Good old Warriors had speed, quickness — like good new Warriors
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Art Spander in Clifford Ray, Rick Barry, Warriors, articles, basketball

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — They came to remember and to inspire, champions of another era returning to hear cheers, and also to be heard.

They are men whose collective success more than 40 years ago is displayed on a banner hanging high in Oracle Arena — adjacent to banners earned by others in recent years,

The old Warriors, men now in their 60s and 70s. Cliff Ray, Rick Barry and others were back, telling tales and taking stock. And to his credit, Steve Kerr, coach of the current Warriors, invited Ray to practice, where Cliff spoke not so much of the good old days but the good new days.

“It was great to have those guys at shoot-around,” said Kerr. “They came in and talked to our players.”

Barry, Ray, Butch Beard, Jamal Wilkes, George Johnson. Charles Dudley and assistant coach Joe Roberts then watched the current Warriors, behind Steph Curry’s 51 points, beat the Washington Wizards, who were the Washington Bullets when the Warriors swept them in the 1975 NBA finals.

It was a time for nostalgia, and for acknowledgment. The old Warriors — Barry now is 74, Beard 71, Ray 69 — enjoy the new Warriors, Steph and Kevin et al, as much as the loyal crowd at the Oracle does.

“We were built on speed and quickness,” said Dudley, the guard nicknamed Hopper, “and they’re doing the same thing. One thing different is we used 10 and 11 men.”

The main man was the 6-foot-7 Barry, a Hall of Famer who could pass, shoot, run and maybe most importantly talk. He had an opinion on everything. Still does.

Those ’75 Warriors staggered out of the semis against the Bulls in seven games — similar to the way the ‘18 Warriors made it past the Rockets in seven games.

Barry had been benched. “I think I was 3 for 14,” he said. “But with George and Cliff Ray in the middle, we held them scoreless for seven and a half minutes. I wanted to go back in, but to Al Attles' credit, he kept me on the bench. Why break up what’s working for you?”

Attles, the head coach, was not in attendance Wednesday night, a bit of irony perhaps.  

After defeating the Bulls in ’75, the Warriors had to play the Bullets. One East Coast paper called the Dubs the worst team ever to reach the finals.

After losing the first three games, the Bullets attempted to instigate a fight between Barry and the less-talented Mike Riordan. Attles, known affectionately as “The Destroyer,” bulled out to save his star and was ejected. Roberts took over, with an iron hand.

“Everybody on our bench was saying something,” Barry recalled. “Joe shut them up. He was coaching.”

The Bullets had won three of four from the Warriors during the regular season.

“But one game I had a sore knee,” said Barry. “Another I just had a lousy game. They said Riordan could guard me. He was shorter than me, and I was faster than him. We matched up well with the Bullets. Cliff Ray could bang Wes Unseld around, and Jamal played great defense on Elvin Hayes.”

Though Attles, 82 and not feeling well, was unable to attend, his son, Alvin, was there, announcing the Al Attles Center for Excellence, an academic program.

Coach Attles believed in using all his players. “That was one of our advantages,” said Dudley. “Our bench was always stronger. Other teams would get tired.”

Now they might get tired of hearing how the Warriors won the title.

“The most valuable player was Clifford Ray, not me,” said Barry, who was chosen for that award in the finals. “The leadership Cliff showed was the difference. He called a players-only meeting.

“We were like family. I love all these guys. We had so much fun. It was such a great experience.”

Winning usually is.

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