To say that the Golden State Warriors fan base has been tortured over the years would be a huge understatement. It would be like calling Jackie Robinson important to baseball. He’s far more. There’s not a word to describe Jackie’s meaning to baseball. The Warriors fans have been beyond tortured, to the point where, again, there is no word to describe it. They watch movies like Saw and Hostel and can relate to the torture. I wish I was joking.
For what the consensus considers the best fan base in professional basketball, they deserve much better than what they’ve received in years past, set aside from the famous 2006-07 “We Believe” season (knocking off the No. 1 seed Dallas Mavericks) and this 2012-13 run.
In 1975, the Warriors won the NBA Finals. In ’76 and ’77, they made the playoffs, winning just their first-round series in each of those two seasons. What proceeded? Nine straight seasons where they failed to make it back to the tournament. And oh yeah, they started that stretch by drafting someone named Purvis Short in the 1978 NBA Draft. The very next selection? Larry Bird.
That Purvis Short pick would set the precedent for a long stretch of blown draft picks and poor trades that would prevent the franchise from ever getting back to where they were during Rick Barry‘s prime.
During the 1989 NBA Draft, they acquired the Seattle Supersonics 1990 first-round pick for Dana Barros, before flipping it back to them only weeks later. That pick wound up being the second pick in the 1990 NBA Draft, someone who went by the nickname The Glove.
Everyone knows about the C-Webb debacle in 1993-94.
In 1995, they selected Joe Smith first overall. Jerry Stackhouse, Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace were three of the next four selected.
In 1996, in a pick acquired from the Chris Webber trade, Golden State chose someone named Todd Fuller No. 11 overall. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash were two of the next four. It goes on and on… trading Antawn Jamison for Vince Carter in ’98, selecting Brandan Knight one spot ahead of Joakim Noah in 2007, and so on. For Warriors fans it feels like when your boss breaks out a list of all the things you’ve done wrong over your time there when you enter his office in search of a raise. It seems impossible, until you think for a moment, “Wait, did all of that really happen? Did I do anything right?”
Everything culminated in the Golden State faithful booing new owner Joe Lacob on Chris Mullin night last season. Actually calling it booing would be another understatement. I haven’t seen a more uncomfortable moment in basketball since Ron Artest ran into the stands at The Palace in 2004.
With the exception of the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons, the Warriors failed to make consecutive playoff appearances since that ’75-’77 run. This season marks just the seventh time the franchise has made the playoffs since being ousted in the 1977 playoffs. Seventh. By comparison, their second-round counterpart, the San Antonio Spurs, have made the playoffs each of the last 16 seasons, a time where they also won four Larry O’Brien Trophies. By the way, the last place Gregg Popovich coached before heading to San Antonio? Golden State. True story.
The Warriors, however, have done an excellent job in their efforts to turn around the franchise over the past few years.
Along with signing David Lee (aka the Warriors first All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997) in the summer of 2010, General Manager Bob Meyers has done an excellent job rebuilding this team. He’s also maintaining cap flexibility. The team will be able to grow together, unlike countless Warriors teams prior (including the 2007 “We Believe” team), who were broken up quickly for one reason or another, many of which were financially related.
Meyers connected on three of his past four drafts. In reverse order starting with 2012, he has selected: Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Ekpe Udoh and winner of this season’s Most Exciting Playoff Performer Award, Stephen Curry. The only poor selection was Udoh, if only because Greg Monroe was selected one pick later. But I’ll take three out of four good draft picks every day of the week. Based on their team’s draft history, Warriors fans will as well.
There was also the aforementioned David Lee sign-and-trade, the signing of Carl Landry to help shield Lee’s poor defense and add some toughness, the acquisition of Jarrett Jack last summer, and the roll of the dice trade that brought Andrew Bogut over from Milwaukee in exchange for Monta Ellis and his mo-ped. Meyers has done an excellent job of efficiently putting together one of the most exciting young ensembles in basketball.
Two summers ago, Meyers made the controversial decision to hire Mark Jackson as his head coach. He, along with new owner Joe Lacob, promised Jackson would bring defensive-minded basketball to the Bay Area. Fans were skeptical because, well, Jackson never had a prior coaching job and frankly, there wasn’t a player on the roster who could guard a rocking chair.
The results, however, showed that the organization came through on its promise. Golden State will never be the Memphis Grizzlies defensively, but they’ve more than held their own.
Golden State was 13th in defensive efficiency this season and third in opponents’ field goal percentage. Sure they let up a boatload of points (10th in points allowed), but they run a high-paced offense that calls for a lot of scoring. I’ll never have a problem with a team who allows 100 points per game, as long as they’re scoring at least 101, which the Warriors did for the better part of this season (Golden State was 13th in point differential).
Added to that defensive toughness is the very under-looked fact that Stephen Curry adores Jackson. In today’s NBA, you can bet David Lee’s hip that’s important. If you’re unsure, ask Byron Scott.
Since being snubbed from the Western Conference All-Star team, Curry averaged 26 points and seven and a half assists per game. The only other player to put up at least 25 and seven in those categories during that stretch? The NBA’s four-time Most Valuable Player, LeBron James.
Set aside the numbers for a moment, and Stephen Curry is still the perfect player for this fan base. He’s the guy they’ve deserved for years now. Not only is he the best offensive point guard in the NBA, he plays with a certain flair that the fans feed off of. It’s something you can’t teach or acquire. You either have it or you don’t. His signature face, along with the childish-looking stomping, during his 54-point outburst in Madison Square Garden earlier this year has been a signature video for his team during these playoffs. And you know what? It’s the perfect depiction of what this fan base has been craving. They finally have a player who gives them the sense that he cares as much as they do, and when a player and a fan base connect like that, they’re in for something special.
His sensational passing, along with his exhilarating 25-foot three-pointers, is the foundation for a star in the making, and no one deserves it more than the true Golden State Warriors fan. This time, let’s just hope it lasts.
Can the Warriors give San Antonio a run for their money?
Follow Bryan on Twitter at @BryanConfer.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.