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Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony: A tribute to Sarunas Marciulionis

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Sarunas Marciulionis was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a trail blazer and stereotype-busting international basketball player, but Warriors fans will always remember him fondly for his role as a fearless sixth man during one of the best periods in the franchise's post-championship era (highlight video via NBA).

Former Golden State Warrior Sarunas Marciulionis said during his Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony speech that one of the things that were new to him upon coming to the U.S. was stat sheets - apparently stats weren't big in Lithuania.

And that's sort of fitting based on how I remember Marciulionis as a Warriors player.

Marciulionis became one of my favorite Warriors players as I was really starting to fall in love with the team as a kid. The lasting memories of him aren't even his more skillful moments but the plays reflecting the fearlessness with which he played the game, whether hustling for a loose ball or punishing the defense as he attacked the rim.

This was a time before basketball Twitter, Facebook, Friendster, a blogosphere, YouTube highlights, texts from friends or even dial-up service to get score updates by logging into Prodigy existed. While watching televised broadcasts, you were almost entirely dependent on being fed in-game statistics by the broadcasters - usually a quick rundown of points, rebounds, and assists. I don't remember exactly when we got cable, but Sportscenter highlights - or on-demand highlights of any kind - weren't even a major part of my fan experience growing up at all.

As someone who has never been a big consumer of sports radio, It was really just me, the game, and waiting for an industrious beat writer's story in the morning to get additional details and quotes - that sounds like a pretty simplistic nostalgia for childhood innocence even when typing it out, but the whole experience of the game and how anyone built community around the game was just very different. And I was a kid just figuring out that there was something really intriguing about NBA basketball.

Coming from that context, I never really remember Marciulionis for any of his statistical accomplishments - at that time, the energy and passion he brought to the court was just enough to impress a kid who was navigating a whole new world. But every time I look back on his numbers, I'm reminded of just how good he was as a key reserve for a playoff team.

Season

Age

Tm

Pos

G

PER

TS%

FTr

ORB%

DRB%

TRB%

USG%

1989-90

25

GSW

SG

75

15.5

0.62

0.72

5.6

8.2

7

20.5

1990-91

26

GSW

SG

50

16.3

0.58

0.67

5.7

7.5

6.6

22.2

1991-92

27

GSW

SG

72

18.8

0.61

0.52

3.6

7.1

5.4

24.9

1992-93

28

GSW

SF

30

20.4

0.62

0.65

5.3

7.6

6.5

24.3

4 seasons

GSW

227

17.6

0.61

0.62

4.8

7.6

6.2

23

Sarunas Marciulionis' statistics with the Golden State Warriors (via Basketball-Reference).

I guess it's fitting to remember him as a guy whose game wasn't about the statistics given the way he played, but it's hard to remember many Warriors reserve guards who had the tools to put up those kind of usage and efficiency numbers since then - Marciulionis was a perfect and rare blend of the passion that makes basketball to watch with the type of efficiency that contributes to success in terms of wins and losses. Even though he's one of the biggest throwbacks at a very different time in the league's history, it would be extremely difficult not to like a guy like that - that's before even appreciating what he meant on a global stage.

But fellow inductee David Stern mentioned in his speech that part of the experience of being a fan is about the somewhat blind support for one's team - while we all want to find ways to improve our team and argue about how good they are, there's something to the idea of imagining that our favorite players can compete with Clyde Drexler or Michael Jordan simply because that makes the investment seem worthwhile. It's not always supposed to be about coming up with rational defenses for why you should be able to like a player or wish that you could get some other player from someone else to increase the team's value - it's supposed to be fun. For me, guys like Marciulionis, Keith "Mister" Jennings and Chris Gatling - who came a bit after him - were just fun guys to root for because of how they played the game (and dapped up dudes after getting dunked on).

That was a pretty amazing time to be a Warriors fan, though a sort of unfortunate time to become one given what was on the horizon - with Marciulionis, Nellie, Chris Mullin, and Mitch Richmond all in the Hall of Fame (and Tim Hardaway not too far from it), the Run TMC years were something really, really special that I'm sort of glad I remember in a very innocent light. I don't have any particular reasons with which to defend Marciulionis becoming my favorite on a team that talented and my memory of him is very incomplete, but he sort of personifies the time when Warriors basketball was purely fun for me rather than agonizing or trying to permanently distance myself from two decades of agony by looking for the next big thing.