How the Warriors were like the 1996 Atlanta Braves

14

That rat Leyritz hits a 3-pointer, sort of. (Ron Frehm/AP photo)

The astute Athens radio personality Jeff Dantzler noted before the NBA finals that if the Golden State Warriors lost — and he picked Cleveland to win — they’d essentially be the 1996 Atlanta Braves. Now, in the light of the Warriors actually losing, that’s one of those observations I wish I’d made myself … because it’s pretty much dead on.

Like the Warriors, the Braves were going for a second consecutive championship.

Like the Warriors, the Braves led their final series — I believe in baseball it’s known as the World Series — by two games.

Like the Warriors, the Braves were seen as the class of their sport. (The Warriors had gone 140-24 over the past two regular seasons. The Braves were gracing their fourth World Series in six years, and there’d been no Series in 1994.)

Like the Warriors, the Braves rallied from a 3-1 deficit in their conference/league final.

Like the Warriors, the Braves were seen as invincible after the second game after the finals/Series. (The Warriors outscored the Cavaliers by 48 points in Games 1 and 2. The Braves outscored the Yankees 16-1 in Games 1 and 2 — and, counting the final three games of the NLCS, had outscored the opposition 48-2 over five games.)

Like the Warriors, the Braves were undone by an unforeseen occurrence in Game 4. (The Warriors saw Draymond Green get entangled with LeBron James late in a game the Warriors had under control, which led to Green’s suspension for Game 5, which turned the series. The Braves led the Yankees 6-0 and were poised to take a 3-1 Series lead when Denny Neagle gave back three runs, Jim Leyritz hit Mark Wohlers’ slider for a tying homer and Steve Avery walked Wade Boggs with the bases loaded in the 10th inning.)

Biggest moment in the Warriors’ series: Kyrie Irving’s 3-point shot over Stephen Curry. Biggest moment in the Braves’ Series: Leyritz’s three-run homer over the left-field wall. (Which Andruw Jones sought to scale, in vain.)

Like the Warriors, the Braves were eliminated on a night when their best player wasn’t quite up to snuff. (For the Warriors, it was two-time MVP Curry. For the Braves, it was four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux, who yielded three runs in a messy third inning in Game 6.)

Like the Warriors, the Braves were subjected to much second-guessing. (Why did Steve Kerr stay so long with Harrison Barnes — and why play Festus Ezeli/Anderson Varejao at all? Why did Bobby Cox summon closer Mark Wohlers to start the eighth inning of Game 4 with a three-run lead when Mike Bielecki had struck out four Yankees in the sixth and seventh?)

Like the Warriors, the Braves had to field the question: Did the other team really win — or did you guys just blow it?

One difference: The Braves didn’t lose to a team from Cleveland. (Actually, they’d beaten a team from Cleveland in the 1995 World Series.)

One final similarity: I thought these NBA finals were essentially over after Game 4; I figured the 1996 World Series was essentially over after Game 2.

Reader Comments 0

27 comments
Bizpolish
Bizpolish

A sad side note to the Cavaliers' trophy presentation: Bill Russell, for whom the series MVP trophy is named, was on the platform during the presentation BUT he was NOT asked to present his trophy to LeBron, he was NOT introduced, he was NOT mentioned, and he was NOT acknowledged in any way. It was as if he was not there, yet someone had to invite him to the platform, give him credentials, etc.  And who could miss a 6-10, white bearded, white headed, 80 year ofd NBA icon wearing a light colored suit. Shame on Adam Silver, shame on Doris Burke, shame on the NBA, shame on Fox. And shame on LeBron for being so caught up in his championship moment that he didn't acknowledge the honor of having his name on a trophy named for one of the legends of the NBA. Someone, maybe multiple someones, owe Bill Russell a HUGE apology.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Bizpolish

That's unfortunate.

I wonder, was Russell the only one on the platform not introduced--or one of several/many?

