we iterate to evolve to get an advantage? I can assure you we’re very forward thinking in that regard.”

First off, I'm not sure "iterate to evolve to get an advantage" means anything. But we'll let that slide.

Never mind that small ball is how LeBron James' Miami Heat won consecutive championships—something the Warriors failed to do—half a decade before Golden State won one. And never mind anything Mike D'Antoni's "Seven Seconds or Less" Phoenix Suns accomplished. Hell, even the Houston Rockets' consecutive rings in the mid-'90s it could be argued were partly the result of playing converted small forward Robert Horry at power forward.

Perhaps the biggest insult of all is that small ball is really just a new name for "Nellie Ball"—which head coach Don Nelson utilized with the Tim Hardaway–Mitch Richmond–Chris Mullin Warriors of 25 damn years ago.

Not only does Lacob have zero knowledge of how basketball works, he has zero knowledge of his own franchise's (fairly recent) history.

After winning a championship, the Larry O'Brien Trophy first gets handed to the victorious team's owner. Maybe when this happened, Lacob convinced himself he had anything to do with constructing a championship team.

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