OAKLAND (AP) — Rick Barry has watched the Golden State Warriors try to accomplish what his team did 40 years ago. He has never seen a group with as good a chance to win another NBA title as the current club.
“I hope that they stay healthy because I think they have a real, legitimate shot of bringing the second championship to the Golden State Warriors,” the Hall of Famer said Monday night, when the franchise honored its 1974-75 championship team during a 107-76 win over the Washington Wizards.
Seven of the eight surviving players from the franchise’s only Bay Area championship, along with coach Alvin Attles, came together for the 40th anniversary celebration. They reminisced about their playing days, were honored on the court and — perhaps more than anything — talked about how enthusiastic they are to watch the Warriors play now.
“One of the reasons why we like this team over all the other Warriors teams that have been down the pipe in the last 40 years is the feeling that they give and that they transmit is similar to what we tried to do,” said former center Clifford Ray, who was traded from Chicago for Nate Thurmond before the ‘74-75 season.
Barry led the Warriors with 30.6 points per game that season. Attles often went at least 10 deep on his roster and, similar to current coach Steve Kerr, preached ball movement over isolation.
“If you got it done, Coach let you work. As a player, I don’t think you can ask for anything more,” Ray said. “I feel like this young team has some of those same characteristics.”
The Warriors (57-13) began Monday with the league’s best record. They’ve been the team to beat all season and will enter the playoffs as one of the favorites.
Before the 1974-75 season, nobody expected Golden State to be a serious contender after trading Thurmond to Chicago. Instead, the Warriors went 48-34 and won the Pacific Division. They rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the Western Conference finals against the Bulls and swept Washington in the NBA Finals.
“People just underestimated us. They really did,” Barry said. “It’s still the greatest upset in the finals history of the NBA without question. There’s nothing even close to it.”
The current Warriors are constantly reminded of that team’s feat. There’s a large championship banner that hangs at their practice facility and another in the rafters at Oracle Arena.
“We don’t stop and talk about it, but it’s there. It’s there for a reason. We’re aware of it,” Kerr said. “That’s the goal for everybody.”
The Warriors lost in the conference finals in the 1975-76 season and haven’t advanced that far since.
After decades of struggles, the franchise has made significant strides under co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. The Warriors are headed to the playoffs for the third straight year and likely as the Western Conference’s top seed — if not the top overall seed — behind their All-Star backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
“The Splash Brothers are two outstanding talents,” said Hall of Famer Jamaal Wilkes, a star forward on the ‘74-75 team.
The Warriors are set to break the team’s record of 59 wins set in 1975-76. That’s quite a long way since some fans booed Lacob in March 2012 during a jersey retirement ceremony for Chris Mullin at halftime of a game.
Barry scolded fans for it then — grabbing the microphone during the infamous ceremony — and even more now.
“All of those fools that were booing during the Chris Mullin special award ceremony should be writing letters and apologizing to Joe Lacob for what they did. Because it worked out pretty good.” Barry said.
The Warriors paid tribute to the title team throughout the game, including videos and an on-court ceremony after the first quarter, when Barry held the trophy alongside his former teammates and coaches as fans gave them a standing ovation. Barry also spoke to the team in the locker room after the game, praising the current players and wishing them well.
His advice to the team: Play its game.
“They have to impose their will on the other team,” Barry said, “and play the way they’re capable of playing at their best.”