We’ve heard it time and time again, “The Golden State Warriors have the best fans in the NBA”, yet last nights events put that statement into question. Last night was supposed to be one of the great moments in GSW Hoops history, as they were set to retire the jersey number of one of the greatest players in franchise history, Chris Mullin. Instead, what was supposed to be the most festive of occasions turned into one of the most repulsive scenes that I’ve seen in pro sports so far this year 2012.
While addressing the crowd to begin the ceremony, Warriors owner Joe Lacob, was bombarded with a chorus of boos from angry and bitter Warriors fans, who no doubt are still upset about the Warriors trading away fan favorite, Monta Ellis. Lacob could barely be heard as the shouts of the Oracle Arena crowd relegated his voice to a whisper. Even Mullin, the man of the hour who’s memorable and magical night turned into a battlefield where he had to throw himself on the frontlines to protect the team owner, received just a lukewarm reception after attempting to defend Lacob. Even the great Rick Barry, bay area basketball royalty and unquestionably the greatest Warrior of all-time urged the crowd to temper their emotions, especially on this night where they were honoring one of their own – to no avail, the hall of famer received a smattering of boos as well.
The Warriors have had some bad years throughout their history no doubt. But last nights display may very well be one of the worst nights in the history of that franchise. Since purchasing the franchise in 2010, Lacob has done nothing but try to improve the roster and make the Warriors into playoff contenders in the Western Conference. Whether fans agree with those moves is one thing, but there’s no doubt that he has tried. Now on the heels of probably one of the best trades that he could have made for the franchise moving forward, he is being reviled while he should be getting celebrated.
Monta Ellis is an excellent player, no doubt. He’d be a great asset to any team that is looking for a dynamic scoring option in the backcourt. The problem with the Golden State Warriors is they already have a dynamic scoring option in the backcourt, and a much cheaper one at that with Stephen Curry. What the Warriors need (and have needed for years) is ANYONE that can provide some type of defensive presence, something that Andrew Bogut will give them. Not to mention the addition of Richard Jefferson, who while not a defensive stopper per se, has played on some great defensive teams with the New Jersey Nets and San Antonio Spurs and who understands how to play winning basketball. I was not the biggest fan of hiring Mark Jackson as head coach of the Warriors based on his lack of coaching experience at any level while facing the daunting task of turning around a franchise that has been a perennial loser for over a decade. But one thing Jackson did say from day one is that he wanted the Warriors to be a tough, defensive minded team. Kind of hard to do when you’re running out a bunch of bullfighters masquerading as NBA players on the defensive end of the floor. Sure Andrew Bogut wont suit up for the Warriors until next year, but with this essentially being a lost season anyway, that doesn’t really matter. If the Warriors finish with a top 7 draft pick , they’ll have a nice young piece to add to an already talented starting 5 featuring Andrew Bogut, Richard Jefferson, Dorrell Wright, Stephen Curry and David Lee. (The Warriors will have to send their 1st round pick to Utah if it falls out of the top 7 because of a previous trade for now Chinese Basketball Association PG Marcus Williams).
But with the way the Warrior fans behaved last night I’m not sure they deserve a squad that’s capable of competing for relevancy in the western conference. They would much rather be wowed by a team that runs the floor like gazelles and scores 120 points per night while allowing 125. It’s a loser’s mentality that many of these fans have. A sense that “yea the Warriors suck, but they’re OUR Warriors that suck.” I understand the concept of forging a bond with a team, and having a deep appreciation for a particular player or player(s), but isn’t winning the ultimate goal? It doesn’t matter what kind of attachment you have to an individual, as a fan of the team you want the TEAM to succeed. Ask a true fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder this question: If you knew for a fact that your team would win a championship if you trade Kevin Durant, would you trade him? A true fan of that team would say yes without hesitation, same goes for Kobe with the Lakers or Tom Brady with the Patriots or any superstar in any sport.
But many of these Warriors fans clearly aren’t ready to make the next step up the NBA ladder. They’d rather stand on the peg of mediocrity than on the pedestal of the elite. And that’s fine. You are well within your right to want to win 25 games a year and keep the persona as “the NBA’s most passionate” fan base for the simple fact that you sell out to see losing basketball every night. But you can’t do it at the expense of one of your own. Regardless of how you feel about Joe Lacob, how about you show a little bit of respect for one of the men who was a key piece of the puzzle the last time the Warriors were actually relevant? This was supposed to be a night to honor one of the great players in the history of the Warriors franchise, instead it turned into a night where the “best fans in the NBA” for one night at least, also came to be recognized as some of the most classless fans in the NBA as well.