David Lee: Farewell to a Fan Favorite


David Lee is now a member of the Boston Celtics after recently being traded by the Golden State Warriors, but he was a trailblazer.

Back in July 2010, Lee was signed and traded to the Warriors in a deal that sent Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf, Kelenna Azubuike, and a future second-round pick to the New York Knicks. Since it was a sign-and-trade, Lee had the chance to choose which team he wanted to sign with, and he chose the Warriors. He became the first big-name player (and All-Star) that wanted to sign with the Warriors in a long time.

He represented the first wave of change in the culture surrounding the Warriors, besides the Warriors drafting Stephen Curry in 2009. The first real phase of change would come about a week later when Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the team and promised bold moves and titles, but Lee set the pace for change when he chose the Warriors, in a time when that was far from a popular choice.

Lee chose the Warriors because of the intrigue of playing with Curry, the Warriors’ loyal fanbase, and the possibility for the team to win soon with a core of Curry, Monta Ellis, and Andris Biedrins. If Lee thought he could make the playoffs with that group of players, he must’ve been pleasantly surprised that even more winning and success was on the horizon.

In his time with the Warriors, Lee experienced much success. He recorded his second triple double in the 2011-12 season, he was named an All-Star for the second time in 2013 (which made him the Warriors’ first All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997), and he won an NBA championship in 2015.

In his five seasons with the Warriors, he averaged 16.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists on 51.3 percent shooting per game from the field. His best seasons were in the 2011-12 season, when he averaged 20.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, and in the 2012-13 season, when he averaged 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.

Lee’s impact on the Warriors went far beyond the basketball court though. The leadership and selflessness that Lee brought to the Warriors was unparalleled. Not only did the Warriors acquire an All-Star in July 2010, but they acquired a leader with high character, which they so desperately needed in the end of the Chris Cohan era and when Ellis was selfishly ruling the team.

Lee united a locker room, he helped out younger players, and he led with his voice and by example. He was active in the community and with several charities, made numerous charitable donations without asking for any credit or recognition, and he was a true example of the Franklin Roosevelt quote: “Great power involves great responsibility.”

As a professional athlete, Lee knew he had a platform to make a difference in the community, as seen in his work with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He didn’t make these donations and spend time doing community service because he had to or because it was good for his image. He did it because it was the right thing to do. That’s the type of character he had, and that’s the type of person and player that the Warriors needed to set the tone for their soon-to-be winning culture.

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When Lee was acquired, the Warriors had a superstar in the making in Curry, but the young Curry wasn’t really seen as a leader on the team yet, given Ellis’ presence. Lee showed Curry how to become a leader, and the two became very close because they both shared high character and a strong desire to win.

One of the main reasons why the Warriors were able to pull off winning an NBA title in 2015 is because of sacrifice. Andre Iguodala sacrificed his starting role to lead the second unit and make the team stronger. Lee also sacrificed his starting role, because he knew that the team would be better off and more dangerous if Draymond Green was starting instead.

Lee has been quite open about the fact that a change in his role was not easy to cope with at first. However, he knew the team was winning for a reason, and ultimately, he just wanted to win. He spoke about this in an interview with Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

"“It’s kind of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,’” Lee said. “It’s tough to disagree when you are winning close to 70 games. I want to be out there. I think everyone in the building knows that I can play. But it’s not about me right now, it’s about the team. Steve Nash was around [last week]. He played 19 years and he has never been to the Finals. I’m making myself enjoy every moment of this. If we win a championship, that’s all that matters.”"

Because of his selfless, caring personality, Lee was a fan favorite, even when fans realized that it was Green’s time to shine over him. Although fans understand that trading Lee was necessary for financial and logistical reasons, Lee will be greatly missed by Dub Nation, his teammates, and the entire Warriors organization. And rightfully so.

Trailblazer. Leader. Captain. Role model. All-Star. Champion. Warrior. Lee exemplifies the type of player that any team would love to have. Character is a trait that is often overlooked in professional sports, but Lee exemplifies character on and off the court.

D. Lee, you will be greatly missed by all of Dub Nation. We wish you the best of luck in Boston, and thank you for everything that you have done over the past five years. Thank you for playing hard every night and for playing the game the right way. You will always be one of my favorite Warriors.

Next: Warriors: 2015 Offseason Recap

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