I was planning on posting this earlier, but after something like this happens it’s difficult to find the words to say. And for those of you who aren’t sports fans and who don’t love any team, just stop reading this right now because you won’t get it.
I’m going to loosely use a quote from Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane in Moneyball: It’s hard not to be romantic about basketball.
I was never attached to any other team, nor did i even dedicate myself to any other sport. Sure, I followed and cheered for certain teams, but when it came down to emotional loyalty it’s always just been the Warriors.
For years I’ve had something written for if we ever won the NBA Championship, but as I return to it now after it’s actually happened, I can see that my feelings are slightly different than how I had imagined them being.
First, let me give you some background on myself as a fan. I attended my first Warriors game with my dad at age 5, and I can still vividly remember instances such as Manute Bol running up the court and telling my dad that he looked like a spider, or thinking Keith Jennings was a little kid and wondering why he was playing with a bunch of adults. I also remember watching the player introductions as the crowd booed Tom Gugliotta because he had just left our team. Little did I know that Arena in Oakland would become a second home for me. I grew up there and had so many memories that I could dedicate a television series just for that story arc. Since I was a kid, I’ve been made fun of for wearing Warriors attire because we weren’t good, and laughed at for rooting for a team that won’t make the playoffs. But I took every loss badly and every win like it was the finals. It wasn’t just a game for me. It was too much a part of my life for it to be just a game. For those fans who haven’t experienced a lot of success from your team, you know it’s the little things that give you a greater joy than winning a championship will for a successful team’s fan. It’s always been the little things. When Jason Richardson won the slam dunk contest the first time, it was the first “title” we had held since I had been born. I was so ecstatic that I cried. It was like winning a championship to me back then because actually winning a championship seemed impossible. And amidst all this I had become accustomed to not making the playoffs so much so that I barely even paid attention to the postseason.
While living in Los Angeles for the past 8 years I’ve suffered through torture being mocked by Lakers fans for loving a team that doesn’t have 16 championships. But I just tell them my faith as a fan has been tested. I’ve proven my loyalty. And sadly they can’t say the same. They’ve won so much that they expect it and it’s not as sweet for them. I’m glad that I didn’t grow up rooting for a team that was always winning. It’s like a kid who was born spoiled rich doesn’t appreciate what he has. Hardships as a fan have made me who I am today and I would NEVER trade that for anything.
It’s not easy for a team to become a part of you–especially this team. You identify with them and you share in their woes and tribulations. My whole life I’ve been the underdog. I’ve been bullied, told my dreams won’t come true, had the odds stacked against me, and been laughed at thousands of times for rooting for the underdog. And now the underdog is on top. And at this stage in my life, I’ve achieved a few of my dreams–this championship being one of them. But this was the dream that I felt was most impossible–not because I didn’t believe it could happen, but because it was a reality that I was used to. People play the lottery not because they believe that they’ll win, but because they HOPE they’ll win. They know it’s possible because they see other people winning it. Hoping and being loyal pays off in the end. All those years of struggle make this even sweeter.
I always imagined myself as an old man lying on my death bed as I watch us win a title for the first time. Luckily it’s come much sooner than that. I feel like it’s all lead up to this and I still can’t comprehend it being real. It’s like if your brother becomes famous you still just see him as your brother.
Honestly, I’ve faced so many losing seasons that this doesn’t even feel real–almost as if it didn’t happen. And I have to say, I’ve played in my head a million times what it would be like to win this championship, and I’ve pictured myself hysterically crying and going ballistic. But in the moment I was paralyzed. Sure I cried, but I was in shock. Was this all worth the journey? You better believe it, but this season was so perfect that I think I expected to win too much. We weren’t the underdog anymore. I’d be lying if I said that it wouldn’t have been more exciting if we still were. But there’s also something kinda nice about being the favorites for once. And it made this whole trip a lot less stressful than the past ones. I was nervous, but I think for once I hoped AND believed.
Thank you to my dad for taking me to my first game and for both of my parents for encouraging me to love something that didn’t just bring me immediate joy. For helping instill in me that winning isn’t everything–sometimes you have to enjoy the moment and relish in the little victories. Jackson Browne supplied me with my senior quote in high school: “We may loose and we may win, but we will never be here again.” No matter what the outcome, it’s the little things that make it worth it. This has summed up my life. And I owe it to my team and my parents for giving me that.
Also, thank you to my parents and my girlfriend for feeding my obsession–for knowing how important this is to me and making it important for you as well.
And lastly, thank you to the neigh sayers for making this more enjoyable. Without you there would be nothing to prove.
To me, it matters not how long it took us to win a championship, but the road we took getting there. I don’t care how many rings we have–just that right now, in this moment, we are the best. No one can ever take that away from us. After going back into the mind of my 10-year-old self watching loss after loss, this all seems like a dream. Every move we’ve made has lead up to this. The championship was surreal, but the journey was unforgettable. I will keep that lesson for as long as I live. And if this is possible, anything is.
But now what?