As someone who grew up in California and lived for a short time (and still regularly visits) in the Northeast, I have long been fascinated with the idea of West Coast vs. East Coast basketball. Whether it be rap, culture, or sports, West vs. East is one of the more enduring debates when it comes to regional pride.
So that’s why I couldn’t help but notice how a renaissance of sorts is taking place right now with West Coast Basketball. While the forces have been moving someone silently, the signposts of this emergence are everywhere you look:
- After a title season in 2015 and 73 wins in 2016, the Golden State Warriors once again find themselves a popular choice to win the NBA Championship sporting a roster filled with brand-name talents
- Oregon is headed to its first Final Four since the inaugural NCAA tournament, having emerged from a Pac-12 conference that placed three teams in the Sweet Sixteen and may very well boast the NBA Draft’s #1 pick in Washington’s Markelle Fultz.
- Gonzaga cemented its place among college basketball’s elite with its first trip to the Final Four, emerging from a WCC that also included a St. Mary’s team that was ranked the entire season as well as a BYU team that come next season may join the Bulldogs and the Gaels in next season’s Top-25
- The women’s west coast game sent Stanford to yet another Final Four and bore witness to Washington’s Kelsey Plum becoming the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer
- While UCLA shined before bowing out in the Sweet 16, SoCal hoops may very well be remembered this year by the emergence of the Ball family, a polarizing presence anchored by Lavar’s WWE-heel-like proclamations in a media that simultaneously shuns and can’t get enough of him
- The Los Angeles Lakers have attempted to boldly change directions with two high-profile dismissals in their front office
- New arenas opened in Sacramento and Las Vegas (which hosted the premier game of the college regular season between Kentucky and North Carolina), and San Francisco will open another one in 2020, each of which will be attractive venues to showcase the very best of the game.
It’s not the kind of west coast golden era like the UCLA and Laker dynasties, but today, west coast hoops is in the midst of a unique and compelling age which would only become more memorable if both the NBA and NCAA titles for this year find their home in the West.
A new Golden Age of West Coast Hoops.