Top 5 All-Time Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors are one of the oldest teams in the NBA, and as such they’ve got one of the richer histories of any franchise in the league. They might not have as many championships as the Lakers or Celtics, but the number of Hall of Fame players they’ve put out is pretty staggering, too. There are plenty of excellent players on this list, but you know the drill at this point; only the best make the top five. And here they are:
#5 – Paul Arizin (1950-1952, 1954-1962)
What he did for the Warriors: Since the Warriors are such a storied franchise, there are bound to be some guys in the annals of their history that did a lot for the team, yet nobody’s ever heard of them. Arizin is probably the best of these players, even though it shouldn’t be quite so easy to forget a guy who averaged 22.8 points and 8.6 rebounds over the course of his 12-year career with the Warriors. He won a championship with the team in 1956, is the franchise’s all-time leader in free-throws made, and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. He was named to ten All-Star teams, four All-NBA teams, and led the league in scoring in 1952 and 1957. He was probably the second-best player of the Warriors’ Wilt Chamberlain era, which is a large shadow to reside in. Despite that, he’s one of the best players the franchise has ever had, regardless whether the general public remembers him or not.
Worth noting: Arizin was Philadelphia’s first pick in the 1950 draft, but this was at a time when teams were assigned picks. It was done territorially, so since Arizin played locally at Villanova University, he was selected by the pro team closest to him. That’s how he ended up with the Warriors for his 12-year NBA career.
#4 – Chris Mullin (1985-1997, 2000-2001)
What he did for the Warriors: Mullin only made five All-Star teams and four All-NBA teams, but he did so much for the Warriors over the course of his career that he was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame just this past April. His #17 isn’t retired just yet, but it will be soon, and that’s an appropriate homage for the franchise leader in steals and games played. He was a member of the 1992 Dream Team and has always sort of been considered the consummate Warrior. It took him a while to get into the Hall, but Warriors fans would’ve voted him in first ballot, and rightly so.
Worth noting: Mullin also worked as VP of Basketball Operations for a few years after retiring as a player, but that wasn’t exactly his calling. He is now an analyst for ESPN.
#3 – Nate Thurmond (1963-1974)
What he did for the Warriors: They didn’t call him “Nate the Great” for nothing. Early in his career, the Hall of Famer split a frontcourt with Wilt Chamberlain, but once Wilt left for the Sixers, Thurmond came into his own, averaging over 20 rpg from 1966-1968. His high-level rebounding abilities over the course of his career have placed him eighth all-time in total rebounds, and fifth all-time in rebounds per game. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that Thurmond is the franchise leader in total rebounds. He’s also the franchise leader in games played, as well as a five-time All-Defensive Team selection and seven-time NBA All-Star.
Worth noting: Thurmond was the first player ever to record a quadruple-double, but he did it as a member of the 1974 Chicago Bulls. He scored 22 points, hauled in 14 rebounds, dished out 13 assists, and swatted away 12 shots. It’s only been done three times since, and not at all since David Robinson last did it in 1994.
#2 – Rick Barry (1965-1967, 1972-1978)
What he did for the Warriors: Barry was one of the most enigmatic players in the history of the game, partly due to the fact that he shot his free-throws granny style (don’t knock it—he’s third all-time in free-throw percentage), and partly because of his decision to leave the NBA in 1967 to play in the ABA. That’s the explanation for the gap in his playing years with the Warriors, but he was equally great in both leagues.
Even missing those five years of NBA eligibility, Barry is still one of the best players in NBA history. For starters, he helped lead the Warriors to the 1975 title, where he was named the Finals MVP. During his career he led the league in various categories at different times, including field goals made (1967), steals (1975), and scoring (1967). He was an eight-time NBA All-Star (thought it could have potentially been 13), and he was also the Rookie of the Year his first season in the league. Some have called him the greatest pure small forward ever to have played.
Worth noting: Barry is the only player in history to lead the NCAA, ABA, and NBA in scoring for an individual season.
#1 – Wilt Chamberlain (1959-1965)
What he did for the Warriors: Neither of Chamberlain’s two rings came while playing for the Warriors, and most of us probably remember Wilt more for his tenures with the Sixers and Lakers. Still, Chamberlain’s 100-point game came while playing for the Warriors, and during his short time with the team he was named Rookie of the Year and MVP (both in the same season), and he was an All-Star and an All-NBA team selection all six years he was there. There’s no reason to list all the guy’s other records because we all understand that he holds a ridiculous amount of them, but few of those career stat records would’ve been possible without the great start in Philadelphia.
Worth noting: Chamberlain is one of only two players ever to have won the Rookie of the Year and the MVP trophies in the same year. Wes Unseld was the other one.
Neil Johnston (1951-1959)
What he did for the Warriors: It’s not often that the same player leads the league in scoring and rebounding in a given season, but that’s what Johnston did in 1954-1955. He also led the league in scoring in 1953 and 1954 and field goal percentage three separate times as well. The man had a nasty hook shot before such a thing was commonplace, hence the high shooting percentage. When the organization won its second championship in 1956, Johnston has a huge part of the reason why, and for that and the rest of his accomplishments he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame despite only playing eight years professionally.
Worth noting: After retiring from the Warriors because of ongoing issues with a bum knee, Johnston took over as coach and led the team to a 95-59 record during the first two seasons of Wilt Chamberlain’s career.
Joe Fulks (1946-1954)
What he did for the Warriors: Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, a man named Joe Fulks was the best player for the brand new Philadelphia Warriors of the BAA. The average hoops fan has probably never heard of the guy, but he’s a Hall of Famer and the key member of the 1947 Warriors championship team, one of only three the franchise has ever won. He led his league in points in 1947, points per game in ’47 and ’48, and was a two-time NBA All-Star. He was named to only one All-NBA team, but before the new league rose up he was also named to three All-BAA teams. He’s known mostly as a pure scorer, and his career accomplishments are certainly impressive. However, it’s hard to sneak him into the top five considering the competition at the time. The era wasn’t nearly as competitive as it was 20 years later, nor was the BAA as strong a league as the NBA.
Worth noting: When Fulks scored 63 points in a single game in February of 1949, it was then the most points that any player had ever scored in a game. It was a record that would hold up for ten years, until Elgin Baylor scored 64 in November of 1959.
Tim Hardaway (1989-1993, 1994-1996)
What he did for the Warriors: In his earlier days as a member of the Golden State Warriors, Tim Hardaway was easily among the most exciting point guards of his day. His killer crossover was a nasty, nasty move, and there’s no question he was an integral part of the famous “Run TMC” group that ran opponents during the early ‘90s. He was a three-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA selection, and is tenth all time in three-point field goals made. Had he played his whole career with Golden State, he’d probably be higher on the list, though many of the guys above him are Hall of Famers. That’s not a conversation Timmy is in, at least not yet.
Worth noting: Hardaway reached 5,000 points and 2,500 assists faster than anybody in NBA history other than Oscar Robertson.
And those are the best Warriors in franchise history, which has taken the team from Philadelphia to San Francisco to Oakland. In 65 years of existence, plenty of good players have come and gone, and while none of the guys on this list are particularly recent, an argument could be made for Baron Davis to appear on the honorable mention portion of this list. If not him, though, who? Are there any players on the current roster that could put themselves in this conversation someday?