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The Ones That Left: Five players the Warriors let slip away

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In the aftermath of ex-Raider Khalil Mack ballin’ out after being traded from Oakland, GSoM mournfully remembers the stars that the Warriors couldn’t get the job done with.

Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Hornets Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It’s the best time to be a Golden State Warriors fan from the Bay. The growing dynasty keeps adding championships, parade routes, and future Hall-of-Famers every summer. Yet, the Warriors’ neighbors, the Oakland Raiders, can’t quite catch the same buzz. In fact, the Raiders fan base was rocked by the trade of budding superstar and former Defensive Player of The Year, Khalil Mack.

Of course, last Sunday in his first game as a newly minted Chicago Bear, he went absolutely berzerk, dominating in freakish fashion.

As a long-suffering fan of Oakland teams, I felt an all too familiar sickening pang in my belly that can only come from watching a star player/fan-favorite being unappreciated/undervalued and shipped out. I saw it happen with the Oakland A’s decade after decade (you can build a roster with Cooperstown plaques of players that got their start with the A’s but didn’t stay).

And I’m sure we can all remember how the old Warriors couldn’t keep talent; even if it literally fell right in their laps. In order to truly appreciate how the current ownership group is keeping this championship squad together, Nate P., Duby Dub Dubs, and I compiled a list of five of the best ballers the Warriors fumbled away.

Please enjoy our triple streams of consciousness.

Robert Parish, 1976-1980

Parish’s GSW averages: 13.8 pts, 9.5 rebs, 1.8 blks, 49% field goal percentage

Every single time I watched a Boston Celtics game as a kid with my dad, without fail, he’d mention that the Warriors once had Robert Parish, but traded him away. And not only did they trade Parish away, but they traded him AND the pick that became Kevin McHale for a guy named Joe “Barely Cares” — I literally didn’t know he had a real name as a kid.

I mean, this stuff pre-dates any of my basketball memories, but if you need a way to summarize the suffering of rooting for the pre-Steph Curry Warriors, trading away a pair of future Hall of Famers for a guy nicknamed “Barely Cares” is about as good as a microcosm as it gets.

There was always a sense from my dad that I was in the process of inheriting a legacy of failure by growing up a Warriors fan. My parents, both Virginians, met in Boston in the 1960’s and eventually made their way to California in the 1970’s after getting married. So my dad hadn’t missed the Warriors’ glory years — he made a point to get me a 1975 championship poster for my room when I was in high school — but he was well-versed in the Celtics. The Celtics, he made quite clear through this many re-tellings, would never do something crazy like trade Parrish AND McHale. These were the things that separated the good franchises from the side shows like the Warriors.

By relaying this tale of futility over and over again, it was almost as though my dad was deliberately conditioning me for decades of mediocrity as my basketball consciousness was in the early stages of its development. It’s almost as though he found it amusing that I was destined for decades of suffering — my dad was full of stories of glory and, by contrast, the Warriors were a joke that he was watching his son naively fall in love with.

My dad had already lost interest in the Warriors even as I tried to persuade them that there was hope to be found in getting a combo guard like Larry Hughes or that Nick Van Exel was at least exciting; Alzheimer’s denied us the opportunity to appreciate Steph Curry’s rise to greatness together. But I remain in awe of the fact that the team he constantly mocked — my inherited team — is now the team that embodies greatness.

Mitch Richmond, 1988-1991

Richmond’s GSW averages: 22.7 pts, 5.5 rebs, 3.4 asts, 48% field goal percentage (35% from downtown)

Similar to We Believe, what always stuns me about Run TMC is how short-lived the whole thing was. After missing the playoffs in Tim Hardaway’s (and Sarunas Marciulionis’!) rookie year despite a league-high 116.3 points per game, they fell in the second round to the mighty Los Angeles Lakers the next year.

Then it was over.

Looking back, I think it’s easy to appreciate what then-coach and general manager Don Nelson was looking for in trading Mitch Richmond for Billy Owens: he was very much looking for a player in the mold of Draymond Green. Unfortunately, Owens wasn’t even the version of Anthony Mason that Nelson eventually found with the New York Knicks and we were left to watch Richmond mature into a perennial All-Star in Sacramento.

I’ve always wondered what could’ve been had Run TMC stayed together even a couple more years given what we saw of prime Richmond. Every single Run TMC game at the Coliseum was exciting and having another pure scorer with a Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway could have eliminated any need to put our hopes and dreams on the shoulders of Webber.

