In 1998, I was sitting at home waiting for my dad to come home after he went to a Warriors game with some friends. I wanted to hear all about it. Once he got home, I immediately jumped up and pelted him with questions. He pored over the details, my dad is a great storyteller, he was just as pumped as I was. But he wasn’t excited about the Warriors; he was excited because that night Tracy Murray (TRACY MURRAY!) dropped 50 points on us.
He described the scene in the arena to me: Murray at the line with 49 points, Warriors fans cheering for him to get to 50, then the roar of the crowd when he did. Think about that–our fans cheered for a guy on the other team to hang 50 on us, in our own building.
Before last night, it was impossible for me to separate this year’s turn of fortune from the years of heartache that preceded it. Bill Simmon’s epic rundown of Warriors futility from the previous championship in 1975, culminating in new owner Joe Lacob being booed at Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement–that was our story. A sad sack franchise that couldn’t get out of its own way, whiffing on draft picks, and losing good players to other teams in free agency.
At one point, I even said these words out loud to another human being: “I think Ike Diogu’s low post scoring will really help our team, there’s potential there.” Up until yesterday, so much of my experience as a Warriors fan was rooted in pain and frustration. Telling people “yes, I root for the Warriors” was met with a knowing look of “oh man, I’m sorry.” Failure became an identity. Much like Knicks fans probably feel now, we couldn’t get right. We were losers.
The feeling lingered all this season, despite the wins, taunting me as if I’d wake up from this dream at any minute and find the same old Warriors. But as the final seconds of Game 6 melted away, it disappeared. The weight lifted. Apparently, all it takes to clear 40 years of detritus is one mythical championship run.
What a magical season it was for my Golden State Warriors. They became just the tenth team in league history to win at least 67 games during the regular season. Their 83 wins across the regular season and playoffs is the third highest total of all time, trailing only a pair of Chicago Bulls teams rumbling toward their second three-peat in the late 90s. The Warriors rode a wave of fortunate health, three-point shooting, and a hounding top-rated defense orchestrated by Assistant Coach Ron Adams all the way to the NBA title.
When the game was through and the celebration began in earnest, Mark Jackson, who has alternated between surliness and outright contempt when commentating Warriors games this playoffs, even had this to say about Steve Kerr, his replacement:
“Gotta give him a lot of credit…Took over a tough job, a tough situation, won over the locker room, and is a championship coach.”
Kerr proved his coaching chops throughout these playoffs, making key adjustments that helped the Warriors dispatch a very game Memphis team, and then the resilient Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals. Kerr also moved Finals MVP Andre Iguodala to the starting lineup after having him come off the bench for the whole season and postseason to that point was a gutsy call, but one that ultimately helped decide the series.
When it became apparent that the Cavs just didn’t have enough in the tank to fight any longer, I got emotional. How could I not? 40 years in the wilderness over. And LeBron James, who put on an absolutely epic performance this postseason, was the Warriors’ version of the River Jordan: one final obstacle to cross. The Promised Land awaited.
It will be strange having a new identity. We are no longer a tortured fan base, but a privileged one, with a roster stocked with young talent and perhaps the most entertaining player in the league who also happened to win the MVP. If anyone needs to find me, I’ll be on cloud eleven for the foreseeable future. “Way up, I feel blessed” indeed.
BRIAN WONG | @bigbwong
Brian Wong is a third-generation Chinese American and Bay Area native. NBA fan, Golden State Warriors fanatic. Brian is a 2015 Dat Winning fellow.