By diving into Steph Curry’s legs, causing a foot injury that may keep him out until the playoffs and beyond, the Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart has ensured his place in the great pantheon of Golden State Warriors’ villains. Look, maybe knocking out Curry could be considered accidental - just playing hard! - except that Smart followed it up by jump kicking Klay Thompson seconds later, a move so crazy that the refs knew it was a flagrant foul immediately, but went to video review just so they could watch the bizarre spectacle again. Who else is in the Pantheon? Let’s review the motley crew.
Mike Riordan (inducted 1975): The Washington Wizards were down 3 games to none in the 1975 NBA Finals, and they had no answer for Rick Barry. So Mike Riordan decided to try to get Barry ejected by grabbing and hitting him and suckering him into a fight. But Warriors’ coach Al Attles saw what Riordan was doing, and he was having none of it. Despite standing only six feet tall, Attles was always one of the NBA’s most fearsome fighters, and he immediately went after Riordan, and then the Bullets’ 6’7”, 245-pound Wes Unseld. Attles was ejected but Barry stayed in the game, and the Warriors completed a Finals sweep.
Joe Barry Carroll: It’s a little unfair that J.B. Carroll will forever be associated with one of the worst trades in NBA history, when the Warriors traded future Hall of Famer Robert Parish and the third pick in the 1980 NBA draft - which became Hall of Famer Kevin McHale - to the Celtics for the No. 1 pick (Carroll) and the No. 13 pick (center Rickey Brown, who doesn’t get blamed for any of this). And Carroll wasn’t even a bust! He averaged 18.9 points and 9.3 rebounds as a rookie, and in his third year, he scored 24.1 points per game. But he wasn’t Parish or McHale, who won titles in 1981, ‘84, and ‘86 for Boston. Carroll became the scapegoat due to his perceived lack of effort, called Joe “Barely Cares,” even when he made the All-Star team. In hindsight, fans should have been angrier that the team gave away future scoring champ Bernard King for 33 games of Micheal Ray Richardson.
Chris Webber: It doesn’t matter that Webber eventually came back. After the Warriors traded Penny Hardaway and three first-round picks for the Michigan star, he won Rookie of the Year, averaging 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds for a 50-32 team that was missing All-Star point guard Tim Hardaway. Webber even had his own Nike commercial with teammate Latrell Sprewell where they bragged about his dunk on Charles Barkley (Barkley responded by scoring 37 points per game in a first round sweep of Golden State).
With 20-year-old Webber and the 23-year-old Sprewell alongside Hardaway and Chris Mullin, the future looked very bright. But, unsatisfied with Coach Don Nelson, Webber used an opt-out clause in his contract to force his way out of town. (Webber signed a 15-year contract with an out after one year - rookie contracts used to be wild) Suddenly, instead of a young phenom big man, the Warriors had Tom Gugliotta and three first round picks, which they not-so-shrewdly turned into Todd Fuller, Antawn Jamison, and, six years later, Larry Hughes. Googs turned into Donyell Marshall, and the emerging dynasty turned into a 26-win team that would miss the playoffs for the next 13 years. A washed-up Webber returned in 2008, and the team had to put his picture on the scoreboard alongside recently-traded Jason Richardson so the crowd wouldn’t boo him. Webber was terrible in his nine games, and the 48-34 Warriors missed the playoffs.
Chris Cohan: The Webber-Nelson saga was mishandled by new owner Chris Cohan, a cable company mogul and minority owner who had sued his way into majority control of the Warriors in 1994. Cohan didn’t know anything about basketball, but he did know how to sue people! In 2002, the SF Chronicle’s Mark Fainaru-Wada wrote, “In the past five years, Cohan has taken to court his stockbroker, life insurance representative and main attorney — all three longtime friends, two of whom were in his wedding.” Cohan regularly shafted Alameda County for facility fees and revenues, preferring to go to court rather than pay his bills. He sued former coaches Nelson and Rick Adelman after firing them (Cohan lost). He fought the concessions union, season ticket holders, the vendors who made courtside signs, his own friends, and anyone who mentioned that he graduated with a degree in PE, rather than the business degree he claimed.
And the team lost and lost. In his 16 seasons as team owner, the team had a winning record twice, and made the playoffs once. Six weeks after he assumed control of the team, he orchestrated the Webber-for-Gugliotta swap. He shipped Tim Hardaway out of town, passed on Kobe Bryant in favor of Todd Fuller, and berated coaches and employees. When the Warriors played a season in San Jose while the Oakland Arena was being renovated in 1995-96, Cohan forced season ticket holders to pony up for tickets 40 miles away in order to keep their tickets (The Warriors dropped to 4,000 season ticket holders by 1997). When the Warriors hosted the All-Star Game in 2000, fans booed Cohan off the court.
