Opening nights are reserved for the elite.
The Golden State Warriors organization, players and those who followed the team once saw opening night as a ceremony not fit for their own waste. The day was never meant to come. The talent that once occupied the previous thunderbolt jerseys didn’t deserve such light and glory.
Times have drastically changed, as the Warriors raised their first championship banner since 1975 in what were previously dusty Oracle Arena rafters. The scene was one of appreciation and gratitude, the realization that this once dormant franchise is the epicenter of the sports universe.
The organization received their rings one by one, beginning with the front office and finishing with the players that made it happen. As everyone was reminded of during the festivities, the Warriors had the third best record in the history of the league last season. That isn’t often discussed, given the teams the Warriors join on that list, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Those fortunate enough to be in the building on Tuesday night witnessed not just Warriors history, but basketball history. This wasn’t your atypical championship team, not just because of their name, but their style of play, Most Valuable Player, rookie coach and history. This was the contrarian celebration, a changing of the guard and most importantly, the beginning of a permanent change to the basketball landscape.
Some may see this team as arrogant, but most see them as the ideal 21st century champion. Whether it was Andre Iguodala, the Finals MVP, dancing as he walked to receive his ring, the once frail Steph Curry addressing the crowd as a final ode to their near perfect 2014-15 season or the team emphatically rapping on-court, this team is the opposite of what champions are supposed to be.
The jump shooting team moniker has been crushed, and some doubters still believe the team had too much go their way last season to truly be considered the best team. They don’t care, and no one else should either. The Warriors started their back-to-back campaign the way they ended their season just four months ago: stout defense, superb shooting and a knack for the improbable.
This starts with the reigning MVP Curry, who quickly quieted anyone who questioned his historic play last season. Curry dazzled the basketball world (again) with 24 first quarter points on his way towards 40 points, seven assists and six rebounds in 35 minutes. After an up-and-down preseason, the previously “bored” Warriors as interim coach Luke Walton said were quick to reaffirm their status as the best team in the league.
The highlight of Curry’s not so surprising barrage was at the 4:00 minute mark, where Curry, after receiving a pass from Draymond Green, goes away from the screen to twist and confuse a helpless – and former Warrior – Ish Smith. Not even a closeout from Anthony Davis was enough to stop Curry’s Flash-like release, and while the Pelicans kept it interesting, the result was never in doubt.
The present and future of the league was on display Tuesday night, as Curry and Davis represent what will be a league dominated by two different yet superb talents. As Curry amazed, Brow stumbled to one of the worst night of his career: 4-for-20 from the field, 18 points and six rebounds. Walton attributed Davis’ poor night to team defense, but also recognized that he missed a lot of shots he normally makes.
It was a night Warriors fans have only dreamt about. The team showered themselves with champagne more than four months ago, but the moment isn’t any less illusory. The emotions felt on that special night in June reappeared yet again on Tuesday, as the rings and banner represented the final tack to one of the most memorable years in Bay Area sports history.
The Warriors signify a special unity amongst Bay Area fans that can’t be seen in any other sport. There isn’t a divide when it comes to their basketball team, and the love has been felt for decades. More than anyone, Tuesday was for the fans, the ones who were forced to watch other teams raise banner after banner while they were subject to the back page box score.
They’re now the headliners, the team most other fan bases wish they had and with a player they could only dream of one day drafting. This is the new norm, a different league and one, most importantly, that runs through the Golden State. Tuesday marked the beginning of an improbable repeat campaign, and with their core returning, they have all the tools to do it again.
Promise to all the Warrior fans…we will figure this thing out…if it’s the last thing we do we will figure it out
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) November 12, 2009
I’d say they figured it out. Now, the fun continues.