I am standing in line waiting to buy my lunch with a questionable pre-packaged sandwich in one hand and a bottle of water in the other when someone taps my shoulder "...you're a basketball fan?".
I live in the United Kingdom, Scotland to be precise (Braveheart, Shrek, Sean Connery, that place). And although the game is growing over here it's followers are still in the minority. The one bonus from this is that there's very few casual fans, basketball has such a small following here that if you're into it, you're into it. There is little room for half measures. So naturally when you come across a stranger who is also a die hard basketball fan there's a feeling of joy. Almost like being part of a secret club. Sometimes it's just passing someone in the street who is wearing an NBA cap or t-shirt and subtly nodding in acknowledgement as if to say "I know".
I know what it's like to get up at 3am just to watch the games live only to walk into work the next day in a coma of self pity and fatigue after your team was blown out.
I know what it's like to tune in to a game featuring two of the worst teams in the league with a feeling of excitement purely because it's an early tip off at 11pm, may we be thankful for East coast games.
I know what it's like to root against overtime so you can make it into work for 9am or at least catch a couple of hours sleep before a later shift.
I know what it's like to try and explain to people from the area your favourite team is based that you genuinely love them as much as they do even if you're living on the other side of the world.
And I definitely know what it's like to take to social media, forums and blogs just to find like minded individuals to converse with, I'm fortunate that I have a handful of friends who follow the sport and have even managed to convert a few of my coworkers. But for some it can be difficult to love a sport which very few people you know will be willing to have discussions about.
So when the guy standing behind me in that line tapped my shoulder and asked if I'm a basketball fan I already knew what he was feeling, occasionally you will find people wearing Brooklyn Nets merchandise (especially caps) as a fashion statement. Same deal with the Lakers. But a Warriors t-shirt? Nobody is looking to make a fashion statement with that.
I replied simply, "Aye" (which means yes in our crazy Scottish world).
An excited exchange of the current hot topics ensued. Cavaliers winning the championship, the retirement of Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant then eventually KD to the Warriors. Which lead to the inevitable, the same question I hear all the time from British NBA fans; Why the Warriors?
It's difficult to explain because I don't remember the exact moment I thought "this is it, they're my team". In my experience most NBA fans over here support one of four teams. The Lakers, Orlando, the Knicks and whoever LeBron is playing for.
The Lakers are due in the most part to Kobe (at least for my generation). We have no geographical way of deciding who to root for, there is no home team. So normally people just go with whichever team their favourite player is signed to. And Kobe was a very common choice for favourite player, this also explains any Miami or Cleveland fans you bump into. The Knicks and Orlando see a good amount of followers over here due in a large part to tourism. When British people visit America the three places most will go to are Orlando (It's warm plus it has Disney World), New York (it's New York) and Las Vegas (we love to sin). So naturally people gravitate towards professional teams in the places that they visited as kids.
Growing up I didn't want to support the same team everyone else did. I was a bit of a non-conformist in some ways so that played a part. Long before the Warriors, when I was really young, I followed Orlando and San Antonio. I wouldn't classify myself as a fan of either but my mum was a huge fan of Shaq in Orlando plus we had close family friends over there (the type you refer to as Aunties and Cousins even if they're not blood relatives). As a matter of fact they sent me over my first ever NBA jersey. It was a Darrell Armstrong jersey which I still have in my parents attic somewhere. The Spurs were my mums pick, she loved watching them play especially Tim "Mr Fundamentals" Duncan. There was also some love for Chicago because as a kid Space Jam was probably the first time I was exposed to the NBA on any sort of level. I also had a bunch of Kings merch from family (blood relatives this time) who live in Sacramento.
Suffice to say I didn't really have a team, I just liked basketball. And in fact it's not uncommon over here to bump into people who love playing basketball but know nothing about the NBA, especially the older generation as very few games were aired over here, if any. The only basketball my dad knew of growing up was the Harlem Globetrotters because they were on TV.
It was some time in the mid-noughties when I started taking notice of the Warriors or more specifically J-Rich and Boom Dizzle. I'm not sure but I think it might have been 2k or NBA Live video games that first got me interested in them oddly enough. The name "Warriors" seemed pretty cool to my adolescent self and I've always been a sucker for an underdog. I didn't become a Warriors fan at that point but I did become a casual follower of sorts. As much as it pains me to admit (as it implies a certain amount of bandwagon), it was probably the We Believe season that turned me from a casual follower into a full fledged fan. I figure there's a statute of limitations for bandwagon fans, I mean are people who latched onto the Lakers during the showtime era still classed as bandwagon fans? Maybe the fact that I was following them a couple years before that We Believe season along with the influx of new bandwagon fans from 2015 can let me off the hook? Haha.
I longed for Nellie ball to work, it didn't. I looked on as Kobe seemingly dominated the league, I envied 7SOL Suns, I watched Duncan and the Spurs in awe as they won game after game. But I never switched my allegiance. To be frank I always wanted us to mimic the Spurs offense, I loved watching them play almost as much as I hated watching the Warriors lose. It's crazy to me that we not only mimicked some of their offense but have now (in my opinion) completely surpassed it. I never saw that coming at all. I never saw any of this coming. The championship, the unanimous MVP, the best start to a season on record, the 73 wins, any of it. You would only have to go back to 2013 to find a point in time where I would have traded a limb to see the Warriors do what they've done in the last two years.
At the end of the day I'm not sure on the exact moment I pledged my allegiance to Dub Nation. All I know is I'm glad that I did and no matter what happens next I'll be sure to enjoy the ride. Because as we all know we've never had it this good and we might never again.
So what about the rest of you? How did you begin backing this team?
Why the Warriors?