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2019 NBA Playoffs

Warriors patriarch Al Attles will return to Oracle one last time

‘I am hoping that the team can raise another banner in Oakland’

The Golden State Warriors hope to get Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Iguodala back healthy for the 2019 NBA Finals. And if his health continues to improve, recently named Hall of Famer and Warriors patriarch Al Attles should be back too. His last game was when the Warriors played the Phoenix Suns last October.

“My goal was to get to at least one game and not be in a wheelchair,” Attles, 82, told The Undefeated on Monday. “A cane will work. But I don’t want to come in a wheelchair. I am looking forward to coming out. I am hoping that the team can raise another banner in Oakland.”

Attles is the longest-tenured employee of any NBA team, having spent 59 years with the Warriors. The former North Carolina A&T star was selected by the Philadelphia Warriors in the fifth round of the 1960 NBA draft. Attles has been a player, head coach, general manager and community ambassador for the Warriors since 1960.

Head coach Al Attles (center) of the Golden State Warriors talks with his players during a timeout in a game against the Washington Bullets circa 1980 at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. Attles coached the Warriors from 1970-83.

Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Attles scored 17 points for the then-Philadelphia Warriors when Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain scored his record 100 points against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on March 2, 1962. The native of Newark, New Jersey, was the second African American head coach to lead a team to an NBA championship when the Warriors won in 1975. “The Destroyer” was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in April.

“To be thought of as a Hall of Fame inductee is a tremendous honor. It started with the decision to go to North Carolina A&T, and that great decision has followed me throughout my career,” Attles said.

For years, Attles has sat in a perch with two seats atop Section 102 of Oracle Arena alongside press row. But in October, several ailments caused him to stay away from his familiar confines. Al Attles Jr. said his father has had four surgeries since November for a cancerous growth, diverticulitis and a urinary tract infection. He has not been back to his seats at Oracle Arena for a Warriors game since.

Attles Jr. told The Undefeated that his dad’s health scare “petrified” him. He said seeing the Warriors play in their final games in Oakland is important to his dad. The Warriors will move to the new Chase Center in San Francisco next season.

“I was more nervous than I have ever been for the last six months,” Attles Jr. said. “I feel much better now. I was worried about how he is going to bounce back, why it’s taking so long, why doesn’t he have an appetite. He lost so much weight, 50 to 75 pounds. …

“Thank God he has gotten through them. We are fighting past.”

The Milwaukee Bucks hold a 2-1 lead over the Toronto Raptors in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals. The East winner will have home-court advantage and host Game 1 since both the Bucks and Raptors had better regular-season records than the Warriors. The NBA Finals begin on May 30, and the first game at Oracle Arena will be Game 3 on June 5.

If Attles attends the Finals, it would also be his first since he was named a Hall of Famer. Current Warriors star Stephen Curry and former Warriors star Tim Hardaway look forward to Attles’ return.

“I definitely noticed he wasn’t there,” Curry told The Undefeated. “Every year he would pop in and out. You would see him at games. He would talk to us at practice. I remember him, Nate Thurmond before he passed, Tom Meschery and Rick Barry once talked to us in the Alvin Attles Room upstairs [at the practice facility] during the Mark Jackson years. That was before we won championships.

“How iconic it was to be in his presence. He’s embraced his role as an ambassador for the team and the community. Oakland natives and die-hard fans, if you say his name, they know what’s up.”

Hardaway, who talked to Attles Sr. on the phone recently, said, “They should show him on the Jumbotron. That’s great that he is going to come to the Finals, great that he is healthy.”

Hall of Fame Warriors patriarch Al Attles (right) with Alcorn State signee Isaiah Attles (left), his grandson.

Photo Courtesy of the Attles Family

Attles Jr. said he knew his father was feeling better when he attended a celebration May 17 for his grandson Isaiah, who signed with Alcorn State on a full basketball scholarship. Like grandfather, like grandson, as both are connected through playing basketball at a historically black college or university (HBCU).

“Pop is feeling a lot better,” Attles Jr. said. “His grandson signed with an HBCU officially. Pop came to the event. It was beautiful. Pop came out of the house, and it was his first time out of the house in probably since November of last year. He is feeling much better. His appetite is back. He’s moving much better. …

“I will get him out to one of those Finals games. I will probably get him out for a half. I will certainly have him out.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.