By Leila N’Amara
After winning two NBA championships in the last three seasons the Golden State Warriors have become one of the most recognizable basketball teams across globe. In fact, Forbes ranks the Warriors as the 3rd most valued franchise in the NBA! Not too shabby for a team that went 40 years without a championship win.
But there’s more to this team than All-Star players (even though they are only the 8th team in NBA history to have four All-Stars in one team). Just looking at 2017 alone, the Golden State Warriors have made attention grabbing headlines for commenting on everything from medical marijuana to NFL players protesting police brutality. And an avalanche of headlines erupted after the 2017 NBA champs were uninvited to the White House via tweet.
Let’s take a look at three key figures that make this California basketball team so fascinating.
Let’s start from the top. Their coach, Steve Kerr. Before stepping foot onto the court as a coach, Kerr took home five NBA championships playing with the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs. And then two more championships as head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Making Kerr the first rookie coach to win a championship since 1982!
Kerr is uniquely positioned as, San Francisco Chronicle claims, “one of the most socially conscious coaches in sports.” Largely stemming from his family’s 100 year history in the Middle East. Kerr’s grandparents were American missionaries that left the US during WWI to work in the Middle East. Ultimately settling in Lebanon where they raised Kerr’s father, Malcom.
Looking back on his grandparents journey, in an interview with the New York Times, Kerr says,
“It’s an American story… it just seemed like a time when Americans were really helping around the world, and one of the reasons we were beloved was the amount of help we provided. I’m sort of nostalgic for that sort of perception.”
Kerr’s father went on to teach at UCLA for 20 years before returning to Lebanon. It was there that Kerr’s father became President of the American University of Beirut. At this time Lebanon was embroiled in a civil war, and the previous acting-president of the university had been kidnapped.
Two years into Malcolm Kerr’s tenure as President at the university, U.S. Marine Corps were a regular presence in Beirut — especially around the American Embassy. Unwittingly this made Kerr’s father, as NYT reporter Thomas Friedman puts it, “the most vulnerable prominent American in Lebanon and a choice target for militants trying to intimidate Americans into leaving.”
Then in 1984, as Malcom Kerr heading to his office after exiting an elevator, Steve Kerr’s father was shot twice in the back of the head by two religious extremists.
As a victim of terrorism, Kerr has used his experiences to speak out against the on-again/off-again travel ban, “you want to solve terror, you want to solve crime, this is not the way to do it” Kerr says in his recent interview the the NYT. Because of his life experiences Kerr is comfortable speaking out on some of the most controversial issues like gun control, Middle East policy and presidential politics that bastardize a protest against police brutality into a protest against our veterans.
The two-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion Draymond Green is the power forward for the Golden State Warriors. And when he’s not busy being crowned Defensive Player of the Year, Green is another Warrior unabashed when it comes to speaking out on issues he finds important.
Green made his own headlines earlier this year when he posted to Instagram his thoughts on retiring the term “owner”. Instead, urging people to use the term “chariman:. To which Mark Cuban, Chairman of the Dallas Mavericks, quipped that Green didn’t understand the concept of equity.
With all the headlines Green was generating, he was invited to Harvard University to speak at their Athletes as Leaders event where he defended himself, “every athlete has a right to speak out and it’s their responsibility if they want it to be.”
And to anyone who thinks an athlete should only offer commentary on sports, Green believes that argument is a bit two sided because, “a lot times people say that athletes shouldn’t speak politics. Well, I find that funny because everyone thinks they can speak basketball.”
Klay Thompson, one half of the Splash Brothers and a three-time NBA All-Star! In 2014 the Splash Brothers set a record for the most three-pointers in a season. But in 2017, his prowess on court helped raise well over a quarter of a million dollars!
California made it’s own national headlines in October as the state’s most deadly wildfire spread. Normally these wildfires ravage Southern and sometimes Central California. But this time, years into a historic state wide drought, Northern California’s iconic Wine Country began to go up in flames. Thompson, like many people living in the Bay is a recent transplant. And decided to find his own way to help the victims of the wildfires as ash continued to fall across the SF Bay.
“I’ve been here for seven years and I know a lot of people from the North Bay come to watch us play. A lot of them lost their homes and everything they had, even loved ones. I talk about wanting to be big in the community in the Bay Area, so this is a great step towards that. Any positivity you can bring on the world, it doesn’t matter if it affects one person or 100 people, it’s a great thing to do. It goes way beyond basketball.” Klay Thompson
You know that old saying, time is money? Well, for Klay Thompson, so are points. During a stretch of three home games Thompson pledged to donate $1,000 to fire relief efforts for every point he scored. Thompson encouraged fans to pledge their own amount for each point Thompson scored during the three games.
After scoring a total of 69 points, Thompson wasn’t satisfied with a $69,000 donations and upped his donation to a cool 75k. Raising a total of 350k for victims of the most devastating wildfires to strike California. That’s over 5k raised for each point made during those three games!
Even here at Dylan’s Tours we offered a hand to our neighbors to the north! Our superstar bike tour guide, Sam, raised over 5k on her own and shuttled goods all across Wine Country with a big smile (hidden under her air filter mask). And our namesake, Dylan himself, took his vacation property off the market so that a family who lost their home in the fires could have a roof over their head.
[Featured Image by David Yu via Flickr]