Golden State Warriors’ 5 most hated rivals
The Golden State Warriors franchise was established in 1946 (then the Philadelphia Warriors), and it has had a long line of success through the decades. However, it is a known fact that this team’s most successful stint came during the mid-/late-2010’s as they won an unprecedented three titles in five seasons. It was also in this period that the Warriors came across some of their fiercest rivals in league history. Below is our Top 5.
The Warriors and the Rockets produced some of the most epic playoff matchups in recent memory. Between 2015 and 2019, the Dubs have faced off against the Rockets in all but one of their playoff runs.
It started in 2015 when the Dubs made easy work of the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals, 4-1, en route to their first title in 40 years. The following season, it was a first-round matchup between these two sides, and once again, Golden State emerged victorious, 4-1. In the 2018 Playoffs, in arguably their greatest playoffs series ever, the Rockets pushed the Warriors to seven games. Houston gave the Warriors their biggest challenge during that particular championship run, as the Dubs easily swept the Cavs in the Finals. Finally, in 2019, the Warriors and the Rockets met again, this time in the second round. The Dubs won that one 4-2, effectively putting an end to the Chris Paul-James Harden era in Houston.
This one has revenge narrative written all over it.
With the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi Leonard upset the Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals en route to bringing the title to Toronto for the first time in franchise history. This was indeed a Cinderella story in its truest form, and turned out to be the upset of upsets. Kawhi and company took down the defending champs in six games, and effectively putting an end to the dynasty era. Soon after, Kevin Durant jumped ship, and the Warriors had no choice but to pick up the pieces from there on out.
The Dubs had a historically horrendous 2019-20 campaign, but it does seem that once they are at full strength, they will be out to seek some revenge on Leonard, who is ironically with one of Golden State’s divisional rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers.
As it turns out, Durant also did to the Warriors what he did to the Oklahoma City Thunder some three years earlier. Although the situation was quite different — Durant had already won two titles with the Dubs before he jumped ship — there’s no denying that there is still some bitterness there.
In the summer of 2019, following Golden State’s Finals loss to the Raptors, Durant decided to sign with the Brooklyn Nets as a free agent. This put an end to the rather short-lived dynasty of the Warriors. It doesn’t help that after his departure, Durant himself had some not-so-nice things to say about his time with the Warriors, saying that the media had a certain bias against him as compared to other Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Durant’s on-court heated squabble with Draymond Green while they were teammates also adds further fire to this flame.
Russell Westbrook/Oklahoma City Thunder
The Warriors’ bad blood with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder roots from Kevin Durant’s decision to turn his back on his former team to join the Warriors in 2016. Durant spent three seasons with the Warriors, and every meeting with the Thunder was an intense matchup. Durant and Westbrook were extremely close during their time in OKC, and it became personal between them when Durant left. These two even stopped talking to each other, and it was clear that Durant’s decision had severe implications on their friendship. Durant and Westbrook even got into it a couple of times on the hardcourt, but perhaps there was no better manifestation of this rivalry than the former’s first trip to Oklahoma City. Durant and the Warriors were booed incessantly by the home crowd, but they still emerged with a 16-point victory. Talk about rubbing salt in their wounds.
LeBron James/Cleveland Cavaliers
Few will argue that LeBron James is the greatest player of his generation. This is exactly why he posed the biggest threat to the Warriors dynasty.
The Warriors faced off against LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers in four consecutive seasons between 2015 and 2018. Golden State won three out of those four matchups, but there’s no denying that the sting of the 2016 Finals loss to the Cavs still remains in the hearts of Warriors fans to this very day. The Dubs dominated that campaign, ending the regular season with a record-breaking 73 wins and just nine losses. They were also up 3-1 in the Finals, and were just a game away from winning back-to-back titles for the first time in their history. Unfortunately for them, James and company would mount the comebacks of comebacks, as they won three straight games to take the title in Game 7.
This rivalry gained more traction when LeBron signed for division rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018.