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With one game, Eric “Sleepy” Floyd forever etched himself into Warriors lore. The 6-foot-3 guard sliced and diced his way through the Los Angeles Lakers’ defense in Game 4 of the 1987 Western Conference Semifinals, scoring 29 of his 51 points in the fourth quarter and setting multiple playoff records in the process. But even if that game had never taken place, Floyd had a superb Warriors career. He averaged 17.7 points and 6.7 assists over 374 games with the Warriors between 1983 and 1987. He ranked among the NBA’s top 10 in assists in both the 1985-86 and 1986-87 seasons, and was a Western Conference All-Star in 1987. Floyd retired from the NBA following the 1994-95 season and now has since returned home to Charlotte, where he is heavily involved in a number of community efforts.
Warriors.com (DotCom):What’s been going on with Sleepy Floyd? Sleepy Floyd (SF): I’m doing a lot of stuff for the community, doing some things with the Bobcats here, locally. I’m working with a lot of charities in the area with the high schools and a men’s shelter. Just doing several things that keep my interest and keep me motivated and just enjoying retirement.
DotCom:What was high school like for you? SF: James Worthy and I grew up five minutes apart. We ended up going to separate junior highs and high schools because they put the school line right in between our houses even though I could walk to his house from mine. It split us up where we could never play on the same team, but we were very good friends growing up. High school basketball was very competitive. We ended up winning the state championship, actually beating James Worthy’s high school.
DotCom:When did Georgetown come become part of the equation for you? SF: Georgetown came in at the end. My sister just so happened to be going to Howard University in Washington, D.C., and I had one more visit to take. I had verbally committed to go to Duke, but I had one more visit. We didn’t have a lot of money back then and it was a free trip to D.C. It was a great opportunity for me to get a chance to see my sister and see a great school. When I went up to Georgetown, I was just blown away by Coach Thompson, the environment and being in D.C. … I ended up signing while I was up there.
DotCom:What was your impression of the first couple of years of playing with the Warriors? SF: It was awesome. I knew Golden State was really trying to get me in the 1982 NBA Draft … I knew when I went there, they thought very highly of me and I would get a great opportunity to play and perform. Man, I was just blown away. A 21-year-old kid living in the Bay Area, it was just a great cultural experience for me. It expanded my horizons so much. At that time, we weren’t very good. We were still trying to find our way. As we got along in years, we got a lot better and became more competitive … We had a good group of guys who played hard. We went out every night and tried to win. Sometimes we came up short, but the fans were so fabulous. They came out each and every night and screamed and yelled, you would have thought that we were the champions.
DotCom:What was different about the 1986-87 team with new ownership and a new head coach? It just seemed there was a different tone with that club. SF: George Karl came in very intense, very competitive, very smart coach. He had a system in place that he thought would be successful and he implemented that. George was and still is a great Xs and Os guy, he knew how to take advantage of match-ups and put us in positions to win. It was the first time in a long time that we had made the playoffs. And we did so well, we ended up beating Utah in the first round and that got us to the Lakers … I knew (Franklin Mieuli) well. He was a great guy and a great owner, but when the new regime came in, things did change. The ship got a lot tighter and there seemed to be a little more focus.
DotCom:You’re down 98-83 to the Lakers with a minute left in the third quarter of Game 4 of the 1987 Western Conference Semifinals. You had 17 points at that moment. What happened next? SF: At that time, the Lakers were very, very, efficient, and they talked a lot of trash on top of that. As a point guard, your main focus is making sure guys are in position to score and you’re a facilitator. Even though I could score the ball, my main role was to get the ball to Joe Barry Carroll and Purvis Short and keep guys happy. At that time I wanted to let Michael Cooper know that if I wanted to be that kind of player, I could. That competitive nature came out. We were losing, so I just put it all in and one thing led to another and I got into a zone and I made history that night. It was a great night, hard to explain when it happened and what made me click that way. I’ve had some great scoring nights, but that night was just exceptional.
DotCom:Do people still come up to you and say, “Sleepy Floyd is Superman?” SF: Still to this day, and I’m in North Carolina, I get people that come up to me and (talk about that game). This is years and years later, no matter where I’m at in the country, people always come up to me and mention that game and talk about how fabulous that was. I didn’t know the significance of it then. I’m 51 years old and still have people come up to me and talk to me about that game like it just happened the other day.
DotCom:When athletes have outstanding moments in sports, they sometimes feel like it’s in slow motion. Did you have anything like that? SF: Everything moved slow. The basket seemed like it was two sizes bigger. It was so instinctive, I just wasn’t thinking. You were just playing to play each play and not looking ahead. Even though we were down so many points, I never thought about how many points we were down. Just played in the moment … Looking back on that game, the fact that I even had 10 assists in that game that made it a complete game. As a point guard, you’re shooting to have a good balance between points and assists. And even in a stretch like that when you’re scoring so many points, you still facilitating the ball and keeping your teammates happy. Everyone was so happy for me, coach, front office, fans … it was just a tremendous night. Even though we only won one game in that series, it’s just a great memory.
DotCom:How’d you get the nickname “Sleepy”? SF: I got that playing baseball in the fourth grade. We had an early morning game and the first pitch came to me and it went right through my legs. Someone in the stands hollered out “Get that kid out of the game. He’s sleeping.” My teammates heard that and never let me forget about it. That’s how the name came about.
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