WASHINGTON: Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors dominated the NBA in 2015, winning the team’s first league title since 1975 and starting the 2015-16 campaign with a record-setting win streak.
As the year began, LeBron James was pulling together an injury-hit Cleveland Cavaliers team in his first season back in his home region after vowing to make the Cavs a champion.
And while eyes were focused on his revival of the Cavaliers and their run to the NBA Final, 3-point hot shot Curry was sparking the Warriors to the Western Conference crown and a spot in the NBA Final against James and Cleveland.
An injury to Kyrie Irving in the opener hurt Cleveland and not even James could summon the heroics to deny the Warriors their fourth league crown and the first in 40 years, Golden State winning the best-of-seven series four games to two.
And they have been winning ever since, even though coach Steve Kerr missed the record start of the 2015-16 season with back pain and illness and assistant Luke Walton guided Golden State’s historic run.
The Warriors made a record 24-0 start to the 2015-16 NBA season before losing 108-95 at Milwaukee on December 12, shattering the old mark of 15 wins to start a season set by Washington in 1948-49 and matched by Houston in 1993-94.
Golden State’s run of 28 wins in a row over two seasons marked the second-longest run in NBA history, five shy of the record 33 wins in a row by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1971-72 campaign.
The Warriors eclipsed the previous second-best NBA win streak of 27, set by Miami in the 2012-13 season.
And Golden State was well on the way to making a run at the best one-season record in NBA history, the 72-10 mark set by the Chicago Bulls in 1995-96.
“It’s important to have tangible goals that you can look at and work for,” Curry said.
“We do a great job of staying in the moment.
“You can’t really get too far ahead of yourself. There’s so much that can happen in this league over 82 games. The great teams are the ones that can focus on each individual game.”
There was another record streak, but of a more dubious nature, as the Philadelphia 76ers started the 2015-16 season 0-18, matching the NBA record for most losses to start a season set by the 2009-2010 New Jersey Nets.
Over two seasons, the 76ers had lost 28 games in a row before their 103-91 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers, the longest losing streak in North American pro sports, two losses past the record NBA win droughts by the 2013-14 76ers and Cleveland in 2010-11 — both done over only one season.
Kobe Bryant announced in November that his 20th season with the Los Angeles Lakers would be his last in the NBA, the 37-year-old guard concluding a career that saw him win five NBA crowns and two gold medals with the US squad.
Injuries slowed the once-amazing moves that made Bryant one of the league’s most spectacular superstars.
“My heart can take the pounding, My mind can handle the grind, But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye,” Bryant wrote in a poem announcing his decision.
Bryant says he would like to play for the United States at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a possible golden grand farewell rather than the dismal season the Lakers appeared doomed to suffer after a 3-20 start.
San Antonio center Tim Duncan, 39, and guard Manu Ginobili, 38, pondered retiring but returned to the Spurs alongside guard Tony Parker for one more bid for the crown.