(Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty Images)
Catching Up With The Rainbow Warrior
by Brian Witt
As the Warriors inch ever closer to their second consecutive NBA Championship and third title in four years, an accomplished alumnus admires from a distance. Purvis Short may now serve as the Chief of Player Programs for the NBA Players Association, but that never stops him from following his former team.
"I still watch every game," Short said a day after Golden State took a commanding 3-0 series lead in the 2018 NBA Finals.
Short, who participated in only 18 playoff games throughout his 12-year NBA career, marvels at the accomplishments of the current version of the Warriors.
"To see what they've accomplished over the last 5-6 years has been really remarkable, and for me, it's been a joy to watch. Whether it's Steph, whether it's Klay, whether it's KD or Draymond...those guys, they really play well together. They're just a joy to watch."
Game 4 presents Golden State's first chance to close out the series, but additionally, it could serve as a nice way to bookend Short's now 40-year relationship with the organization. Saturday, June 9th will mark the 40-year anniversary of the day the Warriors selected Short and his ‘rainbow' jumper with the fifth pick of the 1978 NBA Draft out of Jackson State University.
"Outside of the birth of my children, it was one of the most important days of my life," Short recalls. "Realizing your dream."
Prior to being drafted, Short had only been out of the state of Mississippi on two occasions. He remembers being simultaneously nervous and excited to head to the Bay Area, while looking forward to a new environment and culture different from that of back home. The fit turned out to be a great one.
"The Bay Area was just absolutely wonderful for my family and I," said Short, adding that they still have lifelong friends that reside in the region. "I wish I could have ended my career there."
He has fond memories of the Oracle Arena crowd and team fan base, who in his estimation were and continue to be the best in the NBA.
"There's very few places that compare with the Warriors," said Short. "At least in my opinion, some really diehard fans that support the Warriors, and they show that support every game. It was great then, and it's 20 times better now."
Short gave that crowd plenty of reasons to cheer over his nine seasons with the team, which included the prime of his career. In four consecutive seasons from 1982-86, he averaged at least 21.4 points per game, including a career-best 28.0 points per game during the 1984-85 season. His ‘rainbow' jumper became the stuff of legends, a high-arching technique he developed in high school to create softer contact with the rim.
It was toward the beginning of that '84-'85 season when Short put forth arguably the most individually impressive week of his career. In four games over the week of November 11th-17th, 1984, Short scored at least 40 points three times, including a career-high 59 points on 20-of-28 shooting against the New Jersey Nets in the final game of the week.
"It was one of those games that you dream about having as a player where everything falls into place," he remembers.
However, despite the supreme offensive output, his 59-point performance doesn't go down as one of his favorite memories from his playing days. As great as his individual performance was, the team actually lost that game by a score of 131-114, a thorn that sticks in his side to this day.
"You always want to cap a performance like that off with a win. That always stuck with me, bothered me a lot that we couldn't pull out a win."
As for what does qualify as his favorite memories from his playing career, Short cites his 57-point game against San Antonio during the 1983-84 season, a game Golden State ultimately won. He also fondly remembers his 31-point performance against Utah in Game 4 of the first round of the 1987 Playoffs. After dropping the first two games of the series on the road, the Warriors won the next two at home before stealing Game 5 in Utah to advance to the second round.
However, Golden State would go on to lose in five games to Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers in the Conference Semifinals, in what proved to be Short's final games as a Warrior. He was traded to the Houston Rockets for Dave Feitl and a future first round pick during the ensuing offseason.
At the time of the trade, Short ranked sixth on the Warriors all-time scoring list and second in steals. He played two more seasons in Houston and one in New Jersey before leaving the NBA to play one season for Hapoel Tel Aviv in Israel. Over the course of his 12-year NBA career, he averaged 17.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, and yet, never made an All-Star team. Once viewed as a slight, Short has grown comfortable with his place in Warriors and NBA history despite that exclusion.
"I learned early on, you can only control what you can control," said Short. "Each and every night I tried to play as hard as I could play. Was it disappointing? Yes. But I don't dwell on it. When I look back on my career, I'm proud to say I tried to give the fans everything I had. I tried to give the Warriors everything I had."
40 years after being drafted into the NBA, Short is still in the giving mood. He's spent the last 25 years working in the Player Programs department of the NBA Players Association, which helps current players in areas such as career development, financial education and health education. As the department Chief, Short is responsible for delivering, creating and implementing programs and services for current NBA players.
"We try to work with players in such a way so that they can start preparing for when they can no longer play the game," said Short. "I dedicated my second career to trying to make sure these players have options that didn't exist when we played."
When he's not busy preparing current players for life after their playing careers, he enjoys watching them hone their craft. Of course, he has a responsibility to every player on every team in the league, but he doesn't hide his love for Golden State.
"For me, man, it doesn't get any better than that, to watch those guys do what they can do."
When asked if he could envision himself having success in this current era of basketball, Short responded in the affirmative, believing his game would have fit in just fine.
"I think I would have had a lot of fun shooting it the way guys shoot it today. As an offensive player, it's a dream, you know? If you're a shooter, then the sky is the limit for you."
Coming from the guy they called ‘Rainbow Man', he's probably not wrong.