The Victory Machine: The Making and Unmaking of the Warriors Dynasty
by Ethan Sherwood Strauss
Published by PublicAffairs on April 14, 2020
NBA // Non-Fiction // Pop Culture
As hard as it was I was hoping to see the Warriors win 4 in a row. Just once in my lifetime. A 3-peat is so hard yet utterly undeniable. A 4-peat well that wasn’t meant to be.
That sadness is accurately depicted in Ethan Sherwood Strauss’ fantastic NBA book The Victory Machine: The Making and Unmaking of the Warriors Dynasty.
On the last page he reveals: “Most sports books are celebratory in nature, but this one dwells on the sadness that comes with success.”
This is an NBA book. And simultaneously this is not an NBA book.
So in magic a magician does an astonishing trick and everybody comes up with a whacky theory on how they did the trick. It’s wild speculation often not grounded in reality. And NBA superstars operate the same way they have a public face and there is a lot they do not reveal. (Though that is slowly changing: for example a handful of players have talked about mental health.)
“Many NBA stars are hookah heads, surprising as this may sound. They are up later than you and occasionally require a more relaxing social activity.” Is another solid observation about NBA players and their private/public lifestyle. (The book has a fantastic scene set in 724. 724 is a 2 thumbs up hookah bar…a sheesha joint in San Fran. I’ve been there; it’s really good: I smoked the Barack Obama flavour.)
“To Jordan’s credit he understood that we only need broad strokes. Jordan would talk about image and upholding the image: he got that people just need an image. Just a picture in their mind. What do you need to know about Michael Jordan? You didn’t need to be constantly messaging to people in a way that social media seems to incentivize celebrities to constantly chase that attention in the way that you see LeBron do not just Kevin Durant. That undermines your image in public because a lot of the fascination with Jordan there’s still mystery there.”
“In the story of a dynasty, there are only two modes: rise and fall.” So writes Ethan.
Victory machine is an MBA book. If you want to learn more about the Warriors, Kevin Durant, new owner Joe Lacob: how all of that works pick up this book.
Now if you want to know how an NBA team functions within our culture; how an NBA team is influenced by our culture as much as it creates culture then this book is worth reading. So good; soul good!
Look winning is sycophant. Increase the value of a NBA franchise the challenges and transforms narrative and winning covers a multitude of sins. But what if you know between the wings winnings you could hear faint confessions like the diminishing returns of winning.
An NBA team operates like a sports writer of the culture but not in the culture. Generally I recognize with you since case there was a tense moment with Kevin Durant. What they write about the culture which in turn creates culture. As observers, we often project what we want onto what the players want. But life as a player is radically different from life as a fan, and the two sides don’t understand each other all that well, even in an era of constant public communication. How are narratives shaped? And how have narratives evolved with podcasts and social media?
It’s a damn good book; it helps if you’re into the NBA but even if you’re not it’s worth the wrestle and trying to understand what success means for you…what success looks like for you.
Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.
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