ShovelPlease
ShovelPlease

Get over the Leyritz homer.  That's a convenient excuse.  What was the Braves' excuse for not winning the 1991 and 1992 World Series against inferior opponents?  What was the excuse for the 1993 and 1997-2005 years?  What might have been. What should have been. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

@ShovelPlease All great years that we would certainly be appreciating this year if it were possible.

mc1362002
mc1362002

Mark, you just relived a painful memory.    1996 was the one World Series that the Braves should have won, which they didnt.   I agree that the division title years Braves never did quite recover from the Leyritz homer,.  If Wohlers doesnt give up that homer, the Braves likely would have won the 1996 World Series in five games.


I feel for the Warriors fans, because I know how we felt in 1996 when the Yankees beat us. 

SebGuy
SebGuy

The Braves have never recovered from that Leyritz homer.

DawgNole
DawgNole

Solid comparison here, MB. I didn't realize how many similarities there were.

That Leyritz homer probably was among the most devastating in the Braves' mostly tortured ATL history.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@DawgNole The Braves mostly tortured history?......LOL...the 4th all-time NL pennant winner?.....really?

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket @DawgNole

Still can't read, caryd? Or are you just twisting my words again?

"Mostly tortured ATL history"! Duh.

ONE championship in 50-plus years--NONE over the past two decades--and how close is today's team to winning another???

Well?

How close???!!!

I repeat: MOSTLY TORTURED ATL HISTORY!

Don't you ever tire of defending/rationalizing mediocrity? Or has the perpetually subpar play of all the city's teams beaten you down so badly that you actually think half a century of also-ran status is a good thing?

TOJacket
TOJacket

Little stumpy, fire-plug looking #$@@#$!!!!

Falcons2013
Falcons2013

One thing it is time to recognize. we are now likely the most futile sports city in the pros. Prior to last night we could always point to Cleveland as more hapless than Atlanta. With this championship I doubt there is a worse major city in terms on pro championships.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

Nope.

ATL has ONE championship in far more pro seasons than San Diego--and has dumped two playoff-starved NHL teams along the way. San Diego hasn't even fielded an NHL team.

There's a reason (many of them, actually) they call this place "Losersville"--and it will never change as long as ATL fans continue to defend the mediocrity that has permeated the city's pro teams for more than half a century now.

Race Burly
Race Burly

@DawgNole @TOJacket Actually, the Calgary Flames aren't exactly "playoff starved".  With the same management that was in place in Atlanta, they went to the Stanley Cup Finals twice, winning it all in 1989.  They were also in the Finals again in 2004.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@BoltUpright

I was referring to their time in ATL--not the success they had elsewhere, which was not at all surprising.

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

Unfair to compare the Warriors to our Braves.  Let GS choke away a few more finals series, then we can talk about Steve Kerr and Bobby Cox as the same guy.


Congrats to the fans in Cleveland, but NBA officiating is the worst.  Systemic subjectivity has destroyed their credibility over the years.


It's nothing new.  It's the money.  So much is at stake now.  


Why do home teams shoot more free throws?  Why do superstars get away with committing various and sundry violations with impunity?  Systemic subjectivity.


When the home team and the league's marquee players succeed, individual franchises, the NBA as a whole, Nike and the networks are all enriched.  


Systemic subjectivity.  The NBA doesn't deny it; how can they?  They will claim it doesn't alter the competitive balance - everybody plays 41 home games, so ref bias evens out over the course of the entire season. 


And superstars getting away with traveling, offensive fouls, etc?  Hey, that's who the fans pay to see; that's who the sponsors pay to represent their brand.  You got a problem with that?


Yeah I do.  


Is the NBA now the NWA where the main attraction is pituitary cases rather than mesomorphs?  


No.  The NBA is not scripting the outcome in advance.  But there is a complicit effort to nudge it in a desired direction.  The refs are the tool to make that happen.

nowhereman
nowhereman

One thing stands out to me about this series. Lebron should have been the one suspended not Green. Well orchestrated NBA set up again. What else is new ?

Jlahat1
Jlahat1

Great column.  Braves have never ever recovered from that Home run..Can still picture it in  my  mind. The beginning of the end.

ShovelPlease
ShovelPlease

@Jlahat1  The beginning of the end was the futility in the 1991 World Series. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@ShovelPlease

Nah, they won a championship after that. 

Haven't won crap since the '96 postseason debacle.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

First. Good column. Happy Monday.