The Golden State Warriors find themselves in uncharted territory, at least until you go back to the disco era, anyway.
For the first time since 1975, when they last won the NBA championship before breaking through this past June, they’ll have the Bay Area sporting landscape all to themselves. Okay, technically that’s not true, but they’ll be the only game in town that doesn’t depress or embarrass you.
With Clayton Kershaw sticking the final dagger into the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night, the Giants’ season will come to a merciful end on Sunday. They will not get to defend their World Series in the playoffs, and there will be no November afterglow for Giants fans following October euphoria. The start of the regular season won’t be relegated to Page 3 of your sports section (oh shut up you know what a sports section is) behind another orange and black parade down Market Street.
The A’s meanwhile were eliminated from playoff contention sometime in June. I dare you to name three players on the team, and even if you can, Billy Beane will have traded them all away for the next lot of uniform fillers.
By now hopefully reality has set in that the San Francisco 49ers are what “Playmakers” would be if that show were written by Nic Pizzolatto. They’re a cheap telenovela poorly disguised as a professional football team. The owner is a spoiled, tactless and soulless legacy kid who’s too busy admiring his triple when the rest of the free world can’t stop snickering at the lucky fool born at third base. His general manager has shown a disturbing penchant for ignoring the lawlessness of his talented players, and we’ve come to discover it’s because he can’t find anyone who can play worth a damn otherwise. Ron Jeremy has requested that we stop comparing his appearance to that of the coach because he finds the association embarrassing. The quarterback has fans sending drunk 2 a.m. voicemails to Alex Smith, begging to give them another chance.
Then there are the Raiders, the league’s red-headed stepchild in the silver-and-black dungarees. They want anyone in the state — anyone at al l– to show them love and no one does. They’re Los Angeles’ Plan C, with A and B being the nondescript St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers. They play their games in a multi-purpose stadium in that it’s a baseball park/sewage dump/part-time penitentiary, but it’d probably be for the best for all concerned if the Raiders found a new home.
The Sharks were a novelty once, but “Jumbo” Joe Thornton and Patty Marleau haven’t been the same ever since their line was broken up by the retirement of Gordie Howe.
Finally, there are the Earthquakes, but they’re never going to be as fun as playing “FIFA” on your PlayBox or X-Station or whatever, and you’re Messi or Ibrahimovic when you do, not Chris bleepin’ Wondolowski.
No, it’s going to be all Warriors, all the time, at least as far as the positive headlines go. Everything gets a positive spin when you’re a champion. Andre Iguodala compares winning the “Sixth Man of the Year” Award to Affirmative Action and comes off as a charming quipster. He reveals that he underwent the controversial “blood-spinning” procedure on his knees that Kobe Bryant popularized (and which continues to be illegal in the States), and we rationalize it by parroting his claim to be dunking more again. Harrison Barnes turns down an extension that would’ve paid him $64 million over the next four seasons to be a fourth or fifth option, and we praise his savvy.
We always look the other way for winners, and the Warriors will get an extra helping of optimism because the Bay Area has always shown them far more love than they’ve deserved, even when they’ve been a league laughingstock. The Oracle, or “Roaracle,” if you’re one of those, is hardly state-of-the-art, but it’s been packed to the gills for years even though it’s one of the most expensive tickets in the league. When the Dubs are actually good, it’s deafening over there, one of the most prominent home-court advantages in the league. People lost their minds for a 41-41 team in 2007 that won five of 11 playoff games. Until last year, the high water mark for playoff wins A.D. (after Don Nelson entered our lives) was six, in 2012-13.
Two years later, surprisingly, the Warriors made the jump from six to 16 without having to pay any dues in between, though the fans certainly have and then some. As a consequence, and because of their entertaining playing style and charismatic players, the team has quickly become “League Pass” darlings despite their 10:30 p.m. start times for those watching from the East Coast. Casual basketball fans all over the country have jumped on the bandwagon, but locally they’ve still had to compete for attention with very successful Giants and 49ers teams.
Now, the Bay is on the cusp of being theirs. This could actually be a basketball town.
Raymond Ridder, the team’s vice president of communications (i.e. the P.R. Chief) who’s as well-regarded among those he deals with as Stephen Curry is with fellow players, found himself in the unprecedented position of having more credential requests for Monday’s “Media Day” than their facility could accommodate. For once he had to tell certain reporters “no,” and that’s not how he usually operates.
“Ten years ago, I was begging people to come to media day and offering reporters a chance to ride to the event with Mookie Blaylock,” Ridder explained to the San Jose Mercury News. “Now I’m telling reporters that they can’t even come in their own car.”
Like those reporters Ridder turned away, the Warriors only have one direction they can go after last year’s triumph, and it’s back the way they came. They just made it to the top of the mountain, but staying there will be another task altogether. The Giants could always sign a David Price or some other free agent ace to energize their fan base during the Hot Stove League.
The Dubs need to make the most of their time on top while it lasts. The 1975 team was never fully appreciated. The NBA was at the nadir of its popularity in the ’70s, and the A’s pulled off a three-peat from 1972-1974 before winning “only” 98 games and losing in the ALCS in 1975. The Giants and 49ers will be lucky to win 90 combined this year.
It’s Golden State’s platform to dictate terms, and they don’t even need to wear platform shoes.