As a history minor at Marquette University and even before that, I had a fascination with empires. The fact Alexander the Great never lost a battle (as far as historians know) is still mind-boggling, and while the Phoenicians did not have as large an empire as the Romans, they still were able to cut out a decent swarth of land in North Africa and around the edge of the Middle East through Hannibal’s exploits.
After all, anyone who can march a herd of elephants through a mountain pass and then rout Goliath like he did at Cannae deserves some respect. There were others, of course, places far and wide throughout the globe, some that changed history for both good and bad at times. These two stand out for me because I took Latin for two years.
So it has been with some sinister amusement I have actively refreshed my timeline the past few hours following Golden State’s signing of DeMarcus Cousins on Monday.
The Warriors played nice, showed some respect in letting LeBron James dominate a 24-hour news cycle following his signing of the Los Angeles Lakers, who continued to add to their basketball experiment of co-existence around the superstar Monday by signing Rajon Rondo and ex-Warriors center JaVale McGee.
And then they dropped a ACME Company 10-ton anvil upon James’ head and his title aspirations. They not only upgraded at the center position from McGee to Cousins, but did so by using their mid-level taxpayer exception in which Boogie’s salary is a paltry $5.3 million (though it’s closer to $22 million when you factor in luxury tax).
What has followed with Twitter has been the near-universal condemnation, hysterical hot-take wailing and hand-wringing over the lack of competitive balance among people who want to be entertained and want the 82-game regular season to “mean something.”
To which I ask: What’s wrong with empire?
What’s wrong with a team actively pursuing the ends to maintain the distance it has created between itself and its closest pursuers? Even Warriors coach Steve Kerr and the players noted their challenge was mainly internal, which is sometimes harder to suss out and solve than it is play better than your opponents.
What’s wrong with trying to (and in Golden State’s case, succeeding) convince players that a few less million dollars for me can result in a better chance of winning a title for we? The vilification of Kevin Durant added another chapter tonight because his deal helped create the space for Cousins.
Rooting for empire easier in this instance because I don’t have a favorite NBA team — I’m more of a college basketball fan who lives and dies with Marquette basketball.
James was derided for reaching the NBA Finals for eight consecutive years as Eastern Conference champion because he only won three titles; that in of itself was an impressive empire. And it was only this year in which it was recognized what an actual achievement this was given his supporting cast.
If he had won more than three titles with his rotating cast of characters, would the hue and cry have been greater when these free agents would sign to play with the best player of this generation (and perhaps ever)?
What is wrong with seeing history potentially rewritten? While it’s likely the Warriors won’t actively try to go 74-8, especially with Cousins’ projected availability to be January, wouldn’t it be interesting to see them try? They won 24 during their record-setting 73-win season, wouldn’t you like to see them try to make a run at the all-time mark of 33 by the 1971-72 Lakers?
The only difference in empire here is scale of size — James was overlord of a conference and has now, in the world of Alexander the Great’s father Philip, “asked for thyself another kingdom … because it was too small for thee.”
In turn, the Warriors simply did what any good empire would do. Survey the land and act accordingly. And they have. And I’m excited to see what will happen next.