Latrell Sprewell: Was Latrell Sprewell the lone bright spot for the Warriors in the mid-90s? Without a doubt. But was he a bad guy? Also without a doubt. In his second season, 1993-94, Sprewell was first team all-NBA, and he also fought one of his teammates during a game. Sprewell led a mutiny in 1994 against coach Don Nelson, protesting the trade of Billy Owens, of all people. In 1995, he fought with Jerome Kersey in practice, brandished a 2x4, and threatened to return with a gun. That same year, he used racial slurs against an Asian-American police officer after he was pulled over for speeding and driving with a suspended license. He raised pit bulls, one of which bit off his four-year-old daughter’s ear. In 1998, Sprewell spent three months under house arrest after running a driver off the road in a road rage incident. And of course, he choked Coach P.J. Carlesimo at practice in 1997, threatened to kill him, and then returned 20 minutes later to attack him again. Carlesimo’s crime? He told Sprewell to “Put a little mustard” on his passes, which led Latrell to choke slam him to the ground. But to Sprewell, what was the big deal? “I wasn’t choking P.J. that hard,” Sprewell told 60 Minutes. “I mean, he could breathe.”
Since he was traded away from the Warriors, Sprewell of course found immediate success with the Knicks, leading them to the 1999 Finals. The Knicks fined him $250,000 in 2002, when he lied to the team about his broken hand, suffered when he tried to punch a guest on his yacht and hit the wall instead.
P.J. Carlesimo: Is it Peter John Carlesimo’s fault that Sprewell choked him? No, but just look at that face and say you don’t want to choke him, just a little bit.
Gilbert Arenas (The Rule): The Warriors got a steal when Arizona’s Gilbert Arenas fell to them in the second round of the 2001 draft. Arenas quickly emerged as a star his second season, starting all 82 games and winning the Most Improved Player award. And he was only 21! Of course, that just meant that he was a hot free agent commodity, and the Warriors, somehow over the salary cap despite being a 38-win team that hadn’t made the playoffs in nine years, couldn’t re-sign him. Arenas left for a six-year deal in Washington, while the NBA recognized the unfairness of the Warriors being punished for finding a gem in round two, and created the “Gilbert Arenas Rule,” which allowed teams a salary cap exception to sign their own second-rounders. Of course, that was too late to help the Warriors, who started Speedy Claxton and an aging Nick Van Exel at point guard the next season on their way to 37 wins.
Robert Rowell: As Chris Cohan’s right-hand man, Robert “Bobby” Rowell did the dirty work for his boss, running the team with an iron fist and running GM Chris Mullin out of town. He was generally unpleasant on a personal level, but also unethical, reneging on a contract extension for Baron Davis, and then bizarrely handing 30-year-old Stephen Jackson a three-year max extension, despite him having two years remaining on his deal. Within a year, Jackson had demanded a trade, which ushered in the ignominious Vladimir Radmanovic era, and the contract was so toxic that the Warriors had to take it back as part of the Andrew Bogut trade three years later.
Monta Ellis’ Motorcycle
In the proud tradition of Bay Area athletes, from Jeff Kent to Madison Bumgarner, Monta Ellis hurt himself in 2008 when he crashed his motorcycle, just one month after signing a six-year, $66 million contract extension. Look, it’s not a good omen the contract terms spell out 6-6-6, the “Number of the Beast” from the Book of Revelations. Like Kent, who claimed he’d hurt himself while “washing his truck,” not from doing wheelies in spring training, Ellis initially lied and said he’d hurt himself in a workout, and the Warriors subsequently suspended him without pay for 30 games. He missed three months and would only play 25 games total in the 2009 season, when the Warriors won just 29 games. The silver lining is that the Warriors were bad enough to end up in the draft lottery, where they selected a diminutive Davidson guard named Steph Curry, so maybe that motorcycle is a hero?
Domantas Motiejunas’ Sweaty Body
Steph Curry hurt his ankle in Game One of the Warriors’ first-round series against the Houston Rockets, but returned for Game Four, with the Warriors leading 2 games to 1. Second before halftime, Houston’s Donatas Motijunas stumbled, seemingly tripped by the logo at mid court, and slid across the floor. When Curry hit the wet spot created by Motiejunas’ sweat-drenched body, he went down, spraining his MCL. He was out for two weeks, and wasn’t ever quite the same in the remainder of the playoffs, as the 73-9 Warriors slipped and slid out of the NBA Finals.
