The Gold Rush: The Golden Age of Bay Area Sports
By BLS Columnist, Justin Goldman
You’re going to see a lot of references to the concept of gold in this column. That’s not an abnormal thing around here. But things have had a little extra gild lately, thanks to the exploits of the Golden State Warriors. It’s not exactly breaking news that last week the Dubs won the franchise’s first NBA Championship in 40 years. And it’s not exactly breaking news that people in the Bay Area—and Oakland in particular—are pretty excited about that fact.
— Matthias Gafni (@mgafni) June 20, 2015
That’s a lot of people riding BART to a parade. I think Draymond Green—who I’ve been referring to as my spirit animal since he D’d up Blake Griffin in last year’s first round—summed up the Bay Area’s excitement pretty well with his drunken rampage through the parade.
That video is truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life. Also, how perfect is it that Draymond is friends with Marshawn Lynch? And that Oakland native Beast Mode was included in the parade?
I loved this Dubs team so much. There were so many great stories all season: Steph Curry winning MVP and cementing his place as the greatest shooter of all time. His Splash Brother Klay Thompson dropping a 37-point quarter on the Sacramento Kings back in January. Steve Kerr and Andrew Bogut playing rock music one day a week during practice, a tradition the rest of the team would label “White Boy Wednesday.” Shaun Livingston winning a title after coming back from a horrific knee injury that almost ended his career and an odyssey that saw him play for eight different teams. Harrison Barnes’ huge fourth quarter in the closeout game against the Rockets. The eternally underrated Andre Iguodala accepting coming off the bench for the first time in his career, only to be put back into the starting lineup halfway through the Finals and go on to deservedly win Finals MVP. And on and on and on.
The thing about this team is that not only were they the best team in the league, they were also the most fun team in the league. Basketball is the most beautiful of American sports, and these guys played it with a level of joy that befit the game.
And by the way, don’t let anybody tell you this team didn’t deserve a title. Yes, it’s true that they didn’t have to play the Spurs or the Clippers in the playoffs. But the Spurs are old, and the Clippers choked their way out of the second round (again). You can’t hold that against the Dubs. And yes, they caught an injury-riddled Cavs team that didn’t have Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love. But they also withstood a monstrous series from the best player since Michael Jordan, LeBron James. They harassed James Harden into an NBA record for turnovers in a playoff game. They overcame a tough, physical Memphis Grizzlies team that was the worst possible matchup for them. This team earned its title.
Just look at the numbers. Including the playoffs, the Dubs went 83-20 this season (and 48-4 at home). The only other teams to win 83 games in a season? You guessed it—MJ’s Bulls in ’96 and ’97. They had a point differential of +10.1 for the season—the eighth best of all time. Fivethirtyeight.com’s Elo ratings have them as the third-best regular season team ever, and the same site’s SRS stat rates this playoff run as the eight-best ever. We legitimately just watched one of the ten best start-to-finish seasons in NBA history. From the Golden State Warriors. Unfuckingbelievable.
So what does this championship mean to the Bay Area? I wouldn’t say Warriors fans were exactly “tortured.” Truly tortured fans are the ones who get close repeatedly but never get over the top—early ’90s Buffalo Bills fans being the best (or worst, depending on your perspective) example. The Warriors haven’t been tortured or cursed over the last 40 years; they’ve just been pathetic. This was a laughingstock franchise that wasn’t tragic so much as it was irrelevant. Even the occasional fun playoff teams—Run TMC, or the We Believe Warriors—weren’t really title contenders. That Golden State has become a juggernaut almost overnight borders on the unthinkable.
What’s more, I don’t think Warriors fans would even claim to be tortured. After all, the Bay Area has seen a lot of on-field success in the last 40 years. The Niners won five Super Bowls, led by the greatest quarterback ever (Joe Montana) and the greatest football player ever (Jerry Rice). Even after losing those guys, the Niners have had a few fun teams, led of course by the recent Harbaugh era. (We’ll just ignore for now what’s happening with that team moving forward.) The A’s won a World Series with the Bash Brothers back in ’89, and while Billy Beane’s post-Moneyball teams have never broken through, there’s almost always a good product on the field. And the Giants have won three World Series in the last five years (and are fielding a pretty good team this year as well). The Raiders … well, never mind.
The point is, if you’re a Bay Area sports fan, the odds are you’ve gotten to do some celebrating over the last couple of decades. But right now, with the Giants mini-dynasty still underway, and with the Warriors seeming poised to go on their own multiyear run of contention, I feel confident in saying that we are living in the Golden Age of Bay Area sports. It’s been a pretty amazing ride, y’all.
But even considering the Warriors’ championship as part of the greater Bay Area Golden Age, there’s something special about it individually. It’s there in those images of the parade, which traveled along the shores of Lake Merritt, not down Market Street. I have lived in both Oakland and San Francisco. I have a lot of love for both cities. And the Warriors are special among Bay Area teams in that they represent the whole region; there’s no divide of the kind we see in football and baseball. (Grant Brisbee wrote a nice take on it here.)
But it just felt right to see the Dubs’ parade happen in the East Bay. San Francisco is the glamour town, but Oakland is the gritty, blue-collar heart of the Bay Area. And the heart and soul of this Dubs teams was its hardworking, undersized power forward. Money be Green, yo.
Congratulations, Bay Area. Here’s looking forward to yet another title defense.