The end of the Golden State Warriors regular season in 2007 was the dramatic culmination of a We Believe adrenaline rush that landed the team in the playoffs for the first time in forever.
The Warriors had to win 9 of their last 10 games just to qualify for the eighth seed in 2007.
It was fun, it was exciting, and needing to have that extended run after a season that began looking typically disappointing (before the trade of the decade) just added to the rush.
Yet there was also sort of this feeling that none of it was sustainable, at least for pessimists like me, and that uncertainty left a feeling of anxiety (even before trading J-Rich). Contract problems loomed and drawing the Dallas Mavericks in that particular year was one of the luckier things that has happened in the past two decades: Don Nelson knew how to beat his former team and the Warriors had owned them in that season. So I sort of latched on to that We Believe run and enjoyed every single moment, having accepted long ago that success is not a guarantee in the NBA.
I don't really think anything can compare to that rush that has come to define this beleaguered franchise for the majority of sports fans and while I try to resist comparing that to this season it's sort of hard not to: it was the only other time since 1994 that the team has even made the playoffs.
As someone who has been a fan since the Run TMC days, this season hasn't been anywhere near the adrenaline rush that the We Believe season was. And that's probably a good thing: this year's team has established that they belong in the postseason and should probably expect to compete for a spot in the postseason for years to come. In a way, that's a more satisfying outcome.
Not to say that any of this was expected: at the beginning of this season I laughed when optimistic fans suggested the Warriors could get as high as the 6th seed in the Western Conference, especially given the expectation that Andrew Bogut wouldn't play more than 40 or so games.
My expectations were far below "playoffs": I gave Mark Jackson a pass on last season and just wanted to see progress in this season. And I almost think that once I saw that progress I was almost satisfied: once it was clear we could compete with the Clippers, beat the Heat, and steal one against OKC I was happy; to have three rookies contribute to the process, no matter what their flaws, is gravy.
Playoffs? I'm honestly just happy to be there this year after the decades of losing we've endured as fans. And in that I'd argue that the franchise is ahead of schedule, I'm already just sort of more excited about what the future holds than what's going on in the present.
But that brings us to tonight. Tonight's game in Portland is important. From the NBA.com playoff forecast:
GOLDEN STATE: They can clinch the No. 6 spot by winning their season finale in Portland on April 17. But if they lose and the No. 7-seeded Rockets win their season finale against the Lakers, Golden State loses the tiebreaker with Houston and falls to No. 7 in the West.
I do want the sixth seed. I don't want to be forced to watch the San Antonio Warriors Killers in the first round at Oracle Arena. At the same time, insofar as the Warriors have gone from needing to tank just to keep a mid-lottery pick to a franchise that finally looks to be functional and stable, this season is a resounding success win or lose tonight.
This is what happens when you suffer through years of losing: you learn to just be content with small victories and hope that the team can slowly build upon them.
But the thing that I think is most satisfying is that we, as fans, have a legitimate future to look forward to that doesn't hinge on waiting for the next big thing in the lottery to take us to the promised land. This is a well-constructed team that has shown themselves to be resilient and still peaking. And it's not at all an exaggeration to say we haven't enjoyed that feeling in years.