Has America turned against the Warriors? Stay tuned
For the first time, the NBA Finals will feature a team from Canada.
And while these two developments are purely coincidental, it's also worth wondering if America has turned against the Golden State Warriors.
It generally happens when any team wins big. The Warriors are in the Finals for the fifth straight year, the longest run since the Boston Celtics in the 1960s, and are looking for their fourth title in that span.
America has always loved a good underdog story, and the Toronto Raptors, making their first Finals appearance, fit the bill in this series.
So which teams are on the most disliked dynasties list? And where do the Warriors rank?
In the NBA, it all starts with the Miami Heat teams that went to four straight Finals from 2011-14. The public seemed to be turned off right away by the idea of three stars forming a "superteam," along with LeBron James' awkward departure from his hometown.
When the 2014 Finals against San Antonio rolled around, it was comical how strongly people wanted the Heat to lose. ESPN ran an online survey with the question, "Who are you rooting for in the NBA Finals," and mapped the results. Florida was the only state favoring Miami, while the rest of the country was firmly behind the Spurs, a team seeking its fifth title with Tim Duncan.
Looking for a national perspective on this topic, I turned to Sirius NBA Radio host Noah Coslov, who grew up on the East Coast.
"There's nowhere near the villain status that that Heat team wore, and that Heat team wore so uncomfortably," Coslov said. "I don't think anybody roots against Klay, I don't think anybody roots against Steph, but KD is the one that's brought this on."
True, the Warriors' dynasty began as an exciting homegrown team powered by Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. But it evolved into "superteam" territory when Durant signed on as a free agent in 2016, after Golden State won 73 games, but lost to Cleveland in the Finals.
Now Durant's calf injury has added another level of intrigue. He has missed the past five playoff games and the Warriors won them all. Durant has been ruled out of Friday's Game 1, but he did travel to Toronto.
It's also possible DeMarcus Cousins could see action in the Finals after going down with a quad strain in the opening round.
Besides jumping from the Warriors' biggest rival (Oklahoma City), Durant seems to thrive on rubbing people the wrong way, whether it's on social media or in interviews. Many NBA fans probably wish he'd move on as a free agent this summer and create a little more parity in the league.
"I think having KD out has allowed the general public to even root for the Warriors again," Coslov said. "Rooting for the Warriors means Steph shining and then if the Warriors win, the popular opinion is if KD leaves, that's what everybody wants."
While we're at it, this is a good time to get a second opinion on the popularity of the Bulls' dynasty of the 1990s. Despite winning six championships in eight years, those Bulls teams seemed to have more supporters than haters, thanks to Michael Jordan.
The Bulls probably rank at the bottom of the NBA's hated modern dynasties list, below the Heat, Warriors, Bad Boy Pistons, Kobe-Shaq Lakers and Showtime Lakers. At least, that's how it feels to someone living in Chicago this whole time.
Coslov was a fan back then, not a radio host. But he got the same impression living in the Philadelphia area.
"I remember watching the games and everybody rooting for Jordan," he said. "Plenty of conversations with friends over the years, and none of my friends ever rooted against Jordan.
"I remember being at the game with my dad in (Allen) Iverson's rookie year when he crossed over Jordan at the free-throw line and even in that moment it was what Iverson did to Jordan, but nobody ever wanted Jordan to be embarrassed. We all still tuned in to watch Michael be great. Nobody ever rooted against him."
It's possible Curry could inch closer to Jordanesque popularity with a strong performance in the Finals. Maybe the league's silent superstar, Kawhi Leonard, will steal the show. Or annoying Toronto superfan Drake could spoil the goodwill for the Raptors.
Durant might return from his injury and complicate every storyline.
Whatever happens, it should be great theater.
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls