If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about sports fans over the years, it’s that they like to complain about losing almost as much as they like to bask in the glory of winning. Stop a Lakers fan on the street and he’ll whine about what a pain it is to watch Kobe suffer without a supporting cast. If you ask a Chargers fan what it’s like watching L.T. make history, it won’t be long before you’re hearing about how Marty cost the Powder Blues an armful of Super Bowls. Don’t even bother starting a conversation with a Yankees fan, unless you want to hear about how hard it is to go more than a year without a World Series title. Go anywhere in this country and you’ll find a sports fan with an axe to grind, but with all due respect to other fans, there isn’t a group out there that’s suffered quite like the Warriors faithful. Until now that is.
Thursday night’s confetti-strewn, flag-waving, crowd-surfing post-game celebration may have been over the top to some, but to truly understand what it meant to Warriors fans, you have to understand what we’ve been through. For over a decade, this franchise has defined mediocrity, never quite good enough to make the playoffs, but never quite bad enough either to draft a transcendent star like LeBron James or Tim Duncan. To make matters worse, the team consistently screwed up the draft picks that it did have. In 1996, the Warriors drafted a stiff named Todd Fuller over the likes of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. The next year, they picked Adonal Foyle one spot ahead of a young high school star named Tracy McGrady. I could fill the entire sports page with mistakes that they’ve made, but by now you get the point: It’s been a long 13 years for Warriors fans.
All of this leads us to “The City’s” current playoff run. After looking at the history of the franchise, it’s easy to see why Warriors fans are going crazy over this season’s squad. In one six-game series, the Warriors erased 13 years of pain, and created an equal amount of hope for the future. But what exactly does the future hold?
After last weeks Dallas demolition, it’s virtually impossible to figure out what the ceiling is for this team. Logic tells you that there’s no way the lowest seeded team can keep on advancing, but Golden State isn’t exactly your typical “just happy to be here” eighth seed. The Warriors only came together when the Stephen Jackson/Al Harrington trade bounty began to mesh with a finally healthy backcourt duo of Baron Davis and Jason Richardson. Throw this team together for a full season and it’s easy to picture them as a potential fourth or fifth seed, which would have set up a first round matchup with the Utah Jazz.
Well guess who the Warriors play tonight: the Utah Jazz. Aside from being one of the sweeter transitions I’ve ever written, that last line introduces an intriguing matchup for Golden State. People think of Jerry Sloan teams as slow and plodding, but Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko should be able to keep up with the Warriors, and Carlos Boozer is definitely too strong for Don Nelson’s infamous small-ball lineups. It should be a good series, but I can’t help but think that this Warriors squad is in the midst of something special. Do I dare write the words NBA Finals? Ordinarily I’d be afraid of jinxing my team, but after 13 years of suffering, it’s hard to imagine anything could jinx the Warriors at this point.