That's how old I was the last time my favorite basketball team made the playoffs. Not the last time they won a series, or went to the Conference Finals, or even won a championship. Just the last time they actually made it into the postseason.
I'll be 23 years old in July. Pretty pathetic right?
For whatever reason, I have maintained my loyalty to the Golden State Warriors over the past 13 years—we have missed the playoffs longer than half my life. And I'm not going to lie: It hasn't been easy.
How did I survive all this time while most Bay Area fans jumped ship? I don t think there is any one answer to that question. Maybe I'm a masochist at heart who gets a thrill out of pain. Perhaps the classy play of Muggsy Bogues and Gilbert Arenas had something to do with it. Or maybe (and this is probably the real reason), I just can't get enough of Bay Area sports.
Either way, it's in the past. THE WARRIORS ARE IN THE PLAYOFFS—and it's time to celebrate.
But before we break open the champagne, we should perhaps answer a pertinent question: How were the fellas finally able to break away from their losing ways?
Something about this year's team was different from the very beginning—and it started with the coach.
When I got the news this past summer that Don Nelson was taking over for head coach Mike Montgomery, I was ecstatic. Not that I hated the old college coach who once taught me my fundamentals at Stanford basketball camp. But this was old Nellie we were talking about—a well-respected man, known for his small ball and crazy four-guard lineups.
It was 1994 when the Warriors were last in the playoffs. Bill Clinton wasn't even halfway through his first term as President and Tupac Shakur was still alive.
As for the Warriors, they finished an astounding 50-32. Things were looking good...until the Phoneix Suns swept them out of the first round of the playoffs.
All in all however, it was quite an accomplishment for one of the most notoriously terrible teams in the league. The mastermind behind it all?
None other than Don Nelson. Funny then, now that the Warriors are back in the playoffs, that Don Nelson is once again their head coach.
But Nellie isn't the only reason for the Warriors' turnaround.
This year's squad features an array of talent, starting with its leader Baron Davis. The former UCLA player and godfather of rapper The Game's son is an injury-prone power point guard who is considered to be one of the game's best when healthy.
The other man in the backcourt is Jason Richardson—a longtime Warrior whose athleticism and hops are nearly unmatched by anyone in the league. With JRich having won back-to-back dunk contests, everyone knew that the Richardson/Davis backcourt would result in a lot of SportsCenter top 10 highlights—and boy has it ever.
Adding to the mix are former first-round draft choices Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins, both of whom are younger than myself and in their second and third years in the league, respectively. And then there is Mickael Pietrus out of France, who with his great defensive skills is pretty much a poor man's Bruce Bowen.
All of which begs the question: With so much talent on the roster, why did it take so long just to make it to the playoffs?
For starters, both Ellis and Biedrins seriously stepped up their games this season. Both enjoying the first significant playing time of their careers, the two have flourished in Nellieball, and are both top contenders for the NBA's Most Improved Player award. And with Baron healthy for the majority of the year (at least by Baron Davis standards), a huge midseason trade for Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson, and a monster run at the end of the season, a playoff feeling erupted amongst Golden State fans.
Finally, after all these years, we no longer have to wait for playoff basketball by the Bay.
Let's also not forget to give credit to Chris Mullin for putting the pieces together. Mullin's decision to pull the trigger on trading Blue Devil bust Mike Dunleavy and Troy "Big Dumb Oaf" Murphy for Harrington and Jackson seemingly put the Warriors over the hump. It was Mullin who shook things up and turned things around in Oakland. And as far as I can see, there's nothing but upside in the franchise's future for years to come.
As for this year's first round matchup against the best team in the NBA?
Truth is, it really doesn't matter who wins—it's a series that I've waited 13 years to see.