By F.D. Purcell
The banners that hang high in the raptors of Oracle Arena for the players, teams and coach who’ve made contributions during their Philadelphia years and since their relocation to the Bay Area in 1962.
May 25th will mark 40-years since Golden State won their last NBA Championship. Comprised of a deep bench and players led by Hall of Famers such as Rick Barry and Jamaal Wilkes the Warriors finished with a 48-34 record finishing 1st in the Pacific Division.
“It was a fantasy year, said Barry the MVP of Game 4, we never quit and we never gave up. We were the deepest team in the NBA, a Cinderella team.”
He’s correct, the Warriors weren’t the favorite to win and certainly weren’t expected to sweep the then Washington Bullets in Washington especially after Bullets forward Mike Riordan attempted to get into the head of star player Rick Barry in the final game but instead it would be head coach Alvin Attles who would be ejected in the first quarter for standing up for Barry. Golden State scrapped their way to a 96-95 victory, their first and last championship since that date.
Fast-forward 40-years later, a little more gray and some no longer with us a handful of those team members graced Oracle Arena with their presence and it was as though they hadn’t missed a beat. Butch Beard, George Johnson, Rick Barry, Clifford Ray, Jeff Mullins, assistant coach Joe Roberts, Jamaal Wilkes and head coach Alvin Attles were some of those present on Monday.
There were lots of laughs and Barry was in his usual dominate form taking over questions and choosing the longer route when answering questions and everyone else’s; however, he also gave much deserved credit when it came to his former teammates and coaches.
The press room was packed as new media blended with old, times when you couldn’t live tweet and watched the game on tape delay. Those in attendance sat on the edge of their seats marinating on every word from the championship team and each vivid detail from flying coach and the sometimes disgusting habits of teammates and legendary announcer Bill King. It was refreshing to hear raw honesty minus the direction of a spin doctor.
“I’m appreciative to the Warriors for bringing us all together. I’m excited to see everyone including the late Phil Smith’s kids,” said 1975 Rookie of the Year Jamaal Wilkes, then known as ‘Keith.’ “It’s very moving and touching.”
A heartfelt ceremony was held before the second quarter honoring the championship team and the sellout crowd of 15,595 gave a rousing standing ovation as former center Clifford Ray, known on the court as a menacing figure, fought back tears.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr chose not to discuss any plays during the timeout instead opting to allow his team to soak in the ceremony. Afterwards Kerr said how special it was to have the championship team speak with his guys after their 107-76 victory over the Wizards.
“It’s just good encouragement for the mission that we’re on this year. I think there is something special about it being their 40th anniversary of winning the championship,” said center Marreese Speights, who finished the game with 16 points. “Having them all here gives us a visual of where we want to be. I think it’s a good motivation for the last part of this regular season and then once we get to the playoffs.”
Golden State will return for one game on Thursday, April 2nd versus the Phoenix Suns after their four-game road trip. They will head on the road again for a three-game road trip that includes Dallas, San Antonio and New Orleans.
They will host their final four games at home: Portland, Minnesota, Memphis and finish their regular season versus the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, April 15th.