Golden State Warriors: The Unfulfilled Legend of "Run TLCC"

Logic Johnson@@TheRealLogicJayContributor IIIFebruary 6, 2012

Perhaps some marriage counselling?
Perhaps some marriage counselling?

Remember the 1994-95 season? The emergence of the Orlando Magic... the Rockets' repeat... the return of Michael Jordan... What about the Golden State Warriors?

No? You are forgiven, of course, since they won 26 games that year and earned a one-way ticket to the lottery, generally making little to no waves in the league. That was the year the Warriors' current long-standing period of mediocrity began in earnest.

Of course, this came directly on the heels of an offseason chock full of promise and possibilities.

During the summer of 1994,  the Warriors were considered a budding contender in the Western Conference, and with good reason. They had just played an entire season without All-Star Tim Hardaway or sixth man extraordinaire Sarunas Marciulionis, on top of which Chris Mullin missed nearly half the season, and they still came out with 50 wins.

Why? Well, Chris Webber had just been named Rookie of the Year, and second-year man Latrell Sprewell had just been anointed Michael Jordan's replacement on the All-NBA first team, so that was pretty big. For a while going into the 1994-95 season, with people anticipating the healthy return of two-thirds of the former Run TMC to a team already in playoff contention, the Warriors were looking downright scary.

Imagine it's November 1994, and the Warriors have a starting five consisting of Hardaway, Sprewell, Mullin, Webber and Rony Seikaly.

Knowing only what one knew back then, this was the closest thing to a perfect lineup anybody could dream up: a high-octane, fast-break-friendly system with an All-Star quarterback, an All-NBA slasher (and second-team All-NBA defender), a legendary mid-to-long range shooter, a budding low-post superstar and an inventive, upper-crust pivot...

Pictured: the backcourt of the future, once upon a time...
Pictured: the backcourt of the future, once upon a time...

Put one of the maddest offensive scientists in the league (Don Nelson) at the wheel of this squad, and you had the makings of one of the most unguardable teams ever seen. Heck, after a year or two, we might have borne witness to the only team ever with four 20 PPG scorers...

So what happened? In a word, beef. Chris Webber beefed with Don Nelson over the latter's use of the former on the court, which led to Webber exercising an out clause in his contract, refusing to return to the team and being traded to Washington for pennies on the dollar (no disrespect to Tom Gugliotta.)

Even with Webber gone, there was still relative optimism for the future—that is, until Sprewell beefed with Nelson over the departures of good friends Webber and Billy Owens... and later, Tim Hardaway developed his own beef with Sprewell over God know what (contentious alpha status, anyone?), which would see him dealt to the Heat the following year.

Meanwhile, Chris Mullin continued to beef with his own body, as it became apparent it could simply no longer sustain the kind of play that made him an All-Star and a Dream Teamer. Marciulionis never found his way back into the lineup and went on to be a relative non-factor in Seattle.

Had the Warriors not endured such a seemingly perfect storm of internal chemistry and injury issues, they might very well have formed one of the most well-armed dreaded teams in the mid-90's (and perhaps all-time), perhaps making a run at those pesky Bulls along the way...

Had Webber's relationship with Nelson not deteriorated so darn fast, his stint in blue and yellow could have lasted more than a year. The worst part Warrior fans— I recommend you spare yourself the agony of reading this next part—is that Webbers' main complaint (i.e. being used out of position at center) was about to be fixed via the arrival of Seikaly. The pot simply boiled over a month or two early.

In turn, the Billy Owens trade—which was largely a snowball move following Webber's departure—never goes down, and your star shooting guard stays happy. This would have allowed the Warriors to carry over the momentum they had built in '93-94, which of course ended up dying before tipoff.

Even with Chris Mullin never quite being the same again, a team this dangerous would easily mask his deficiencies by highlighting the one thing he could still excel at, which of course was catch-and-shoot.

Next thing you know, the Warriors enter the '95 playoffs, most likely with home-court advantage. Does anyone see Tim Hardaway turning malcontent and leaving town a year later? Sure, the whole pecking order thing might never have gone away, but if there's one thing we've learned from Shaq and Kobe, it's that winning can hold things together quite nicely.

With all these pieces in place, it's hard not to picture Golden State among the mid-90's crop of Western powers alongside Seattle, Utah and San Antonio. Even with Mullin's career on a decidedly downward trajectory, the Warriors would have had a decent window where they were in the mix for a title—and all four stars might have found a way to stay off the "great career/no ring" list.

At the same time, who knows what the fates of Sacramento, New York and Miami would have been if these each of their eventual star players had stayed in the Bay Area...

Potentially good teams have been ruined by injuries and internal issues before, but in this case the potential was so great, and disaster came so fast from so many angles, that they stick out in this writer's memory as almost mythical in scope.

If only that first domino (Webber) hadn't fallen...

They could have not only carved a space out for themselves in the record books, but also served as living proof that it is possible to build a superteam the honest way. Truly, the "Run TLCC" years (as I gracelessly refer to them,) will go down as one of the greatest team eras ever to be over before it started.

Warriors fans, I'm sorry if I opened up an old wound with this one...