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A key component to the Warriors’ 1975 NBA Championship team, Clifford Ray proved to be one of the best interior defenders in franchise history. The 6-foot-9 center, who was acquired by the team in a 1974 trade that sent Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond to Chicago, is one of few players in NBA history to have more rebounds than points scored. In seven seasons by the Bay, Ray was quite durable, posting separate consecutive games played streaks of 178 and 179. Always willing to do the little things to help the team win, Ray is even credited with saving a dolphin’s life in 1979 (Full Story Here). Ranked ninth in franchise history in both rebounds and blocked shots, Ray was at his best during the 1974-75 championship season in which he averaged 9.4 points and 10.6 rebounds.
Warriors.com (DotCom):What is keeping Clifford Ray busy these days? Clifford Ray (CR): I have a son who lives in Dallas, Texas, who is embarking on his basketball endeavors and going to school. I also have an affiliation with a company called NBC Lighting. It’s a veteran’s initiative company and my entire family is military oriented. As I got into retirement, I wanted to kind of loan myself to things that were going to make a difference in changing the landscape of our country. We do a lot of Department of Defense contracts and also in the private sector as well. I’ve been involved in that along with always continuing to try to help the young people accomplish their goals in basketball. I’m on the board of Adonal (Foyle’s) nonprofit, Kerosene Foundation. I’m also teaching about 1,400 kids during the course of the summers.
DotCom:You are a cancer survivor. How did you deal with the painful process of cancer treatment? CR: When I went into treatment or into rehab, I would always look over my shoulder and I would always see someone else who was a little worse off than me. That always reminded me to not feel sorry myself or not be angry or frustrated. I’d just say, “You know what, I’m still here,” and I’d be able to be a positive influence on a lot of young people and a lot of professional guys.
DotCom:All championship teams are close, but your 1975 squad was a unique team with its bond off the floor. Can you talk about how close the team was? CR: You never know how that bond is going to form. When it does form, it’s a beautiful thing to really see it come together. It was a special affair. When you look at all those things, you can’t really explain it. It’s just a feeling and something that happens. Even to this day, that goes on. We still have that same feeling toward one another.
DotCom:What did you do to help the 1975 team rally around Rick Barry? CR: When I came there, nobody knew me and I was replacing one of the Bay Area’s legends; Nate Thurmond was an institution in San Francisco. I was determined to be a part of a group of guys that won a world championship. That was my goal after I got drafted into the NBA. When I got to San Francisco and Oakland, I felt like I finally saw some light that this might be my opportunity … So I called a meeting with the guys on the team, had (Rick) leave and all the coaches leave. I asked them how many guys think they could score 40 points per game. Nobody raised their hand, so I said if Rick plays 48 minutes a night, we can depend on him at least putting in 30 points. I said, “How can you have any kind of jealously or resentment toward someone who is going to give and commit to that much every single night? What we should do is try to do everything we can to collectively bring everything that’s needed for us to be competitive and see what happens. Everybody agreed and from that day on, we started doing things like having breakfast at each other’s house. Whenever we did things, we did them together. When you have that much trust, it’s only going to create a positive thing. I know people say to me that I did this and I did that, but we all did it collectively.
DotCom:What do you remember about playing in front of the Bay Area fans? CR: When you look at attendance in the NBA, the Bay Area is in the top five. They have to be commended. They come whether you win or lose, even back when I was there with Rick and all of us. That’s a special thing and I just hope Mark (Jackson) and his staff and the new ownership have the pride that we had and took to try and bring that first championship to Oakland, San Francisco and the Bay.
DotCom:Now that you are retired, have you become an expert fisherman? CR: Rick (Barry) and I go to Alaska every year around August and we fish for about eight to 10 days. So we’ve got to fish all throughout Alaska. It’s just been a real treat to continue to do the things that I love to do.
DotCom:How did you get the nickname Yohan? CR: That is Rick’s deal. A lot of times we had our training camp in Hawaii. We would just be walking on the beach and we’d see a pretty girl or something like that, and I would always go, “Yo!” So he started calling me Yohan.
DotCom:Many big men that you’ve worked with have nothing but glowing remarks about you. Why do you think you are such an effective coach? CR: I was never worried about being a star or whatever. I knew I probably wouldn’t make the Hall of Fame because I always tailored my game to my team and what I felt my team needed in order to be a champion. That was what it was all about. It wasn’t about my ego, and that’s what I teach. When guys see you teach with a passion that you played with and believed in, then of course it’s going to be easier for you to get across to them.
DotCom:What is one story you remember about your days with the Warriors? CR: When we got into the playoffs, so many people wanted a piece of you and wanted to invite you to dinner, wanted you to come over, not to mention all the girls and all that kind of stuff. What I did was pick up the phone and called Dr. Robert Albo and asked him if I could check in to Peralta Hospital. It would be good if I could stay there during the playoffs because you have to turn off the switchboard at 10 o’clock and you can’t let anybody in. He told me to come over the next day and he’d have it all set up. So that’s what I did, I stayed at the hospital.
DotCom:Who were some of the toughest guys that you played with or against? CR: In those days, I was scared to death of Zelmo Beaty and Walter Bellamy. When I first came into the league, it was those two guys, plus Wes Unseld. I was just nervous to play against those guys because they were just so intimidating. I always used to be frustrated with Bill Walton because he played with a lot of energy. And not to mention Kareem, we had some great battles … It was a tremendous time. There were so many great centers and it was such an exciting time for a young guy like me who was just coming in the league.
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