The Golden State Warriors aren’t the most popular team in California—and it is not even close.
The Warriors have been dominated by the Los Angeles Lakers for most of the past 35 years.
Yes, L.A. stands for the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle central to most bandwagon fans. The Buss family has capitalized on that profile while presenting a competitive product since purchasing the Lakers in 1979.
As a result, the Lakers are the New York Yankees of basketball.
The Warriors, on the other hand, have been struggling to make a name for themselves. Since 1979, the Warriors have made the playoffs just six times, losing to the Lakers in the second round in two of those appearances.
Since their relocation to Los Angeles before the 1960-61 season, the Lakers have won 11 NBA titles. The Warriors have won just one since moving to the Bay Area. Golden State also went from 1994-2007 without once making the playoffs.
The Lakers have had well-known stars such as Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy, just to name a few. The Warriors only long-term legitimate star was Hall of Famer Chris Mullin since their title run.
With new ownership and a new direction, Warrior fans are hoping this trend will stop. The Lakers will probably always be popular, but now is the time for the Warriors to make inroads.
The Laker roster is very solid with the recent acquisition of Steve Nash, but it is also getting old. This generation’s Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, has a lot of wear on his legs, and with each year, he is becoming marginally less productive.
Andrew Bynum could be a dominant player, but he has not fully matured and has had knee and ankle injuries. Though good enough to be among the league leaders in some statistical categories, he won’t be as dominant as Shaq or Kareem.
The Warriors have built themselves a pretty solid foundation with the help of ex-Lakers GM Jerry West and new GM, Bob Myers. The Warriors have assembled a team that can grow together and should become a perennial playoff team, highlighted by this year's No. 1 draft pick, Harrison Barnes.
Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and the Los Angeles Lakers will make appearances at Oracle Arena in Oakland two times this upcoming season, Dec. 22nd and March 25th.
The problem is that making the playoffs will not result in the Warriors ripping a huge portion of market share away from the Lakers. The true test for the Dubs will be to improve upon each playoff appearance and acquire the pieces needed to win the NBA championship.
The current roster as constructed won’t get the Warriors where they want to go. However, once the Warriors free up cap space in 2014 with the expected departures of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson, they should finally be able to lure a marquee free agent.
Will the Warriors ever be more popular than the Lakers?
The next step of the development process will be between 2014 and 2017, when the Warriors expect to open the new arena in San Francisco. It is during that window that the team will need to sign or acquire the talent necessary to transform it into conference and NBA champions.
What will the competition look like at that time? Knowing the Lakers, they will have been rebuilding on the fly for two or three years and will probably be right back in contention for an NBA title.
This hopefully will result in a constant NorCal vs. SoCal fight similar to the Giants-Dodgers rivalry. The Lakers will always be the team with the higher profile until the Dubs can win multiple NBA titles.
And that needs to happen a lot sooner than later. The Warriors will eventually need to get the upper hand if they want to take control of the Golden State.