OAKLAND -- Jason Richardson, Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson stepped to the podium Tuesday night to reminisce. It has been 10 years since they were part of a Warriors team that shocked the NBA.
Ten years since they inadvertently generated a movement that still resonates with Warriors fans.
With those two words the memories come flooding back to the Warriors fan base.
There was the 16-5 record over the final 21 games, including five consecutive wins to close out the season and slip into the eighth and final playoff spot.
The stunning upset of top-seeded Dallas in the first round.
The spectacular dunk by Baron Davis that vaporized Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals.
And the birth of “Roaracle,” coined thusly for the thunderous and sustained blast of noise within Oracle Arena that postseason.
“The best memory was definitely winning in the playoffs,” Jackson said one hour before tipoff of the Warriors-Jazz rematch in the Western Conference semifinals.
“But we have bigger memories than that. Just the whole year, being with each other, growing with each other, becoming family.”
That was one of the secrets to the appeal of that team. Those Warriors were a tight-knit group of underdogs, nearly all of them on a personal crusade to make a statement to skeptics the world over. They weren’t supposed to win; coach Don Nelson actually gathered them and told them they couldn’t win.
“We were just a bunch of guys who all had something to prove in different ways,” Jackson said.
Jackson had off-court issues in Indiana, as well as being a central figure in a pivotal brawl in Detroit that become known as the “Malice at the Palace.” Davis’ wondrous talent came with a history of injury and a reputation for being high maintenance. Richardson had never won anything. Ellis was drafted out of a high school in Mississippi. Al Harrington had been with multiple teams. Adonal Foyle was a lottery pick who struggled to stay on the court.
Yet, for the briefest of moments, they changed the culture. They pulled the Warriors out of the purgatory that is 13 consecutive non-playoff seasons and put them back on the NBA map.
“Guys actually wanted to be here, whereas my first five years didn’t want to be here,” Richardson recalled. “They just wanted to get points, get numbers, get contracts and get out of town.”
In some ways that team laid the groundwork for today’s Warriors, who have posted the league’s best record three years running. Stephen Curry arrived in 2009, just as “We Believe” faded out.
How on earth did they get from there to here?
“Drafting guys like Steph, Klay (Thompson), Draymond (Green),” Richardson said. “Putting together a team that was kind of similar to us, where guys got along with each other. And then you bring in a guy like Kevin Durant, who just fit right into the system.
“That’s what’s important about winning. Guys have to be able to match. They’ve got to mix together. They’ve got to hang out outside of basketball. That’s what we did. On the road, we were at dinners with each other. We were always around each other. That’s a big part of that chemistry on the floor.”
It’s a different ownership, a different mentality and a much more ambitious mandate.
The Warriors have gone from “We Believe” to “We Belong” to NBA elite.
“They don’t believe now; they’re past that. They’re way past believing,” Jackson said. “They’re going for (championship) No. 2.
“I’m just happy that something we started, they were able to make it and become champions.”