So, that didn’t go well.
What am I talking about, exactly? Only the most awkward number retirement ever in professional sports. In case you went to bed early Monday night, Warriors owner Joe Lacob was not-so-warmly received, to say the least, during the team’s retirement ceremony of Chris Mullin’s No. 17.
Toward the end of the commencement, Lacob grabbed the microphone to deliver a few remarks. But after Bay Area sports broadcasting veteran Greg Papa introduced the owner, a chorus of boos rained down on Lacob. And it wasn’t merely your typical “Booooooooo! We hate Brussels sprouts!” type of booing. It had a tone more of “BOOOOOOO!!!! JOE LACOB KILLS KITTENS!!!”
Lacob made his best attempt to get started with his speech, hoping it would cause the booing to subside. But the Warriors crowd was relentless. It was just an endless barrage. It was like waves crashing on shore and continually knocking over people trying to get out of the water. It got the point where an easygoing Mullin had to come in and rescue Lacob, asking the fans to use their “passion” in the right way. Didn’t work. Soon after, Warriors legend Rick Barry more sternly told to the crowd to “show some class.”
It was a PR nightmare. It was uncomfortable to witness. It felt like I was watching a substitute teacher struggling to control a rowdy classroom.
Here’s a play-by-play of what transpired. In italics, I’ve included what Lacob was probably thinking at that exact moment. Full video follows.
Lacob takes center stage. Boos start. Lacob rather flippantly shrugs his shoulders in disbelief.
Boo? What? OK, good joke, Warriors fans.
Mullin comes over for a hug, I guess to thank Lacob. Meanwhile, boos continue.
Heyyyyy, Mully! What’s up, sport? Wait, why are they still booing me?
Booing persists. Lacob starts to have a crossed look on his face, tries to get started.
Still? Really? OK, maybe I should just begin.
Lacob: “Now that we got that over with.” Begins his speech, stumbles on some of the words, obviously appears flustered. Pauses.
(Reading from cue card.) What’s that I hear? (Reading now distractedly from cue card. Reading even more distractedly.) OH MY GOD, STILL? Honestly, who do they think I am, Mike Dunleavy?
(Fast forwarding here) Mullin comes over to stand up for Lacob. Mullin, thinking the fans’ reaction is because of the Monta Ellis trade, tells them, “change is inevitable, it’s going to work out just fine.” Crowd cheers. Mullin gives the stage back to Lacob. Boos rise back up. Rick Barry now has a mic and starts to berate the fans. “(Lacob) is going to change this franchise. Seriously, this is crazy … Give him the respect he deserves.” Lacob now speeds up his speech.
I need to GTFO of here.
Introduces Mullin’s daughter to unveil her dad’s banner.
I need a little kid to hide behind.
Lacob and Mullin stand together, arms over each other’s shoulders, admiring Mullin’s number in the rafters.
Is it too late to trade back for Monta?
I’m still trying to grasp why Lacob even had to talk at all. He wasn’t the owner of the franchise when Mullin was playing. If a representative of the current team had to speak, it should have been Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who actually was a teammate of Mullin’s in the NBA and in college. (In fact, it’s interesting Jackson didn’t even get to take part in the ceremony at all. Instead, he was kept aside and watched from an uncelebrated spot on the Warriors’ bench.)
But it was obvious what Lacob was doing by being the one who spoke last. He wanted so desperately to be relevant. He wanted to come out of this looking like the good guy compared to the evil Chris Cohan ownership era that shunned Mullin after it fired him from his general manger post in 2009. (After all, Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber have made it a point to undo the wrongs Cohan left behind, Monday night being one of them, reconnecting with Mullin and doing something that should have been done 10 years ago.) But it all just backfired in his face.
It was a regrettable display by the fans. Warriors fans tried to clown Lacob and instead they clowned themselves.
Why did the Warriors faithful give him such a vicious reception? That’s something that might not be incredibly clear. Killing Thunder? Nah, that wasn’t his doing. The lockout? Can’t be; The NBA’s ugly labor dispute seems like such a distant memory now that the season is rocking and the playoffs are around the corner.
It’s gotta be the Warriors’ roster transactions of late. Trading away the ever-popular Monta Ellis came off to a lot of fans as the team waving a white flag. And with another season likely down the drain without a playoff appearance, after all the verbosity from the ownership and front office and coaches about how this was a team on the rise, this already tortured fan base simply feels like it was being led on.
Lacob should have expected this reaction (especially if his own fiancee was pissed at him).
Yes, Warriors fans have a right to express dissatisfaction with ownership. Send an email to the owners if you want to voice your frustrations. Vandalize the team’s Facebook page, if being a troll is your thing. But this wasn’t the venue for it. It completely took away from Mullin’s moment.
“What I feel bad about is it kind of ruined a night that was very special, that the organization really tried to do the right thing for with Chris,” Lacob said after the game.
“I’m not going to let a few boos get me down, and I don’t expect a few boos to get our team down. I think everybody has to stay tough, these are tough times, we’re going to go out there and we’re going to compete and we’re going to win.”
In the end, one of the proudest moments in Warriors history produced one of the lowest moments.
Maybe now Lacob has learned a valuable lesson in humility. Hopefully Warriors fans have, too.
(video via Warriors World)
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