I’ve never seen a number retirement ceremony go badly before.
I have now. Chris Mullin was having his number retired by the Golden State Warriors Monday night, but when owner Joe Lacob took the microphone — right after Mullin — fans unleashed a torrent of boos. You can see it in the video above.
Why? Apparently for some it is the Monta Ellis trade for Andrew Bogut, a move disliked by many fans in the Bay Area. Ellis was popular — scorers always are — and there is a sense that if they had to trade him they could have done better, that this was a sideways trade. At best.
But other people — such as Bay Area resident Eric Freeman of Ball Don’t Lie and The Classical — noted frustration from Warriors fans runs much deeper than just the deadline deal. They have issues such as Lacob promising change that the fans have yet to see (and fans are frustrated with the state of the franchise from far before this ownership, this team has gone to the playoffs once in the last 18 seasons). Or the feeling Lacob inserted himself into this night when he should have taken a back seat. Or Lacobs’s plans to move the team to a new, yet-to-be-built arena in San Francisco (they currently play across the bridge in Oakland). Besides, fans boo owners. There are maybe five in the NBA that if they stood at center court would not hear boos from the fans.
Lacob (and partner Joe Guber) purchased the Warriors last year and have spoke openly about changing the culture of a franchise. One of the things Lacob did change was bringing Mullin back into the fold of a franchise where he had been frozen out.
Watch the video above. When Lacob took the microphone to speak, he had to wait for the boos to subside. When he did speak the first thing he did was say, “now that we’ve got that out of the way…”
But the fans were not done and continued to boo through Lacob trying to talk about the new ownership embracing history. It got to the point that Mullin himself cane out and tried to calm the situation by saying that, “sometimes change is inevitable but it’s going to work out just fine.”
The boos did not stop, and the situation was exacerbated by Rick Barry taking his turn at the microphone to play the stern father and reprimand the fans for their treatment of Lacob and the timing. That was just gasoline on the fire.
After the game, Lacob said this to Marc Spears of Yahoo (via twitter):
“The fans are upset I guess that we traded one of our favorites. That’s all I can attribute that to. What I feel bad about is… they kind of ruined a night that was very special. The organization really tried to do the right thing with Chris.”
Fans can be frustrated with Lacob and Warriors ownership. But he’s right about the timing. Rather than talking more about Mullin and his fantastic Hall of Fame career, we are talking about the boos. That will be the story. This is what Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement will be remembered for. Which is too bad.