Spander: Warriors history comes full circle, unites Bay 

click to enlarge More than 3,000 fans were on hand to greet the Golden State Warriors as they returned to San Francisco, May 26, 1975, after handing the Washington Bullets a 96-95 loss to take four straight games and the NBA championship title. The Warriors landed in Oakland and engine problems forced them to take cabs to San Francisco where the waiting crowds mobbed the procession. - AP PHOTO
  • AP Photo
  • More than 3,000 fans were on hand to greet the Golden State Warriors as they returned to San Francisco, May 26, 1975, after handing the Washington Bullets a 96-95 loss to take four straight games and the NBA championship title. The Warriors landed in Oakland and engine problems forced them to take cabs to San Francisco where the waiting crowds mobbed the procession.

An Oakland cop roared past, a Warriors flag attached to the back of his motorcycle. Official merchandise in perhaps an unofficially approved location? Who's complaining?

Not city hall. Not any city hall — Oakland, Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, Fremont, whatever. It's bliss by The Bay, a region in a Golden State of excitement.

This isn't Raiders or 49ers. This isn't Giants or A's. This isn't an area divided. This is Northern Cal, united, enthralled, waiting for a championship that after the falling away of decades is very near and yet still distant.

So different from 1975 when the Warriors, the little team that could, the little team the experts predicted couldn't — a story in the Baltimore Sun described the W's as the worst club ever to reach the finals — swept the team now called the Wizards but then named the Bullets.

So different: No Internet, no Facebook, no ESPN, no hype, no seven-figure annual salaries — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the league's highest paid, $450,000 per.

And yet so similar, a game where intensity sometimes overtook talent and the home crowd yelled itself hoarse, if without any electronic advice, to "Make Noise."

Forty years, a lifetime, a blink of an eye. In 1975, gasoline averaged 44 cents a gallon, the Vietnam War was flying to a close — remember that photo of the helicopter lifting off from the U.S. embassy? — and the average income was $14,000, which some people reportedly are paying for a courtside seat at Oracle Arena this week.

I was there then, Warriors beat man for the Chronicle, and I'm here now, apparently the only person from that final still writing at this final, watching the artistry of Stephen Curry and grit of Draymond Green and remembering the artistry and grit of Rick Barry and Cliff Ray.

"I guess no one took us seriously," said Al Attles after the Warriors took the championship. He was the W's coach in '75. He's their ambassador in 2015. And, yes, now the Warriors are taken quite seriously.

The sport, every sport, is more corporate now than in '75, more organized, more international. It wasn't exactly a seat-of-the-pants operation 40 years ago, but it came close. Such weird maneuverings to find playoff locales.

The Washington Bullets had home court advantage for the finals. The championship series should have begun with two games at Capital Centre in Landover, Md., then moved west for two games at Oakland. But the basketball gods, not to mention the Ice Follies and a karate tournament, were to scramble tradition, to the W's benefit.

The ice show was booked at Oakland when Games 3 and 4 would have been played. The Warriors were forced to switch those games to the Cow Palace in Daly City, where they hadn't played in years. But the karate event was booked for the same dates as Game 4.

Washington had the choice. Either hold Game 1 at home, Games 2 and 3 at the Cow Palace and Game 4 at home, or hold Game 1 in San Francisco and the next three at home. Bullets coach K.C. Jones, who ironically had played at the University of San Francisco, took option one, worried the team might drop the first game on the road. Instead the Bullets dropped it at home. And then dropped the next three. The upset was complete.

Four decades ago, the Bay Area hadn't yet had much sporting success. The Athletics were the only true champs, having won the '72-73-74 World Series. The Warriors lost to Philly in the '67 NBA finals. The Raiders had lost in the Super Bowl. The 49ers hadn't even been to one. Wistfully, people remembered the Giants losing to the Yankees in seven games in the '62 World Series. The Sharks hadn't been created.

Now, we're used to winning. Now the W's have returned. And even the cops are on their side.

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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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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