The Golden State Warriors are nothing if not an example of just how unfair fandom in the NBA can really be for some people. By all accounts, this is a team the deserves to be ranked among the greatest, most important teams in the history of the league, if not all of professional sports. They've won three titles and six conference championships. They've fielded 13 Hall of Famers. They were the team that drafted Paul Arizin, Rick Barry, and Wilt fucking Chamberlain! They played in a game in which their own player scored triple digits on the other team! And yet with all that going for them, after 1975 they essentially became one of the league's ghost teams - one that sometimes shows up to spook other teams people, you know, watch and follow, but otherwise are completely forgotten about. After 1975 they really only popped up once, in 2007, when they famously socked the Dallas Mavericks in the mouth.
The Warriors are one of the original teams of the Basketball Association of America, the league founded in 1946 which the NBA considers its direct forerunner. They originally popped up in Philadelphia, where longtime basketball promoter Eddie Gottlieb was hired as the coach and general manager. He named his new team the Philadelphia Warriors, after an earlier professional team in the city. That year, the Warriors became the league's first-ever champion as early scoring sensation Joe Fulks led them to a 4-1 Finals victory over the Chicago Stags, the forerunners to the Chicago Bulls (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Ch...atest_Bullfighters.html). They had their ups and downs over the next nine or ten years, including a three-year stretch from 1953 to 1955 when they didn't make the playoffs at all. In the 1956 season, though, they pulled themselves together again, finished in first, and deated the Fort Wayne Pistons in the Finals 4-1 for their second title, which would be their last title in Philadelphia.
With players like Hall of Famers Paul Arizin, Michael Bryson, and Neil Johnston, the Warriors were loaded as it was. Then in 1959, they made their most noteworthy draft pick. In fact, he was one of the league's most noteworthy draft picks, ever. Wilt Chamberlain was signed, being a high school sensation in Philadelphia. As a professional basketball player, The Big Dipper immediately got to work shattering every possible record of the time, wrecking everyone put up in the paint to stop him, and only changing the way the game was played for good. Want to know how good Chamberlain was? Wrap your head around these numbers: In 1962, he averaged over 50 points and over 25 rebounds per game, putting up over 4000 points in the regular season. He's the only guy who ever did that. (And only him and Michael Jordan ever broke 3000.) During a stretch, he managed to score at least 40 points in every game. That's not AVERAGE. That's MINIMUM. And on March 2 that year, in a game against the New York Knicks (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...he_New_York_Groove.html), The Big Dipper managed to post a whopping 100 points. The whole thing wasn't planned; Wilt, always in pursuit of individual statistics, entered the game wanting to break a free throw record. But his point total was 41 by halftime. It wasn't a big deal; Wilt had, after all, put over 60 on the board in 15 games by then, and 70 in a handful. So one of the Warriors made the backhanded suggestion that they just keep shoveling the ball to Wilt to see how many points he could get. With ten minutes to go in the game, Philadelphia's team concept broke down and the offense was actually giving the ball to him and then watching rather than trying to get open. With six minutes to go, the Knicks began fouling every player except Chamberlain in order to keep the ball out of his hands, moving the ball slowly to eat up the shot clock, and the Warriors eventually began fouling back to get the ball to Wilt. The game was basically a farce for the last quarter, but you can't help but respect the achievement. 100 points is 100 points, and its never been done since. The Los Angeles Lakers (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...5-Walking_on_Water.html) came within 19 points of it when Kobe Bryant posted 81 in one game against the Toronto Raptors (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...These_Raptors_Bite.html) but admitted that 100 is well beyond his reach. Wilt did it, and the circumstances in place enabling him to do it were a lot different. It probably won't happen again.
In 1962, the Warriors were bought, moved, and renamed the San Francisco Warriors. Playing most of their home games at Cow Palace in Daly City, just south of San Francisco, they also did some short-range barnstorming and played in Oakland and San Jose as well. In the 1964 season, they won the Western Division title but met the Boston Celtics (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...-The_Big_Green_Men.html) in the Finals. You would think Wilt Chamberlain would rise up and dominate Boston's roster like he did so many others, but Boston had the perfect antidote to Chamberlain in his star center, Bill Russell, who pioneered the idea of the defensive center. Chamberlain was foiled and the Warriors lost in five games.
During the 1965 season, the Warriors traded Chamberlain to the Philadelphia 76ers (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...25-A_True_Original.html), the team moved to replace the Warriors. That was losing a lot, but they made up for it when they unearthed Rick Barry in the 1965 draft. If the Warriors couldn't take Chamberlain's attitude, Barry turned out to be worse. He sat out the 1968 season due to certain incentive awards he believed he was owed, and joined the Oakland Oaks of the ABA the following year. He stayed there for the next four years before returning to the Warriors in 1972.
That same year, 1972, the Warriors' schedule was so dominantly revolving around the Oakland Coliseum Arena that the team figured hey, why not make a move official? So they moved to Oakland and, upon renaming, became the only team in major league sports to adopt a state nickname as their own official name when they decided to call themselves the Golden State Warriors. That was the start of one of the team's great periods. From 1971 to 1977, the Warriors made the playoffs every season, and in 1975, they won what is still their only Title during their tenure on the west coast when they swept the heavily favored Washington Bullets in the Finals.
