Nobody’s talking about it, but 50 years ago the Golden State Warriors debuted in the Bay Area as the San Francisco Warriors.
Sure, the first game (Oct. 23, 1962) came a week after the Giants lost a memorable World Series to the New York Yankees, so the area’s sports attention was diverted.
The 50th anniversary came after another World Series – won by the Giants – so it similarly was overlooked.
But shouldn’t something be done to commemorate 50 seasons of NBA in the Bay Area?
Yes it should. And here it is: We can list the top 10 players in franchise history.
It wasn’t easy and there are some notable exceptions. Take Baron Davis (too mercurial), World B. Free (you have to play some defense), Bernard King (only two seasons with the team), Latrell Sprewell (see Baron Davis), Antawn Jamison (does anyone remember his back-to-back 50-point games? Point proven).
Most agonizing, there’s no Mitch Richmond, because his career with the team was too short and he was overshadowed by Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway.
Suffice it to say, there are some memorable players in the five decades of the Warriors. Like these 10:
10. Guy Rogers. The first great point guard in Bay Area franchise history, this little (6 feet, 185 pounds) guard made his mark by feeding Wilt Chamberlain and Nate Thurmond during the first four years on the West Coast. He averaged 8.4 assists per game and averaged in double figures.
9. Joe Barry Carroll. Known mostly for negatives – he was drafted with a pick acquired for Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale and his unenthusiastic style brought the nickname “Joe Barely Cares” – he still averaged 20 points and about eight rebounds per game over six-plus seasons. Would you take that from a center? I would.
8. Monta Ellis. He is so recent that he’s easy to overlook, but Ellis averaged nearly 20 points per game over seven seasons – the last few as the team’s primary scoring threat. He’s a personal favorite, so he might be ranked too highly by me, but he definitely should be somewhere on the list.
7. Al Attles. OK, this is a lifetime achievement award pick, based on his 52 years with the franchise. As a player, he gave the San Francisco/Golden State Warriors nine seasons of solid performance – including ferocious defense and intimidation. Then he coached them to their only title. Plus, there’s never been a better-dressed coach than Attles in the 1970s.
6. Wilt Chamberlain. By the time the Warriors moved from Philadelphia, he already had his 100-point game and 50.4-points-per-game season. He only played two-plus seasons in San Francisco. Still, he averaged 44.8, 36.9 and 38.9 points those years and more than 22 rebounds per game each season. For numbers alone, he belongs here.
5. Jason Richardson. He played six seasons and was a high-profile player on teams that were otherwise forgettable – with the exception of the “We Believe” Warriors of 2007. The two-time slam dunk champion while a Warrior, he was also an outstanding outside shooter. Maybe the most underrated great player in franchise history. Now 32, it would be nice to see him back in a Warriors uniform before the end of his career.
4. Tim Hardaway. The heart of the Run TMC Warriors of the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was a forerunner of today’s shoot-and-pass point guards. Hardaway was a big-time assist man (he averaged more than nine assists per game over six seasons), a good scorer (he averaged better than 20 points per game four times) and a cunning defender (he averaged 1.9 steals per game).
3. Nate Thurmond. The reason the Warriors could trade Wilt was Thurmond, who was an elite center for a decade, just below the Bill Russell-Chamberlain level. One of the great regrets of franchise history is that he was traded just before the championship season in 1974-75. Thurmond is the franchise’s all-time leader in rebounds and minutes played.
2. Chris Mullin. He richly deserved induction into the Hall of Fame. He played 12 seasons and had a run of five straight years averaging more than 25 points per game. Mullin is the franchise leader in games and in the all-time top five in eight other categories. He was on the Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics and was underrated as an executive after he ended his playing career. The most popular player in the past 30 years.
1. Rick Barry. Acerbic, selfish, difficult to like. He’s also the greatest Warriors player in the Bay Area era and one of the top 20 players in NBA history. Need points? He could score. Need an assist? He was one of the greatest passing forwards in league history. Need a rebound? He’d get it. Need a championship? He got one in 1975, despite being surrounded by a subpar cast. Keep him off the radio, keep him off the PA system (especially if your owner is being booed by his own fans), keep him off the sidelines as a coach. But put him at the top of the list of all-time Warriors. Rick Barry is the greatest Warrior.
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.