A trip down memory lane for me as a Warriors fan.
I remember I was in first grade and I saw the Warriors on TV. I didn’t know much about basketball, I just liked it. I would try to imitate what I saw on TV to the playground. I even remember the first ever basket I made on the playground I thought that I could one day match what the Warriors did. It was so easy to be impressed by this Warriors team. Little did I know that they were embarking on a playoff drought. But they were the first team I watched. The first team I followed. I fell in love with basketball because of them. And I never left.
It’s not easy being a Warriors fan. As I grew older, my frustrations would grow more and more with the team. It started off innocently with guys like Joe Smith and Latrell Sprewell. Talented players but still not the answer to making the team successful. Of course there would be some questionable coaching decisions, odd free agent signings and just bad draft picks. Remember Todd Fuller? Yeah, the Warriors took him over Kobe Bryant. Still, I followed this team. I would sit by the radio almost every night, listening to the team on KNBR. I loved basketball and I felt that maybe one day they would turn the tide.
I thought their new logo in the 90s was the best. It was perfect for a kid like me. Some kind of mythical mascot with lightning bolts. That coincided with future draft picks like Vince Carter (who was traded for Antawn Jamison) and Gilbert Arenas. Some hope and potential came but it was not meant to be. Bad coaching hires and frustrating seasons later, this team was back to square one. Still, I followed this team. Of course it would have been easier to follow another team during that time. But I don’t do that. I stay loyal to the team that helped me love the game.
I remember that 1999 lockout season. The Warriors finished 21-29 and almost made the playoffs. I thought that was the greatest season. Only because it was the most successful the team ever hard. The bar wasn’t set high, but it gave me a glimpse of what could be.
It would until the We Believe year did it finally come to fruition. I was a huge Baron Davis fan during his years with the Hornets and when the Warriors traded for him, I knew this team was finally getting something right. And the trade to get Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington on the team and unloading poor players like Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy was all I ever needed. I attended those We Believe playoff games. Greatest sporting event I have ever attended. It meant the most to me. The young first grader got to grow up.
It was a fun run and the team would never make it back again. Still, it was a memory I held on to forever. I took my dad to Game 4 against the Mavericks that year. I had never been as happy in my life. It was beautiful.
The team went back to mediocrity and I was back into my lull as a fan. It isn’t easy when the team constantly makes poor decisions. But then it finally started to click together. The Warriors were making the right draft picks. Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green — four of the team’s five starters are from the draft. And the fifth starter, he came because the Warriors traded away talented but unfit Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut.
Remember that night when the entire crowd booed the hell out of Joe Lacob during Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement night? I was there for that moment. It broke my heart but I felt it was warranted. The fans were frustrated. The fans were given promises beyond belief of success but there were no signs of them coming to fruition. Yet at that moment, I felt proudest to be a Warriors fan. Was the booing incident embarrassing. Sure. But it was justified. You don’t get that from bandwagon fans. You get that from real fans. Fans who have sat through crap for years and are tired of being at the bottom.
The past three seasons have been magical. Despite the Mark Jackson drama upon his exit, he brought relevancy to the team. The Warriors were a playoff team again and were scratching the surface. Now with Steve Kerr and a disciplined team, the Warriors are historically one of the greatest teams ever.
Expectations are high. The championship is the only option. Yet still, I feel like a kid again. I dreamed of a day when the Warriors would be that team people would talk about. They would be featured in NBA commercials alongside the other big stars of the game. They would be good enough where people actually would pick them to win games. The dream of my childhood comes true for me today.
As the Warriors tip off their first game of the playoffs, I look back at the first time I watched this team. I can’t believe a passion so strong for a basketball team could withstand so much. But it did and it remains stronger. All those tough years are just a distant memory. We’ve grown together and now we’re stronger because of it. There is nowhere to go but forward. And the future is bright and the expectations are high. This is what I’ve wanted since day one. Now it’s here. Let’s see where this journey takes us.
I still believe.