J.R. Smith would simply be a rival of the Warriors had he not injured Andrew Bogut in the 2016 Finals in a phenomenally dirty play.
Bogut blocks Smith’s shot, but somehow J.R.’s shoulder crashes into Bogut’s knee, a play that never, ever happens in basketball - except when a desperate player wants to knock out the opposing team’s center because his team is down 3-1 in a series. With all the talk about Draymond Green and LeBron James’ nether regions, this is by far a dirtier play, and directly led to Cavaliers sleeper agent Anderson Varejao playing important minutes in an elimination game. J.R. did make up for it in 2018 by forgetting what the score was during Game One of the Finals and making LeBron James so mad that the King pretended he’d broken his hand after the Warriors swept.
The Free Throw Line
Not only did the free throw line betray the We Believe Warriors during their second-round loss to the Utah Jazz, when they missed three free throws in the final 16 seconds of regulation in Game 2, or when Richard Jefferson bricked two free throws down the stretch of the 2013 Warriors’ Game One loss to the Spurs, the free throw line ruined the career of Andris Biedrins. In 2009, Biedrins was a promising 22-year-old big man who’d just averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds per game. He wasn’t a good free throw shooter by any means, but he wasn’t that bad. Until 2009-10, when he shot 16% for the season. He “improved” to 34% the next year, but was back down to 11% in 2011-12, which effectively made him unplayable, to the point that the Warriors had to trade four draft picks just to get rid of him.
Yes, Mark Jackson was the coach when the Warriors finally became respectable in the 2012-13 season, and yes, he was correct when he called Steph Curry and Klay Thompson the greatest shooting backcourt of all time. But Jackson’s tenure as Warriors head coach was truly bizarre. He had to call the FBI when he was extorted by a stripper, made Festus Ezeli cry by lying to the team and telling them Festus was cheering against them. He also played Curry every minute of an overtime playoff game, fought with his assistants to the point that one was fired for wiretapping, streamed church services in the locker room, made anti-gay remarks, and forced Curry to anoint his injured ankle with oil at his church. The team also won 16 more games the year after he was let go.
But Jackson’s on this list because of what he’s like as a broadcaster. ABC has stuck with the toxic twosome of Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy, so they can bicker between Van Gundy’s rants about leftovers and kids today, and Jackson’s repetition of “Hand down, man down” and “Mama, there goes that man.” But when Jackson announces Warriors games, he can’t let go of his bitterness at the team getting rid of him. Watching a Finals game between 2015-19 was like letting an angry ex-girlfriend narrate your wedding night. Jackson clearly roots against his old squad while also remaining desperate for credit in getting a wildly talented collection of players all the way to the first round in 2014.
Chris Paul, LeBron James, James Harden, etc.
As bitter as Warriors fans feelings are towards these Banana Boaters and floppers, they fall into the category of “rivals,” because they’re purely annoying, not just loathsome. Yes, LeBron making Halloween decorations mocking the Warriors and refusing to shake hands are annoying, but he’s LeBron! There’s too much respect there. Same with Chris Paul, an inveterate flopper but also one of the great point guards of all time. As for Harden, his game is terrible to watch, but he always loses to the Warriors, so how villainous can he truly be?
A late addition to the list, Kogut earned his place by handing a game to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2019 with a series of terrible calls that led Curry to call him “the real MVP” after the loss. He also ejected Draymond Green Sunday night with two technical fouls in eight game seconds. We’re not accusing him of anything untoward, but the Warriors are 19-23 in games he’s officiated since 2009, despite winning 60% of their games overall. Did someone chant “DON-A-GHY” at him Sunday night at the Chase Center? Yes. Was it me? Also yes.
Mike Dunleavy Junior
Mike Dunleavy Junior was, in part, a victim of the Warriors’ bad lottery luck. The Warriors had the worst record in the league in 2001-02, but they lost out on big man Yao Ming when the Rockets jumped passed them and left the Warriors picking third, and getting Dunleavy. He was a shooter who never made threes until he left the Warriors, a guy who was supposed to be able to do anything on the floor but ended up being mediocre in all facets of the game. When the Warriors finally traded him away, the team took off and knocked off the 67-win Mavericks in the playoffs. Now that’s he’s back in the team’s front office, the curse has returned. Since 2018, it’s been a series of heartbreaks, devastating injuries to every position on the roster, and Kelly Oubre acquisitions. They need to get him out of the front office, and then sanitize and sage every room he’s ever been in and every object that he’s touched. But he did have one moment where the fans, for once, embraced him. The one time he showed passion as a Golden State Warrior, by getting ejected and taking off his shirt.