Oracle Arena, the home of the Golden State Warriors, has been sold out for 28 straight games.
The sellout streak started on Tuesday, December 18. The Warriors had just returned home from a seven-game Eastern Conference road trip that was all but guaranteed to derail their strong season.
Yes, the Warriors started out 10-7, but a two-week Eastern swing that included two back-to-backs and trips to Brooklyn, Miami and Atlanta appeared far too daunting for such a young team.
That's why a December 5 showdown against the Orlando Magic didn't sell out. Warriors fans were happy about their team's solid start, but not so much so that they thought a ticket to see Festus Ezeli go up against Nikola Vucevic was a must-buy.
Had Orlando still had Dwight Howard and Golden State had a healthy Andrew Bogut, the story may have been different, but that's neither here nor there.
The Warriors lost to the Magic in front of a decent Oracle crowd that night. They would go on to win the first five games of their road trip, including thrillers over the Nets and Heat. They lost the sixth game in Orlando but responded the next night by crushing a strong Hawks team to win six of seven road games in 11 days.
They came home to face the Hornets on December 18. Although New Orleans no longer had Chris Paul and their new star Eric Gordon was out, although Andrew Bogut was still suited up (in the Men's Warehouse sense of the word) and although more attractive dates against the Lakers, Sixers and Celtics loomed shortly ahead, Oracle Arena was packed to capacity.
The Warriors beat the Hornets 103-96 that night. Twenty-eight home games later, the Warriors have 28 more sellouts, 20 more wins, one win and one Utah Jazz loss to go before clinching a spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
To think where we were a year ago.
Well, it really all started just under 13 months ago. The Golden State Warriors were struggling to stay within striking distance of the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, so a trade was made.
This trade was not the type of trade that was made in 2007, either. That season, the Warriors' average-yet-inadequate first half led to the disposal of Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy, two average-yet-inadequate starters for Don Nelson's Dubs. In return, Golden State received the turbulent Stephen Jackson along with Al Harrington.
The team used the duo of forwards to go on a furious run to the postseason. The trade that was made in 2012 was used to go on a run to the draft lottery.
That's because Golden State general manager Larry Riley traded the team's best player in Monta Ellis and best defender in Ekpe Udoh to Milwaukee for the injured Andrew Bogut and again for Stephen Jackson.
After Jackson's turbulence concluded with a crash last time around, he was not expected to lead the Warriors to the postseason. Rather, he was immediately moved for the more mature, less skilled and more handsomely paid Richard Jefferson along with a first-round pick.
Most fans were incredibly upset about this, and with good reason.
Now, this isn't me claiming that the Ellis-Bogut deal was a bad trade. On the contrary, I loved the trade from day one. The Warriors got the big man they've been searching for since losing Chris Webber, they opened the door for Klay Thompson and they allowed themselves to tank.
I loved the trade even more after the season, when the tanking paid off and they used their lottery pick to draft small forward Harrison Barnes, traded their suddenly-useless small forward Dorell Wright for Jarrett Jack and used the pick they got for Stephen Jackson to draft center Festus Ezeli.
Given that, the fans had every right to be upset during March of 2012. After new ownership bought the team two summers prior, promised results immediately and brought in a new coach who guaranteed the playoffs in 2011-12, the front office had traded away the heart and soul of their team for potentially nothing.
On March 19, the night when Chris Mullin's No. 17 jersey was retired at halftime, the fans expressed their frustration.
The local and national mainstream media generally portrayed this as a poor showing by Warriors fans, as if they should be ashamed for ruining Chris Mullin's special night. However, it was owner Joe Lacob who took center stage on this night, opting to speak—after Mullin I might add—to the crowd despite having no part in the glory days that Mullin was being honored for providing the fans with.
It didn't help that the Warriors were down 14 points to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the half.
As an ironic aside, it was Mullin who made the 2007 trade for Harrington and Jackson and thus brought a special couple of seasons to Warriors fans.
The Warriors lost that night. They had also lost their previous three games and would go on to lose 18 more before the season ended, picking up only five wins in the process.
Things have gotten better slowly, yet surely. And that's a credit to Warriors fans before it is so to anyone else. The 13 months since the Chris Mullin night debacle (we'll call that rock bottom) have gone something like this:
-Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh traded for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson
-Warriors shut Stephen Curry down for season
-Joe Lacob booed on Chris Mullin night
-Warriors shut David Lee down for season
-Warriors go 3-13 to finish season, finish with seventh-worst record
-Warriors fire GM Larry Riley, promote Bob Myers
-Andrew Bogut has secret microfracture surgery
|May||-Warriors retain first-round pick by finishing seventh in draft lottery|
-Warriors draft Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green
-Warriors trade Dorell Wright for Jarrett Jack
-Warriors sign Carl Landry
-Warriors re-sign Brandon Rush
|September||-Mark Jackson doesn't guarantee playoffs|
-Andrew Bogut ruled questionable for start of season
-Warriors win on opening night
-Brandon Rush tears ACL in home opener
-Andrew Bogut ruled out for seven to 10 days
-Andrew Bogut ruled out indefinitely
-Andrew Bogut reveals he had microfracture surgery
-Warriors go 8-6
-Joe Lacob doesn't apologize for lying to fans
-Warriors have best road trip in franchise history
-Sellout streak begins
-Warriors go 12-4
-sellout streak continues
-Warriors go 8-7
-David Lee becomes first Warriors All-Star since Latrell Sprewell
-Warriors beat Spurs for first time in five years
-Stephen Curry scores an NBA season-high 54 points at Madison Square Garden
-Warriors go 4-8
-Stephen Curry blossoms into superstar
-Warriors go 9-7
That takes us to April of 2013. The Warriors are 44-32. They have their first All-Star in 16 years, their first superstar in decades, their best defender in just about as long and multiple youngsters that give this team few directions to go besides up.
A win over the Utah Jazz tonight would clinch the playoffs for Golden State. One could say this would be just the "beginning" of something special, that bigger and better days are ahead, especially when the team moves to San Francisco in 2017.
But doing so would be disgracing the fans who support this Oakland team better than the NBA fanbases do in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Denver, Philadelphia, Houston or all but four other NBA cities.
Doing so would be a far bigger disgrace than the booing of Joe Lacob one year ago was.
Doing so would be ignoring that this is not just a beginning, but rather the continuation of Golden State Warriors fans being the hands-down best in the NBA, the one steady positive for a franchise that has faltered more than it has thrived.
Joe Lacob didn't get his chance to speak last that night. The Warriors' fans did. They always will, and that's how it ought to be.
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