The Golden State Warriors just completed one of the most terrific seasons in NBA history. Not only did they bring the Bay Area its first NBA championship in 40 years, they brought pride and unity to a city in desperate need of both. Like previous champions, the Warriors were driven by a hunger to be the best.
The hunger to be the best is shared by all championship teams. Sure, certain teams and players may proclaim to be hungry for a title, but only a few are hungry enough to put in the work. Championship teams are usually filled with players who are not satisfied with cashing an NBA check but who have an eternal desire to compete at the highest level.
Simply being mentioned among the best isn’t good enough; they want to considered the best. That internal fire and hunger can be the difference between a team winning a title one year and choking in the first round the next. There is a reason why some of the best teams in sports history don’t repeat. Of course, free agency has made it difficult to repeat. The inability to keep a team together after a championship season can quickly end any talk of a dynasty.
Keeping a championship roster together is just one challenge a front office must face. Even teams that bring back their core players and suffer minimal roster changes might find it difficult to repeat as champs.
The same players who were dedicated and relentless in pursuit of that first title may become content and satisfied. That fire and desire that led them to leave it all out on the court simmered away after the victory parade and talk show appearances. No longer are they taking extra shots after practice. Instead they are heading towards their latest commercial shoot.
Any champion will tell you it takes a special type of team to repeat. The glory that comes with winning a title can lead to inflated egos and declining work habits. To stay passionate about winning can be a challenge to those who have just reached their life long goal. There is a tendency to take a deep breath once you reach that mountain top. But while you’re taking that deep breath, your opponents are creeping up fast and looking to throw you off the edge.
This is the fate the Warriors must avoid. The 2015-16 season must be met with a relentless approach. This off-season will be the key to defending their championship. Each player must dedicate themselves to improving their game. Their physical improvements must be accompanied by growth in their mental approach. They must be prepared to match the hunger and tenacity of every opponent.
The Warriors must be prepared to face the challenges that every championship team experiences. When you are the champions, there are no meaningless games. Every team will approach their match-up with the champs as their measuring stick. A chance to see how they stack up versus the best. Young teams will see how much they have improved, and veteran teams will see if they have closed the gap.
The Warriors must approach next year as if they were coming off a 20-win season. They must remain hungry and keep that competitive fire lit to repeat as champions.