The Golden State Warriors are favored to win the 2017 NBA Finals. That’s what happens when you’re 12-0 in the playoffs and have won 27 of 28 overall.
And yet, some people are already discrediting the Warriors, saying that if they win an NBA title, it will be among the least respected in NBA history given the acquisition of Kevin Durant.
Is that a fair criticism?
“No, I think people are crazy and out of their mind to even think that,” Atlanta Dream head coach and five-time NBA champion Michael Cooper said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Jordan just took a beating all through the ’80s and finally they put the pieces together where he could really enjoy and benefit from winning a championship. He stayed in (Chicago) and they finally won. When LeBron James left Cleveland – anybody that leaves their hometown team or they leave a team to go seek more money, I look down on those players. But to seek a championship, to go to Miami and learn how to win a championship under Pat Riley and the players that he had assembled, I thought, was great. He went there, he did his job, he won his championships, and he took that knowledge and that experience and he took it back to Cleveland and they slowly built their process there, and they won a championship.”
Cooper believes Durant is doing the same thing. He might not return to Oklahoma City, but he wants to learn what it takes to win a championship.
“Even though you had a great player in Russell Westbrook, he had to leave because it’s about your longevity in this league,” Cooper said. “So for him to go to Golden State, that didn’t guarantee them being a champion. It still doesn’t. What it does is give them a better chance to win a championship, and that’s what they’re going to have to do now. So people saying that this is the least respected championship if Golden State wins or they look down on Kevin, I don’t. This man’s trying to win a championship. All the money in the world don’t make you happy if you don’t get that title of being a champion. Ask Charles Barkley.”
Cooper, 61, was asked why he looks down on players who chase money instead of rings.
“This game ain’t about money,” Cooper said. “This is about the love of the game. Obviously if you’re a great player, you get benefitted accordingly. I would have played for free. I guarantee you Magic Johnson would have played for free. And Larry Bird. They loved this game. You play it with your heart, soul, and passion. Yeah, you want to be compensated, and in the end, it is about financial gain. But I think (guys need to remember) all the people (that came) before us. Guys were wearing Converse tennis shoes for free because they gave them to you. Now guys’ shoe contracts are bigger than (the salaries of players from the 1960s and 1970s). So again, anybody that’s chasing money, that’s your thing. But mine is you got to give back to this game because this game has been good to a lot of us and it’s put you in a better position. You do that by playing with your heart and soul.”