Fifteen former Warriors stars worthy of Ring-of-Honor-type recognition originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
The brains inside Chase Center rarely stop storming. It’s the way of the Warriors, particularly in the offseason. Discussion is frequent. Ideas buzz about like bees. And one topic was addressed yet again this summer:
How should the Warriors honor those who have made significant contributions to the franchise?
As is, there are six retired numbers: Wilt Chamberlain (13), Tom Meschery (14), Al Attles (16), Chris Mullin (17), Rick Barry (24), Nate Thurmond (42). Consider them recognized.
Hall of Famers are beyond debate. They will continue to have their numbers retired, with a select few destined for statues. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are bound for this treatment. Maybe as a triptych.
At issue are the others. There have been debates about a Hall of Fame, a Ring of Honor, a Wall of Fame. Another possibility is to go with medallions, perhaps like stars inlaid on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, displayed at Chase Center.
While those on the Golden State payroll deliberate the terminology, we’re making a bid to be on the selection committee. Each person must have logged at least three seasons and made a positive impact on the franchise and the fan base.
From an initial list of 29, we submit the 15 contributing individuals we believe – one man’s opinion – are most deserving of further recognition:
Bogut was the third pillar, after Curry and Thompson, installed for Golden State’s foundation to greatness. Acquired in trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, the 7-footer brought an defensive mentality to a franchise fixated on offense. He was a 2015 NBA champ and on the 73-9 team in 2016. Kevon Looney and Green still apply tips learned from Bogut.
Acquired in a trade by Mullin, then the GM, Davis’ brought gravitas to an abject locker room and credibility to a flagging franchise. He was the lead author of the “We Believe” Warriors of 2007, temporarily giving fans a team to respect. His playoffs dunk over Andrei Kirilenko is the greatest jam in team history.
Acquired from the Nets during his rookie season, the 6-foot-3 guard averaged 17.7 points, on 48.5-percent shooting, over five-plus seasons. His career highlight was a 29-point third quarter in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers, allowing the Warriors to avoid being swept. It remains a playoff record.
Hardaway introduced the crossover dribble to the NBA in the 1980s and as a rookie and became the engine of the spectacular Run TMC era. A three-time NBA All-Star and six-year Warrior, the fan favorite averaged 25.0 points and 10.0 assists in the playoffs.
Hardaway’s No. 10 jersey should be retired. It is in Miami, where he played 20 fewer games.
Acquiring Lee was the first loud roster move by incoming ownership in 2010. The power forward became a double-double machine and, moreover, in 2013 was named to the NBA All-Star team, snapping a 16-year span without a player representing the Warriors in the event featuring the best players in the league.
Livingston, the first free agent acquired with Steve Kerr as head coach, played five seasons with the Warriors and finished all five in the NBA Finals. The 6-foot-7 point guard was a crucial reserve, getting timely buckets with his trusty midrange jumper but also bringing a veteran voice of reason to the locker room.
Troublesome hips made him a gamble in the 2015 draft, but the 6-foot-9 center never flinched. He kept his foot on the pedal, blasting through an array of physical obstacles to become a mainstay by age 25. Loon hasn’t missed a game in two seasons, the first of which led to his third championship ring.
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His jersey is retired in Boston, but his clipboard should be honored by Golden State, where he became Nellie, a wizard at devising often unorthodox offensive schemes to exploit opposing defensive weaknesses. He made some regrettable decisions (trading Mitch Richmond, alienating Chris Webber) but was the man behind Run TMC and “We Believe.”
There was a time when the Golden State franchise was chained to despair, when winning was a fantasy, and J-Rich was piercing the darkness with a few rays of light. The last Warrior to make All-Rookie first team before Curry, he electrified with soaring dunks and was a key member of the “We Believe” squad.
The first truly impressive draft pick (1988) of Nelson first term, Richmond earned Rookie of the Year honors and was the only elite two-way player on the team. He averaged 22.7 points (48.5-percent FG) in three seasons with Golden State and was devastated when Nelson traded him in a move the coach/GM later regretted.
One of the most overlooked greats of the team’s early years in California, the dynamic 6-foot point guard led the NBA in assists in his first season by the Bay and represented the Warriors in three All-Star Games (1963, ’64 and ’66) before being traded to the Bulls in 1966. He entered the Hall of Fame in 2014.
Drafted out of historically Black Jackson State University in 1978, Short possessed one of the NBA’s prettiest jump shots, an arc that seemed to float 15 feet above the rim before swishing through. He averaged at least 21 points in seven of his nine seasons with the Warriors, connecting at 47.9 percent from the field.
An unheralded second-round draft pick from historically Black Alcorn State in 1980, Smith rarely scored, defended like a demon and was the best pure rebounder in franchise history. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 10.4 rebounds as a Warrior and ranks 18th career offensive boards. Nicknamed “Mr. Mean,” Smith’s grit made him a Bay Area folk hero.
In the 20-plus seasons between Rodgers (1960s) and Richmond/Hardaway (‘80s), there is little doubt that Smith was Golden State’s most breathtaking guard. A 48-percent shooter with savage dunking ability, the 6-foot-4 San Francisco native contributed as a rookie reserve to the 1975 championship team and blossomed into a two-time All-Star and member of the All-Defensive team.
The roster of Golden State’s ‘75 championship team was deep in pluck and wisdom, with one superstar, Rick Barry, and two rookies destined for stardom: Wilkes (first round) and Smith (second round). Wilkes spent two more seasons with the Warriors, averaging 18.3 points and making the 1976 All-Star team before going to the Lakers for a first-round draft pick and cash in 1977.
In the queue: Andrew Wiggins, whose NBA story is in progress.
Now for the questions . . .
What about Andre Iguodala? Warriors CEO Joe Lacob already has stated that the first NBA Finals MVP of the Curry Era will have his jersey number retired – as will two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant.
Where’s David West? Key member of the squad played only his final two seasons with the Warriors.
Was Paul Arizin considered? Of course. A 10-time All-Star, selected for the 25th, 50th and 75th anniversary teams. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1978. When the team moved to San Francisco in 1962, Arizin, then 34, chose to retire and stay in Philadelphia. That factor dropped him from the top 15.
How about Neil Johnston?
Arizin’s partner in destruction was a hook-shot artist 15 years before Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s arrival. The six-time All-Star led the NBA scoring in three consecutive seasons (1952-55) before a knee injury ended his career ended at 28. Again, never playing in the Bay dropped him down a tier.
Did we forget Monta Ellis? No. The team’s most watchable player for a couple years before Curry ascended, he was the last cut to trim the list to 15.
Latrell Sprewell? As a three-time NBA All-Star, he is more than deserving of recognition. But by choking his coach and forcing his teammates to choose sides, that fractured the team and killed a season. The Warriors finished 1997-98 with a 19-63 record. No way he’ll be honored.
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