I remember hearing on a podcast a couple of years ago that Jack McCallum was working on a book that had something to do with the Golden State Warriors. Instantly my curiosity was piqued and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. McCallum has written for Sports Illustrated for decades, mainly covering the NBA, and also authored noteworthy books like Dream Team and :07 Seconds or Less. In this newest book he examines the connections between the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers and the modern day Golden State Warriors, with Jerry West acting as a connector. Golden Days: West’s Lakers, Steph’s Warriors, and the California Dreamers Who Reinvented Basketball is that new book, and it definitely lived up to my lofty expectations.
The format of the book is basically alternating chapters between the two teams, which is an editing choice I found to be perfect one. Both teams are talked about in detail and we really get to know the characters around each squad. Jerry West is clearly examined with the finest detail but there are also great passages about Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Happy Hairston. On the Warriors side, it appears that Steve Kerr gave McCallum the most time and he is quoted quite a bit throughout the pages. McCallum also seems to be very interested in Steph Curry and the phenomenon that followed his rise.
Since West was the only person to be directly involved in both teams, the book sometimes acts as his biography, even though McCallum actually makes references to West’s actual bios. To pigeon hole the book as that though would be folly. It really does dive deep into each team and what made them so special. For the ’72 Lakers it was their unbelievable 33-game winning streak that started within 24 hours of Baylor leaving the team. One chapter is a game-by-game rundown of the streak that I found really fascinating. For the Warriors, McCallum uses the post Kerr hiring, mini era as the place to mine for the most stories. We definitely hear about guys like Draymond Green and Klay Thompson but also from peripheral figures such as assistant coach Ron Adams.
Even as I write this, it is kind of hard to totally describe what this book is about, but I absolutely loved it. For someone who is into the history of the game, it has you covered, but it also presents lots of new information on the current “it team”. I admire something about a book that can both give knowledge of how good Gail Goodrich was and also talk about the Kevin Durant signing in an original way. NBA fans of any kind; you need to read this book.