Why 21 is a magic number for the Warriors


From 1998-2002, the Warriors won no more than 21 games in a single season. Here’s to passing that mark in early December.

By Andrew Pridgen

For those of us who choose to remember the late-’90s, we recall a number of things that in hindsight seem like guilty pleasures: Britney Spears and Christina Aguliera as pre-op jail bait. A poster of Lance Bass in a turtleneck was appropriate decor for any boys’ or girls’ room. The Beckhams were merely teenagers (with their actual teeth) in love instead of this. Reality TV was limited to an hour a week on an island with Jeff Probst and a tiki torch. Bill Murray was Bill Murray instead of Bill Murray emeritus. Texting was something elementary science book writers did. Google was not yet a verb. And a share of Apple stock cost less than a grande drip at Starbucks.

And, for a quartet of seasons (1998-2002), the Golden State Warriors never won more than 21 games.

Twenty one: The exact number they matched in Toronto Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015.

The only appointment basketball at the arena during that stretch was the 2000 NBA All-Star game. Oakland threw in its color contacts, whitened its teeth and frosted its tips for a weekend of dancing floor spotlights. Pink performed at the rookie game. Shaq and Vince Carter came in as the leading vote-getters. AI, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett—then representing the NBA’s luminous future right in time for a new millennium—showed the home crowd a glimpse of what they were missing 80ish games a year.

The Warriors of that day were mere cardboard cut-outs. Knocked-over pylons in everyone else’s way on the road to playoff berths. A somnolent stop-over between LA and Seattle. Cleverly coined extras right out of Semi-Pro central casting they were: Who can forget Globetrotter-esque backcourt antics of Mookie Blaylock (the only NBA player in history who shared a name with Pearl Jam), Corie Blount and Chucky Brown? There was no substitute for the clown princes of shoot-arounds Vonteego Cummings and Bill Curly. Want disappointing draft picks whose names sound similar to your State Farm agent? We got ‘em: Danny Fortson, Larry Hughes, Randy Livingston and Chris Mills.

This was also the waning days of the Chris Mullin Administration. For a moment, Antawn Jamison looked like he might eventually own up to the fact that the Warriors drafted Vince Carter a pick after him, then swapped with Toronto. And Adonal Foyle, well, he wrote children’s books in his spare time.

Fast forward a decade and a half and the Warriors are the look and feel of basketball of the new millennium. Those other guys, just place holders as it turns out. It’s as if the post-Jordan era only exists in a pile of really ugly sneaks in the back of your closet. To borrow from the inimitable Jim Murray, what the Warriors are currently doing is making a shambles of the game of basketball, laying waste to the landscape. They are as unstoppable as tomorrow. They’ve got more Instagram followers than five of the six Kardashians combined—yes, including Rob. They sell more jerseys than eBay and they get more Facebook likes this time of year than the Kuzma kids opening their Nintendo 64 (sorry, they just get me every time).

Now it’s the other 29 NBA teams lining up like infantry; drone-stricken innocents at a Yemen wedding reception.

Even on off nights on the road (see: victory no. 21 in Canada) the Warriors still look like they’re playing with the good controller. They create shots. They heat up the stove and points bounce out of the pot like popcorn. The product the rest of the league puts out seems stultifying in comparison. Members of the other squads are standing around the train station in socks and Tevas waiting for the Warriors to change their currency.

Remember the low post? Remember NEEDING one or two big men to relax in the paint and asking anyone within earshot who wants to “sex” (verb) them in the third person? It’s like everything to this point has been prologue and at the same time retroactively denigrated.

I remember a lot of unrest at the arena from 1998-2000. There was more action in the concession line. Better assists at the bathroom hand blower. Now it’s 21-0 as Curry and co. aim for greatness international.

When the day comes this season that they do fall, remember how in 21 games they’ve given us a half-decade worth of turn-of-the-century Warrior highlights. Remember how they’ve vanquished memories of that time while fulfilling the promise of it.