In just a few days -- barring an unlikely Cleveland Cavaliers comeback -- we'll all witness history. The Golden State Warriors will become not only back-to-back champions, but earn the definitive title of "best team ever," capping a 73-9 regular season with an NBA title.
Many have said it's been inevitable. They lost nine out of 82 in the regular season, what makes you think they could possibly lose four out of seven? And now, the Warriors seem like they'll be proving that notion correct.
Except one thing: They probably should've been eliminated last month.
Though it was obviously a tall task, the Oklahoma City Thunder had a Western Conference Finals victory over the Dubs lined up perfectly. Yes, Golden State may be the most talented and versatile team the league has ever seen -- but OKC was the one team that had a real shot at them. There was the explosiveness to penetrate, then length to defend and the star power to close out games. They did it all, except finish. The Thunder failed to win any of the three games of the series and were sent packing despite once holding a 3-1 lead.
It was the latest in a series of disappointments for the Thunder that have subdued their greatness through this entire decade.
The team tasted greatness in the lockout-shortened season of 2011-12, when they reached the NBA Finals, but lost to the Miami Heat. With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both just 23 -- and role players James Harden and Serge Ibaka both 22 -- the team simply wasn't ready.
Little did the franchise know, that would -- to date -- be the closest this nucleus would get to a title.
Subsequent seasons were spoiled by injuries to Russell Westbrook (2013) and Kevin Durant (2015), while their 2014 season ended at the hands of the eventual champion Spurs.
It all built up to this past season, where both Durant and Westbrook -- in the primes of their careers -- were finally entering a season with full health. The only question that remained was whether or not the stars would buy in to what first-year coach Billy Donovan was selling. And that question was answered in the affirmative early on.
In a season that posed the biggest mountain to climb, this Thunder team had the peak in its sight, then crumbled as it was about to plant its flag. Despite employing arguably two of the 30-40 best players in NBA history, the Thunder still haven't realistically sniffed a championship.
And depending on how this offseason plays out, they may never reach the top of that mountain.
- By John Dorn