You could point to a myriad of moments that marked the beginning of the Golden State Warriors dynasty.
Maybe it’s when they won their first World Championship in 2015.
Or maybe it was the 2013 playoffs, when the sixth-seeded Warriors upset the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in the opening round, then pushed the San Antonio Spurs to six games in the Western Conference semifinals before succumbing to the eventual champions.
You could even make the case it was when they drafted Stephen Curry.
For me, the moment this great dynasty truly began was the evening of March 19, 2012, when the Warriors retired the jersey of Chris Mullin.
It was a rather contentious and raucous affair. What was supposed to be a celebration of Warriors legend Chris Mullin’s playing career with the team turned into an angry mob booing new co-owner and CEO Joe Lacob when he was introduced by former team play-by-play broadcaster Greg Papa following Mullin’s speech to the crowd.
For well over a decade the Warriors, under previous owner Chris Cohan, were a miserable, downtrodden team. And one of the team’s first major acts under the new ownership team of Lacob and Peter Gruber was to trade away their only star, Monta Ellis, along with Kwame Brown and Ekpe Udoh to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut and former “We Believe” swingman Stephen Jackson.
The booing was the culmination of years of frustration from a loyal fan base who continued to sell out Oracle Arena despite the team’s endless decades of futility and struggles (Bill Simmons brilliantly painted the picture of the Warriors’ tortured fan base in this Grantland column).
Memories of the team trading away former star players including Chris Webber, Robert Parish, Vince Carter, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin remained fresh despite the amount of time that had lapsed since the trades. And here was Lacob, trading away yet another star player so that the Warriors could finally land the solid center they always wanted.
So when Lacob took the microphone to begin speaking to the Oracle Arena crowd, they booed him mercilessly. It was going so bad for him that Mullin turned on his microphone and spoke out, trying to tell the crowd that they were in good hands.
“As the greatest fans in the NBA as everyone’s stated, sometimes change is inevitable, and it’s going to work out just fine,” Mullin said. “With your support and patience, and use that passion in the right direction, this thing is going in the right way. I’ve got great confidence in Joe, (head coach) Mark Jackson and everything will work out just fine.
“Just a little bit of patience,” Mullin continued. “Use that passion.”
Mullin calmed the crowd for a moment before they start booing Lacob again. That’s when Hall of Famer Rick Barry, there along with every other former Warriors player who had his jersey retired (save for Wilt Chamberlain, who had passed and was represented by his sister), took the microphone from Mullin and started speaking to the crowd.
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“You fans are the greatest fans in the world, as everybody has said that,” Barry said. “Show a little bit of class. This is a man that I’ve spent some time talking to. He is going to change this franchise.
“This is crazy,” Barry continued. “Seriously. Come on, you’re doing yourself a disservice. All of the wonderful accolades being sent to you, for you to treat this man who is spending his money to do the best that he can to turn this franchise around, and I know he’s going to do it. So give him the respect he deserves.”
Barry, a player I consider the most underrated in NBA history, was cheered following his speech. The crowd made it very clear to Lacob that they’d had enough of the losing, the dysfunction, and the utter chaos that seemed to continue to surround the franchise.
So what happened following the night of Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement?
Stephen Curry became the star player on the team, Klay Thompson was moved into the starting rotation as a rookie, and the following year they returned to the playoffs where they upset the third-seed Denver Nuggets in the opening round and pushed the mighty Spurs to six games. That series included their first road victory in San Antonio in over 16 years.
And that night is when this great Golden State Warriors dynasty truly started.