How three players, three events defined Bay Area’s greatest sports decade

/ by Monte Poole
Presented By montepoole

Twenty-nine playoff appearances over four sports, with every professional team reaching the postseason at least once. Ten trips to the ultimate game. Six championships.

One man who revolutionized basketball, another who streaked across baseball like a comet and a football player who opened eyes with his play and then ignited international debate with his actions.

Time has expired on the greatest professional sports decade ever in the Bay Area, with a broad breadth of unprecedented success sending fans scurrying to websites and team stores to buy caps and T-shirts at a higher rate than at any time in local history.

Here are three individuals and three events that made the 2010s special in the Bay Area and sure to stay in the hearts and on the minds of fans as long as they live:

The Revolutionary

The decade began with Steph Curry, the third point guard taken in the 2009 NBA Draft, trying to prove not only that he belonged in the NBA but also that could be a star. Ten years later, it’s evident that goal was far too modest.

Curry became the face of the Warriors on Halloween in 2012, when, after missing 56 games the previous season, he signed a four-year contract extension worth $44 million -- at that point the largest product investment made by the new ownership group.

Curry delivered an absurd return. In 2013-14, his first season under the new deal, he was voted the franchise’s first All-Star Game starter since Latrell Sprewell in 1995. In Year 2, Steph became the league’s first unanimous MVP award winner and five weeks later led the Warriors to their first championship in 40 years.


In Year 3, Curry won his second consecutive MVP award and led the Warriors to an NBA-record 73 wins and became a global superstar.

Curry changed the face of the Warriors, of the NBA and the game of basketball. He is the second revolutionary the league has seen in its 73-year history. The first, Wilt Chamberlain, prompted rulebook changes. Curry sent coaches back into their defensive strategy labs.

[RELATED: Why Steph is the MVP of the 2010s]

The Kid

Out of uniform, he looked like a teenager just off his skateboard. In uniform, he was a lion disguised as a Shetland pony.

After winning back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, Tim Lincecum began the decade as the most mesmerizing player in baseball. A combination of unimposing stature, unassuming demeanor and other-worldly pitching sent him flashing across the sky of the sport.

At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, dark hair scraping his shoulder blades, Timmy was the engine that in 2010 drove the Giants to their first World Series championship in 55 seasons. He started Game 1 and earned the win. He started Game 5, in which his victory closed out the series.

Though Madison Bumgarner was only beginning his run of dazzling postseason pitching, Lincecum and his distinctive windup already had astonished observers and won the hearts of Giants fans of all ages. He did his part to answer the call of a sport struggling to attract youth.

Though his effectiveness began diminishing after 2011 -- the last of his four consecutive seasons as an All-Star -- Lincecum still evokes wonder and might be the most broadly popular Giant in their 63 seasons in the Bay Area.

[RELATED: Lincecum's emotional return to Oracle Park]

The Social Warrior

After one season as a backup, wowing his teammates with his gifts on display on the practice field, Colin Kaepernick in 2012, his second season with the 49ers, took over the starting role and started blowing minds with his arm and demoralizing opponents with his legs.

After seven NFL starts, he was throwing and sprinting his way through the 2012 playoffs, leading the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in 18 years. Kaepernick in 2013 led the Niners to a 12-4 record and third straight NFC Championship Game.

He was, for two years, the future of quarterbacking.

A little more than three years after the 2012 playoffs, Kaepernick was struck by a force of social enlightenment. Moved by injustices generally afflicting people of color, he began a quiet crusade to shine a light on the issues. Rather than stand for the national anthem, made the courageous decision to drop to one knee.


A few months later, he was out of the NFL.

Kaepernick has since won numerous national and international awards for his efforts, becoming the most visible symbol of an American athlete seeking social change since Muhammad Ali.

The Day that broke the NBA

Do you remember the Fourth of July fireworks in 2016? Lit 11 hours before sundown, they were more felt than heard, jostling the sports landscape like a jolt of, pardon the reference, thunder.

Kevin Durant, four-time scoring NBA scoring champion and one of the most coveted free agents in American sports history, decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Golden State Warriors.

Was this real? Warriors fans spent the morning stunned in disbelief, and the afternoon in delirium. It was very real, as KD announced his decision in a first-person article on the Players’ Tribune website, accounting for 4.5 million page views that day.

The move prompted an outburst of enmity and envy in OKC and around parts of the NBA. The Warriors, coming off a 73-win season, had gotten appreciably better. The mega move resulted in some referring to them as Super Villains.

The Warriors and their fans didn’t care then, and they certainly didn’t care after they went to three consecutive NBA Finals, winning two, with Durant voted MVP in both.

[RELATED: Why it was harder to leave OKC than Warriors]

The 53-year quest

There was 1962, when Willie McCovey’s line drive nearly went through the glove of Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson. There was 1989, when they were forced to live with the indignity of being pounded by their neighbors.

There was 2002, the third time, surely the charm, when they were eight outs away from reaching the top -- only to be shoved down into another October of despair.

But along came the 2010 San Francisco Giants, and they would not be denied. Without a superstar swinging the bat, they went 7-2 in the first two rounds before winning their first World Series in San Francisco, 53 seasons after they arrived from New York.

[RELATED: Giants' offensive leaders of 2010s]

Longtime fans shed tears. Many of those apathetic about the Giants and baseball, jumped aboard for a ride that never came with such legends as Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Juan Marichal and McCovey.

More than one million people flocked into the city for a celebration long delayed. The Giants won two more championships over the next four seasons, but the first forever will be the sweetest.

The rise of the bullied

The Warriors during one stretch of the 1990s and into the 2000s lost games at a higher clip than any team in the NBA or NFL. There was serial dysfunction, with pettiness from above, with cheap ownership making decisions on a whim.


When the Warriors weren’t jokes, they were victims. NBA teams coming to Oakland assumed victory, and usually got it, to the exasperation of a fan base yearning to see a playoff series.

After generating some momentum by reaching the conference semifinals in 2013 and earning respect in 2014 over a searing first-round series that went seven games, the years of despair were buried under the ecstasy of winning it all in 2015.

Not only winning it all but beating LeBron James (and the Cavaliers) in the process.

[RELATED: Warriors valuation has spiked over last decade]

For the Bay Area’s most widely beloved team, the six-game triumph in those NBA Finals was a license for the community to exhale, scream and shout. The euphoria meter was cranked up so high it shattered into tiny pieces.

A look at the numbers

The 29 postseason appearances: The Sharks nine, the Warriors seven, the A’s five, the Giants four, the 49ers three and the Raiders one.

The 10 trips to the ultimate game in their respective sports: The Warriors reaching five NBA Finals, the Giants getting to three World Series, the Sharks reaching a Stanley Cup Final and the 49ers reaching a Super Bowl.

The six championships: The Warriors and Giants, each delivering three.

The 2020s will have to summon a mighty roar to approach the prosperity we’ve witnessed over the past 10 years.