My Warrior Creds
The Warriors are historically good, and have been good for three championships over four years—with a couple of pretty good years before that. But with success comes a broad and inclusive bandwagon, and predictably, the Warrior’s bandwagon has become hella crowded with bros, rappers, and Apple executives. I am not on that bandwagon. I am a true fan.
I’ve been down with the Dubs since 1985, and I want the record to show exactly when and where I entered Warrior’s fandom, so I can claim—unabashedly—my Warriors creds for posterity.
My East Coast Backstory
At the dawn of the 80s I moved from Indiana to Maryland, and entered the 7th grade in a middle school outside of Baltimore. Indiana loves its hoops, and I went to more than a few games in my town, so basketball was in my blood already. And when I showed up on the East Coast, the best basketball was being played at the college level.
I was right in the middle of the two best leagues in the country—the ACC to the south and the Big East to the north. My new home was in the overlap between the regional sports networks, between the Maryland Terrapins in the ACC and the Georgetown Hoyas from the Big East. So, those were my two closest options. However, as it was explained to me by my new classmates, no real Marylander would root for a DC team. DC stole the Bullets, stole half the airport, and never really thanked us for defending the country when the British came and burnt the White House to the ground..
As I entered was entering the 7th grade, the Terps had two superstars playing for them: Buck Williams at forward and Albert King (Bernard’s brother) at guard. The 1979-80 squad was good, but eventually under-performed. They ended the year at #18 and lost to Indiana in the NCAA second round. They were entertaining, grit and grind good. King was the scorer, and Buck cleaned the glass. It was immediately great and I was hooked.
Williams left after that year, and then King graduated. There was a middle year, in which Adrian Branch excelled, and soon enough, in 1983, right as I was entering my sophomore year, there came along a freshman named Len Bias. From day one, he was a badass.
I think I watched every game Len Bias played as a Terp. In my four years of High School I only missed three days—I was the son of the Science Teacher—and two of them were specifically to watch Len Bias in the ACC tournament. Maryland has since moved on from the ACC, but in the 80s it was expected that you loved your team, and hated everone and everything about every other team in the league. To this day, I still hate every other ACC school from that era: Duke, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Wake Forrest, North Carolina. All of them suck (except I do love Tim Duncan).
I especially didn’t like the more successful programs. Duke for one, but particularly National Champion North Carolina. And that’s NC team has a player I especially did not like: Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Yes, I said it. Oh, and I still can’t stand Carolina Blue anything.
Let’s say that Lefty Drissell had an effect on me.
In the Len Bias era, on the days when the ACC wasn’t playing, I would tune into the Big East games. Since I would never root for another ACC team, I decided to pick a Big East team as my second favorite college squad, so I could root for someone in each league. It filled out the week a little bit better to have two nights of games.
Based on the TV shows I loved at the time, Welcome back, Kotter more than anything, I looked up to, and had great love for, New York City. The combination of a fast-paced playing style and New York City swagger, led me to chose St. John’s Red Men as my second favorite team. They had a great style of play. The two stars who played for them at the time were both incredibly awesome left-handed, high-volume shooters: Chris Mullin and Walter Berry. They would later add a young Mark Jackson, which made them extremely fun to watch. The Johnnies grew to be Final Four awesome.
The following summer, when Chris Mullin was drafted by the Warriors, I marked them as a potential NBA squad to follow. I followed the NBA a little, but I was still all in on the Terps. I followed the NBA Terps, of course—Williams’ Trailblazers and King’s Nets—but for one reason or another neither team did much for me.
I was on the lookout for a team because Baltimore had been an NBA orphan since 1973 when the Bullets moved south to our pretentious, landmark-stealing southern neighbor. It was at that point that Baltimore, rightfully, completely disowned the team.
Oakland, on the other hand, seemed like the Baltimore of the West.
The Sixers, to the north, were good throughout the early 80s. Dr. J. was awesome. Moses Malone was an “unofficial” Terp, but Philly was also a rival city, and so no one I knew could quite get behind any team from Pennsylvania. Now Oakland, on the other hand, seemed like the Baltimore of the West. And so as I followed Chris Mullin, I started following the Warriors, and the NBA, for the first time. But at the time it was just a mild flirtation.
Len Bias was still the big thing for me. I was still a college basketball kid. And Bias’ career with the Terps (along with Adrian Branch) was my #1 one habit. The plan was never to adopt the Warriors, just stick with Mullin, and stick with the Terps.
And then Len Bias graduated.
I’ll leave the day after the draft for another time, but I was crushed for months. Len Bias is in my life forever, and all I’m left with is the suspicion, without proof, that he would have risen to the challenge of competing head-to-head with MJ and the Bulls.
In the early days, my commitment meant staying up late on the East Coast on the rare occasion the Warriors could get themselves onto National TV. But through college, and the years after, I watched every chance I could.
Between 1985-86 and 2014 the Warriors went 989–1341. They went to the playoffs 8 times and had a record of 27–37, advancing to the second round 5 times. With best years coming in that first decade, followed by a string of 12 years of futility.
Taking some very good advice from some college classmates, once I was in the real world, I saved a winter’s worth of temp job salary, packed a duffle bag, and took a California Zephyr to San Francisco, sight unseen.