A number of players were lost to retirement and mismanagement in the following couple of years, so the Warriors then fell off the top. One trade the Warriors made in 1980 sums up just how badly management missed during the whole era: In 1980, Golden State selected Joe Barry Carroll with the first overall pick of the draft. Carroll was nicknamed "Joe Barely Cares" which is one of the great kings of negative press nicknames but sort of unfairly attributed to him. Part of the reason he got that nicknames was because he frequently declined interviews, not because of his play; in several seasons, he did average over 20 points per game. But another contributor to his nickname was the fact that the Boston Celtics made a killing off him. To get Carroll, the Warriors surrendered Robert Parish and the draft pick who the Celtics turned into Kevin McHale. The Celtics won three titles in the 80's with those two teaming up with Larry Bird. The Warriors fell out of contention until 1987, when they finally made it back to the playoffs and gave the Los Angeles Lakers a run in a series still shown on NBA Classic TV.
Although the Warriors only won 20 games in the 1988 season, it was still the beginning of a series of runs which was… Okay, it was merely decent. They pulled together a bunch of winning seasons from 1987 to 1994, but were an odd team during the time. They fielded some real standout players like Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin (known as the team's Run-TMC line), and stars like Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell. Although it was a more successful period than not, the Warriors only made the playoffs in consecutive years once, in the 1991 and 1992 seasons. After 1994, they only made the playoffs once.
In 1997, general manager Gary St. Jean was hired, and fans blame him for a lot of the team's ensuing struggles are blamed on him. Him and Dave Twardzik brought in a lot of players who were long past their primes, like Terry Cummings and John Starks and Mookie Blaylock. They drafted Todd Fuller in 1996 while Kobe Bryant was still available, and Steve Logan, who never got into a single NBA game. Adonal Foyle was selected with Tracy McGrady still on the board. They did luck out a few times though, taking Jason Richardson, Antawn Jamison, and Agent Zero himself, Gilbert Arenas. Those last three probably helped prolong St. Jean and Twardzik's tenure, because with them, the Warriors now looked like a fresh-legged young team. They might have actually been competitive had they still been in Philadelphia, where they could play in the weaker Eastern Conference, but as it was, their ultra-talented and ultra-competitive Western Conference mates kept killing them. In 2003, some of the GM duo's earlier cash mistakes bit them in the ass when they couldn't pay Arenas, their best player and a guy who really wanted to stay with Golden State.
St. Jean was fired and succeeded by Chris Mullin, who hoped to build a competitive new team around Richardson. In 2005, he picked up Baron Davis. The Warriors started off strong in the 2006 season but faded in the stretch, in part because Davis didn't get along with the coach and because he didn't stay healthy. In the 2007 season, the team made a shocking trade which sent Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, Ike Diogu, and Keith McLeod to the Indiana Pacers (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use..._in_Middle_America.html) for Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Josh Powell, and Sarunas Jasikevicius. Armed with younger, fresher, more athletic talent, the Warriors ran and gunned their way to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years with a 42-40 record. In the playoffs, the Warriors went into the first round to play against the Dallas Mavericks and their league-leading 67-15 record. It's important to note here that while Dallas had more talent, depth, and the best record in the NBA, they had a losing regular season record against Golden State. I found that out perusing the Chicago Sun-Times one day, so I might be the only one who noticed. Although most NBA watchers bet on the highly favored Mavericks and consider Golden State's victory a shocker on par with Super Bowl III, I can honestly say I wasn't especially surprised.
Shocking or not, the Warriors had made their arrival statement, going on to win 48 games the next year. In playoff races, anything under 50 wins is pretty much fair game, but in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, they still became the first team to ever win that many games and still be excluded from the playoffs. And that about does it for the Golden State Warriors. It's the last time they showed up to do anything of real note.
If you're an aspiring NBA fan, you'll never be embarrassed by your team if you pick the Golden State Warriors. Unfortunately, that's not for the right reasons. Lakers fans don't get embarrassed because their team is so dominant. Fans of the Los Angeles Clippers (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...lipped_and_Trimmed.html) get embarrassed because even though their team is nondescript, everyone knows how shitty they are. The Warriors… Well, everyone knows the NBA has 30 teams, but unless they actively watch the league, they can only name 29. The Warriors are the team they're always forgetting.
That really is a damn shame, too, because the Warriors are steeped in the kind of history any basketball fan can respect and any fan of the team itself can be truly proud of. Wilt Chamberlain played for them, after all. They also played Joe Fulks, Rick Barry, Chris Mullin, Robert Parish, Ralph Sampson, and Nate Thurmond. Those are just a few of 13 Hall of Famers on their all-time roster. Chamberlain, Barry, Mullin, and Thurmond are among their six retired numbers. Eight of their players have made the All-NBA First Team, 12 made the Second Team, and two have been on the Third Team just for good measure. Six Rookies of the Year. Five Scoring Champions. A whopping 16 All-Rookie First Team players. Wilt Chamberlain was the 1960 MVP. It make you wonder how they've managed to blow everything so often.
The Warriors fanbase is forever a ghost-riding fanbase. They're hidden, but they're also considered one of the most devoted fantasies in basketball. Although the Warriors are a Bay Area team, the fans also seem very pleased to not be associated with the vegetarian hippies across the bay.
Picking the Warriors means adopting a team which shifts between a doormat and an underachiever in a powerful conference. The Golden State Warriors have a very storied and proud history and tradition which many basketball fans would love to be a part of. Then again, so do the downstate Los Angeles Lakers. And the Lakers have visibility and titles to back it up. The Golden State Warriors are a good team to adopt if you don't mind sharing third banana status with the Sacramento Kings.