The NBA didn’t matter the last time the Golden State Warriors played for a championship.
The National Basketball Association was still a decade away from garnering national interest amid the sports landscape when Rick Barry, Jamaal Wilkes, George Johnson, Butch Beard, Clifford Ray and Jeff Mullins last brought a title to the Bay Area.
It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were reaching all corners of the country through a complex rivalry, that both media and fans started to truly pay attention. But before those theatrical days were plenty of other benchmarks being laid throughout the history of the league.
The Warriors claimed the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference during the 1974-75 season with a modest 48-34 record. They did so by leading the 18-team league in scoring, rebounds and steals before pulling an upset (assuming they were indeed the underdogs, of course) of the Washington Bullets (60-22) by way of a sweep in the NBA Finals.
That series has some historical significance aside from the result as Golden State’s Al Attles and Washington’s K.C. Jones became the first black head coaches to face off in a professional sports championship. Never mind that Attles was thrown out of Game 4 for attacking an opposing player during the game.
This time around the Warriors finished the NBA regular season with the best record (67-15) while leading the 30-team league in scoring, assists and field goal percentage, and ranking second in blocked shots. And they did so with first-year coach Steve Kerr, who unlike the opponent Golden State faces in the finals had all the pieces in place upon signing up for the job.
Now they’ll move on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers and the greatest athlete to ever play the game, a man whom basketball fans have grown to love to hate and hate to love.
In 1975 it was future Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes matching up against the Warriors. This time it’s all-world LeBron James, who happens to be playing in his sixth NBA Finals over the past nine years.
It’s been 40 years since the Warriors last appeared on this stage.
Now it’s up to NBA MVP Stephen Curry and the likes of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut to cement how they’ll be remembered in comparison.