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Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors history

The Warriors were founded in 1946 as the Philadelphia Warriors, a member of the Basketball Association of America. They played what is considered the inaugural season of the NBA and are the first champions of the League. The team defeated the Chicago Stags 4-1 in the Finals, led by Jumping Joe Fulks, a 6-5 forward who was the first NBA leading scorer, by a wide margin.

Their coach was Eddie Gottlieb who gave his name to the rookie of the year trophy and is a Hall of Fame member. He bought the Warriors in 1952 becoming also their owner. When he stepped down from his head coaching position, the team won its second championship behind Paul Arizin. A 6-4 forward from Villanova, who was named to the 50 Greatest Player in NBA History in 1996.

Chamberlain and the 100 points game

In 1959 the Warriors drafted Wilt Chamberlain through the NBA’s territorial pick. At the time the league was looking to attract fans who lived near the team’s home market. The territorial pick helped squads acquire popular players from colleges in their area. Although Chamberlain played college ball at Kansas, the Warriors argued that because Chamberlain had grown up in Philadelphia and played high school basketball at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, they held his territorial rights. The NBA agreed with the argument. In his first season with the Warriors, the Stilt averaged 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds. Two years later, he averaged 50.4 points per game and scored 100 points against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962, a single game record that will probably last forever.

A few months later, Franklin Mieuli, along with 32 local investors, bought the team from Eddie Gottlieb for 850.000 dollars and relocated the franchise to the San Francisco Bay Area, renaming them the San Francisco Warriors. Mieuli was a San Francisco Bay Area radio and television producer who played a major role in breaking down racial barriers in the NBA by encouraging his team's front office to sign players regardless of color.

In 1963 the Warriors drafted Nate Thurmond to form a formidable frontcourt with Chamberlain. The duo took the team back to the NBA Finals that season, only to lose to the mighty Boston Celtics. Chamberlain was soon traded as the franchise got off to a terrible start and ran into financial trouble. When Chamberlain left to return to Philadelphia, Franklin Mieuli said: "Chamberlain is not an easy man to love and the fans in San Francisco never learned to love him. Wilt is easy to hate and people came to see him lose."

Rick Barry scorching the nets

The fans quickly found a new idol in Rick Barry. The sharpshooter who led the NCAA in scoring was named rookie of the year in 1966 and a year later the Warriors returned to the NBA Finals. Ironically enough, they were defeated by the Philadelphia Sixers, led by Wilt Chamberlain. Barry averaged 35.6 points per game that year and 40.8 points per game during the Finals series but infuriated with Mieuli’s failure to pay him certain incentive bonuses, the Miami Greyhound moved to the ABA after seating out a year, joining the Oakland Oaks.

Barry returned to the Warriors in 1972 as the team had changed his name to the Golden State Warriors, to suggest that the team represented the entire state of California. Coached by former player Al Attles, the Warriors managed one of the greatest upset in NBA history in 1975. Golden State not only defeated the heavily favored Washington Bullets in the Finals but humiliated them in a four-game sweep. Jamaal Wilkes was the perfect complement to Rick Barry as he was named rookie of the year.

The years that followed, the Warriors faded into obscurity. They failed to reach the playoffs for nine consecutive years before enjoying a spectacular rebound under the guidance of coach Don Nelson and the high-scoring trio of point guard Tim Hardaway, guard Mitch Richmond and forward Chris Mullin. Collectively known as "Run TMC" after the rap group Run-D.M.C., the trio stayed together for just two seasons and won only one playoff series. But they captured the imagination of many fans with their offensive brand of basketball. Mullin played 13 seasons in the Bay Area and his magical left hand earned him a spot on the original Dream Team.

Yet the Warriors became a bad team. A very bad one. Between 1994 and 2012, the team only made the playoffs once despite signing great talents like Chris Webber, Latrell Sprewell, Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas, Monta Ellis or Baron Davis.

Stephen Curry the hidden gem

In 2009, the contract of now GM Chris Mullin was not renewed as former Don Nelson’s assistant coach, Larry Riley, was promoted to the position. Although his reign only lasted three years, it shaped the future of the franchise. His first move was to draft Stephen Curry with the seventh pick in the draft. Two point-guards were chosen ahead of him by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Although he was the NCAA leading scorer, Curry was not playing for a high profile university with Davidson and experts were skeptical about his potential impact in the NBA. Years later, as he had become a superstar, Curry could not forget his doubters : "All this analysis that people would put out there, all these scouting reports and whatever, that kept the focus on what I supposedly couldn’t do. "Undersized." "Not a finisher." "Extremely limited." I can still reel them off to this day. But what’s even crazier is how, also to this day — even with how I’ve ended up doing my thing, and even with all of these unique types of players coming into the league and showing what they can do — you’re still seeing these so-called experts scouting hoops that same old way: by focusing on the downside of what guys can’t do."

GM Larry Riley took a chance on Curry and a year later, he went again with a shooter who had spent three years in the NCAA, with Washington State. Klay Thompson, the son of former Blazers and Lakers center Mychal Thompson, also had his critics, pointing out his limited athleticism, and he slid all the way down to the 11th spot.

The Warriors had their new backourt set up and soon after handed the reins of the franchise to Bob Myers, a former agent for the powerful Wasserman Media Group. Myers kept on adding pieces through smart draft choices. Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green were added to the mix and Andrew Bogut arrived via a trade from Milwaukee.

A new brand of basketball

Former Knicks’ point-guard, Mark Jackson was the coach that brought the franchise back to the playoffs. But it is another former player turned TV analyst, who transformed the Warriors into a winning machine. Steve Kerr won five championships with the Bulls and Spurs and despite having no prior coaching experience, his results were spectacular. Kerr took the best of the coaches he worked with. The triangle offense of Phil Jackson, the spacing of Gregg Popovich, the uptempo principles of Mike D’Antoni. The Warriors revolutionized basketball, relying on passing, cutting and deadly outside shooting rather than pure athleticism and one on one play. Golden State won 67 games, the team best record ever and went on to win the title beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2.

A year later, the Warriors made their way into the history books by winning 73 games, beating the previous record held by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Stephen Curry captured a second season MVP trophy but their dream season ended in frustration after they became the first team to lose in the NBA Finals after leading 3-1.

That did not stop the franchise from rebounding in a spectacular way, attracting Kevin Durant to California in July 2016. The former MVP wanted to get out of his "comfort zone" but was mainly looking to win a championship that had eluded him. He did not have to wait for long. His new team won 67 games in the regular season, swept its first three rounds of the playoffs before dominating the Cavs 4-1 in the Finals as Durant was named MVP. A year later, he repeated the accomplishment, again against the Cavs. It took a series of injuries to prevent Golden State from achieving the threepeat in 2019.

During the summer of 2019 Durant moved to the East coast joining the Brooklyn Nets as the Warriors left Oakland to open the state of the art Chase Center in San Francisco.