Hard to believe I've been covering -- and some might suggest, hanging around -- the Golden State Warriors for almost 20 years now.
First season was back in 1994-95, the year Chris Webber was traded to the then-Washington Bullets for Tom Gugliotta and three draft picks.
Over that period, close to 200 players have worn the Warriors' uniform. Some had distinguished careers with the Warriors, and others didn't. Using my own criteria, here's a list of my starting five when it comes to the most favorite guys I've covered:
Guard: Mookie Blaylock. Few players were as misunderstood as Blaylock. By the time he got to the Warriors, he had 10 NBA seasons under his belt and already had experienced playoff success with the Atlanta Hawks. When he got to the Warriors in 1999, he saw the writing on the wall. He was a veteran on a young team, his winning days were over and he knew it. Still, I've never seen any Golden State point guard as effective defensively as Blaylock. And, oh, by the way, that time Blaylock blew off practice to go golfing in San Antonio the head coach at the time, Dave Cowens, had given players permission to bring their clubs on that trip.
Guard: B.J. Armstrong. Very few Warriors brought the kind of professionalism that Armstrong brought to the Warriors in 1995. I've never seen a player with a more rigid and comprehensive pregame routing. He arrived at the arena at the same time before every game, had a cup of coffee at the same time before every game and headed out for early shooting at the same time before every game. Off the court, he took care of his body, ate the right kinds of foods and got his rest.
Forward: Chris Mullin. Few players offered the kind of basketball insight that Mullin did, whether it was before games or after games. Mullin always had a way of pointing out something that most people -- particularly the media -- never saw or realized about a game or situation. Mullin also was the hardest-working player I've ever seen.
Forward: Clifford Robinson. He played only a season-and-a-half for the Warriors, but game after game he outplayed his opposite number over that time. Without a doubt, Robinson was the best defensive power forward the Warriors have had on their team in the past 20 years. My lingering memory of Robinson was him routinely shutting down a young Pao Gasol, who was playing for Memphis.
Center: Felton Spencer. He certainly wasn't the best center in Warriors history, but he might have been the most friendly and most classy. I cannot remember Spencer without a smile on his face, and no player ever supported his teammates anymore than Spencer.
Sixth man: Nick Van Exel. I have a soft spot for truth-tellers, and that's what Van Exel was. By the time he got to the Warriors, his best days were behind him -- and he never hid from that. He certainly wasn't a calming influence in the locker room -- or for coach Eric Musselman -- but he always had his reasons for what he did. And he'd share them if you asked him.