Spander: At last, Warriors are the team in The City 

click to enlarge Stephen Curry
  • Ben Margot/ap
  • After five decades of decidedly mixed results, Stephen Curry and the Warriors have taken the Bay Area by storm in what has been a magical season that seems destined for a great finish.

Eight years it’s been since the Warriors, finally out their funk and into the playoffs, passed out T-shirts with the slogan, “We Believe.” The phrase wasn’t wrong, just premature.

The Warriors are the new boys of winter and spring. They’re the Giants under a roof and under a full head of steam. They’ve got the indoor in crowd, sellouts every night, celebs from the A-list, including boxing champ Floyd Mayweather the other night.

The Warriors, pardon the reference, are the new Lakers, Bay Bridge version, must-see basketball, prime-time protagonists who after years of being glossed over by the networks are finding themselves in a spotlight of nearly obscene brightness.

They’ve got the NBA Most Valuable Player. They’ve got the NBA Executive of the Year, Bob Myers. They’ve got a franchise record for victories. They’ve got a gold T-shirt wearing group of fans who you swore couldn’t be any nosier than in the past until your eardrums virtually were shattered at Oracle Arena the other night.

Do they give awards for the number of standing ovations, or continuous chants? “Warr-iors! Warr-iors!” Music to the ears.

The support was always there in an accepting manner. Even in the really rotten years, the 17-win season of 2000-01 — how in blazes can a team with Antawn Jamison, Danny Fortson and Chris Mullin only win 19? — this year’s Warriors won 16 in a row at one stretch — the fans came. Between the end of the NFL and the start of baseball, the Dubs were the only game in town.

Now, figuratively, they’re the only game in town from Napa to Milpitas, Pacifica to Piedmont, Sausalito to Union City.

They used to be a mom-and-pop franchise when owned by the under-financed Franklin Mieuli, although 40 years ago they won the championship somehow. Those Warriors had some great players and good teams back then, but the Civic Auditorium and the Cow Palace, bless ‘em, were not the places to showcase Wilt Chamberlain and Nate Thurmond and Rick Barry.

Now they are owned by a multi-millionaire venture capitalist, Joe Lacob, who thinks big and spends about as much.

Lacob’s never been content with the status quo, whether it was approving the trade of Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut — wonder how that’s worked out? — or pushing for a new arena in downtown San Francisco that may be unneeded except when the guy behind the plan wants it.

The Warriors are everyone’s team, everyone’s reason, the Northern California franchise with a mixed ethnic following, mostly young, mainly affluent but completely uninhibited.

They are Asian, Caucasian, African-American. They are male and as is the case across the water at AT&T Park, they are female. They are the cultural, racial, financial blend that is Oakland and the Bay Area.

Lacob has brought in the techies — well, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have brought them in.

The Bay Area is baseball country, Tony Lazzeri, the DiMaggios, Dave Righetti, Barry Bonds. The Bay Area is football country, Ernie Nevers, O.J. Simpson, Jim Plunkett. And the Bay Area very much is basketball country.

The late Dick Vertlieb, Warriors GM that championship year, who when told there was no interest around here in hoops, countered, “Just look at all the baskets on garages. Somebody’s interested.”

The season of 2014-15, with the Warriors the most exciting, most attractive team in the NBA, the question is who isn’t interested?

When the local TV news programs spend as much time discussing the Dubs as the weather — marine layer, burning off in the afternoon — basketball has made it.

Hubris is dangerous, but if Lacob wants to bow in private, he’s allowed. It was a little more than three years ago, March, 2012, when at a ceremony designed to retire the No. 17 of Mullin, Lacob was booed by an Oracle crowed dismayed by the Ellis-for-Bogut swap a week earlier.

The Warriors had given up known for unknown — and an unknown with a surgically repaired ankle. “I was a little bit stunned that (the booing) went as long and as loud as it did,” Lacob said the next morning. ”That was not easy.”

These days are very easy. The Warriors are on the verge. To steal from a Giants’ anthem, don’t stop believing. Or enjoying.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.bleacherreport.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.

About The Author

Art Spander

Art Spander

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Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.bleacherreport.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.
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