The same fans who were called the “greatest” in the NBA and the world by Alvin Attles, Mitch Richmond and so many others during Chris Mullin’s retirement ceremony were salty at halftime. They showed their frustration with David Stern, both when he was shown in a montage on the jumbotron back when he announced that the Golden State Warriors selected Chris Mullin out of St. John’s in 1985, and when Mullin mentioned Stern in what was otherwise an extremely well-received speech, the boos came again.
They started earlier than that, actually, at the beginning of the game with both the Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves both started horribly. The Warriors were especially bad, taking about five minutes to score their first points, but both teams spent more time throwing the ball out of bounds than anything else. Two bad teams, both looking forward to a good draft pick (hopefully, in the Warriors’ case).
Then Joe Lacob took the microphone (after emcee Greg Papa introduced him by saying “we saved the best for last”), and all hell broke loose. The boos took over Oracle Arena, to the point where you couldn’t even hear Lacob speak. Even when Mullin came back up and tried to calm things down, the boos came returned in earnest when Lacob started talking again. Then Rick Barry took the mic and chastised the fans, which didn’t help matters (“Come on people … show a little class … this is crazy … you’re doing yourself a disservice.”
The only thing this circus needed was Larry Ellison to ride into center court on a Harley and do donuts around Lacob while holding up a San Jose Grizzlies flag.
The video captures the booing to a certain extent, but in person it was even more intense. Louder even than when fans booed Chris Cohan during the 2000 All-Star Game.
After the ceremony, Lacob walked off the floor and appeared to be consoled by Stephen Curry. Lacob came back after halftime and sat in his courtside seat, jumping up and pumping his fist on several occasions as the Warriors mounted a comeback in a game they’d lose 97-93, their fourth loss in a row.
After the game, Lacob spoke to the media. I didn’t catch the entirety of Lacob’s comments, but here’s what I did get.
What was Lacob thinking when the boos became incredibly loud and turned an otherwise positive event sour?
“Hoping it would stop so I could get out the nice words that we had prepared for Chris,” Lacob said.
Lacob and the rest of the team seemed to consider the fans’ reaction not the product of several years of losing and despair, pain that traces back to prior owners. They counted this as the reaction to the Warriors trading Monta Ellis for a player who can’t prove himself as a valuable member of the team yet. Those statements were echoed in comments by Mark Jackson and David Lee.
Jackson: “Can’t wait, knowing (Lacob), knowing his commitment, knowing his passion. The day’s going to come when he’s truly appreciated around here.”
Lee: “It definitely showed our fans’ passion. It’s frustrating for the players as well as the fans right now, and we made a trade which in my opinion was the reason why there was the reactions. We made a trade that’s not going to help us this year.”
The whole thing was like a scene from pro wrestling, with Lacob playing the part of Vince McMahon. While there’s no tragedy in an extremely rich man getting booed, a couple things.
1. Warriors fans showed their distaste for how things have gone this year and in past years, but the fact remains they were there. They bought tickets. That affords fans the opportunity to boo, and they have a right to if they so choose. However, spending that kind of money is an odd way to show you’ve reached your breaking point as a fan. Most fanbases would show their displeasure by not showing up, not going crazy during a ceremony celebrating one of the franchise’s most beloved players.
2. If Lacob was leaning toward moving to San Francisco before, he probably felt like swimming there tonight from Alameda.