IN EACH of the last four decades—1980, 1999, 2004 and now 2018—sports have gifted us a team so sublime that it is impossible to separate an individual from the rest of the group. How extraordinary were the Golden State Warriors, the recipients of the 65th SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Sportsperson of the Year award? Warriors players, coaches and executives alike, given a vote, likely would have conferred the honor upon a single player. "The reason for all this," says Andre Iguodala. The sun around which the Warriors' universe revolves, insists GM Bob Myers.
And yet, for all the individual brilliance of Steph Curry—a selection few would have protested—the Warriors have always been best viewed through a collective prism. There have been superteams that have forced us to reimagine how the game is played, but perhaps none so beautifully choreographed as the Warriors. At the Dubs' most golden, their movements and pieces seamlessly blur into each other so it is impossible to distinguish the magic of one player from another.
As with each of the Warriors' 64 Sportsperson predecessors, performance alone does not define this team. Its rise has coincided with the restoration of the NBA as a leading edge of culture that recalls its prolonged boom that began with the Magic-Larry years in the 1980s and continued through the Jordan era. The current boom, too, has coincided with the increasing intersection of sports and hard questions of politics, race and identity, among others, that have so divided the country. The Warriors—forcefully but civilly—have embraced the unique platform afforded them. No, they did not change the world and its attendant conflicts and ills, but they did not ignore them either.
The Warriors, of course, are not perfect. During the reporting of his story, which begins on page 42, senior writer Chris Ballard caught the team perhaps at its least perfect and most destabilized: fragile (between them, Curry, Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston have missed 34 games), indifferent (three blowout losses of 21 points or greater) and riven (Green's infamous "you're a bitch and you know you're a bitch" blowup and subsequent suspension). In dozens of interviews, Ballard discovered a team deeply aware of a ticking clock and the strains of sustained success. Being a dynasty, and the scrutiny that is its kin, can be a bitch, too.
Beyond Ballard's story, this issue is built around three of the reasons we all love sports—and Sportspersons—in the first place: their ability to amaze, surprise and inspire us. There was no shortage of those moments in 2018: from Tiger Woods, Alex Ovechkin and LeBron James offering their own compelling Sportsperson candidacies, to such newcomers as Chloe Kim and Naomi Osaka, to the electric Triple Crown--winning horse Justify. And many others.
The Sportsperson choice was no less difficult than it was in 2015 and 2017, both years in which the candidacy of the Dubs was debated right up to the end. Three titles in four years undeniably stamps them as a dynasty, the likes of which we might not see again amid the relentless churn of pro sports. But it's the individual pieces—from the longtime equipment manager to the highest reaches of management—and how they are woven together that gives their story a different ring: 2018 Sportsperson of the Year.
"NO, THEY DID NOT CHANGE THE WORLD AND ITS ATTENDANT CONFLICTS AND ILLS, BUT THEY DID NOT IGNORE THEM EITHER."