Chris Webber, 1993-1994

Webber’s GSW averages: 17.9 pts, 9.1 rebs, 3.6 ast, 2.2 blocks, 55% shooting from the field, Rookie of the Year award

Chris Webber was the perfect fit for Nellie ball, and just so happened to play at our position of greatest need. The Webber trade hurt a little extra because not only was he good, he felt downright transcendent as he ushered in a new era of Warriors excellence...that lasted all of one damn season.

But that season was glorious! Run TMC was pretty much dead, but this was one of my favorite seasons in my early fandom. In just his second season with the team, Latrell Sprewell made the All-NBA First Team, and was selected to play in the All-Star Game. Paired with an aging but still effective Chris Mullin, we finally looked like we were going to climb out of the cellar with a legitimate Big 3 capable of providing a balanced and dynamic offense.

Unfortunately, Webber and head coach Don Nelson butted heads throughout the playoff run, leading to the trade of the young prodigy after his Rookie of the Year campaign. Ouch.

For a deep-dive on C-Webb’s Warriors tenure that’s as brilliant as it is heartbreaking, check out Nate P.’s masterpiece: “NBA Disappointments: The Wreckage Left By The Conflicted Legacy Of Chris Webber”. This quote from that piece pretty much sums it up:

“The promise of ending that search for a big man and becoming a perennial playoff team in the Western Conference was what made Webber’s presence so significant for fans; the conflict of a seemingly reluctant superstar who was headstrong enough not to be pushed around and being the prototypical Nellieball big man that Billy Owens wasn’t for a coach whose style was borrowed from Red Auerbach is what ultimately ruined it.”

Well said Nate, well said.

Jason Richardson, 2001-2007

Richardson’s GSW averages: 18.3 pts, 5.4 rebs, 3.2 asts, 43% field goal percentage (35% from downtown)

Back when the Warriors were horrible, basketball ended in April. The playoffs were like a bumpin’ night club on the Las Vegas strip during Memorial Day Weekend, and the Warriors were like a dude with no money, and no ladies... trying to get in at midnight.

They had no chance of getting in.

So, for long suffering Dub Nation fans, All-Star weekend was the only chance that the Warriors could remind the planet that they existed. That’s when “J-Rich” made the Bay proud when he won both the 2002 and 2003 Slam Dunk contests with Dominique Wilkins-esque displays of athletic prowess.

Miscast for most of his early Warriors career as a franchise-carrying, all-world shooting guard prototype of the Vince Carter/Kobe Bryant mode, J-Rich struggled to consistently generate high volume offense. Still, he carried the burden as best as he could, endearing himself to the fan base, despite the copious losing.

He was finally liberated from worrying about sustaining the offense when play-making point guard Baron Davis was brought on board in 2005. Suddenly, J-Rich was unleashed as a fearsome 3-and-D wing, terrorizing opponents in transition with Davis running the show. During the surprise playoff run of the “We Believe” era, Richardson’s emotionally fueled play symbolized Dub Nation’s undying faith in Oakland’s basketball team.

So of course, the Warriors promptly traded him that off-season to Charlotte for the draft rights to Brandan Wright. At the time, it was seen as a move to add size, and cut costs. Except, I immediately recognized it as a pretty dumb idea to trade the BEATING HEART OF THE FRANCHISE FOR A 200 POUND POWER FORWARD WITH NO JUMPER.

The Warriors wouldn’t make the playoffs against post J-Rich until the Splash Bros-era, and I say good riddance.

Baron Davis, 2005-2008

Davis’ GSW averages: 20.1 pts, 8.1 asts, 4.4 reb, 2.0 stls, 41% field goal percentage (32% from downtown)

“B-Diddy” was the visceral, beating heart of the We Believe team. When healthy, he could do it all on both ends of the court, and played with a sort of cocky aplomb that would make Steph Curry smile around his mouth guard.

The dunk over Andrei Kirilenko in the playoffs was a seminal moment for basically every fan that followed the team at that time. Sure, we got blasted out of the playoffs in that series, but after knocking off the #1 seeded Dallas Mavericks it felt like this was a team on the rise. The ownership broke the We Believe team apart in the following off-season, but we hung on to Davis and he served admirably as the face of our franchise and possibly inspired the modern “power beard” era in sports.

This was the first guy since the early 90’s that made people aware that Oakland had a professional team.

Unfortunately, he bolted on the Dubs after management declined to give him the long-term contract he craved. At the time, it was another crushing blow to Dub Nation. It felt like yet another moment the Warriors were too shortsighted to hold on to a transcendent talent. B-Diddy joined the Clippers, and the Warriors plunged into an irrelevance that wouldn’t be lifted until the Splash Bros-era a few years later.