Starting Thursday, the Boston Celtics take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Naturally, most people in New Bedford are going to be rooting for the Celts – but they may not be aware that there is a Whaling City connection to the Dubs.

Warriors owner Joe Lacob was born in New Bedford in 1955, and spent the first 14 years of his life here.

He grew up on Ryan Street, near St. Luke’s Hospital, with a father, Sid, who worked at a paper products plant and a mother, Marlene, who worked the night shift at a local store. Sid Lacob’s job was moved to Anaheim, California in 1969 when the New Bedford plant closed, and the family followed it west.

Lacob had grown up during the Boston Celtics’ dynastic run, winning 11 championships during the time Lacob was a New Bedford resident. However, once he moved to California, he became a Lakers fan and now considers himself a native Californian.

He went on to become a venture capitalist specializing in medical technology – including an investment in Invisalign braces. As his portfolio and his wealth grew, so did his desire to become a sports team owner, and in 2006, he bought into the Boston Celtics ownership group.

In 2010, Lacob and his business partner, movie producer Peter Guber, purchased the Golden State Warriors for $450 million, and it paid off with three championships since that time. Now, the Warriors are preparing to battle Lacob’s former team, the Celtics, for a potential fourth.

The Warriors last won the title in 2018, and lost in the finals to Toronto in 2019. Injuries took a toll in 2020 and 2021, causing Golden State to miss the postseason both years. Now, though, they’ve returned to the Finals with their core of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson (who missed the entire 2020 and 2021 seasons with injuries) once again intact.

They’ll be facing the one team in the NBA, however, that has had their number in recent years. In fact, since the Warrior’s own dynasty began in 2014-15, the Celtics are the only team that has had a winning record against them.

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That’s good news for Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown and the Celtics, but bad news for Joe Lacob and his Dubs.

There’s no doubt, though, that Lacob’s own blue-collar upbringing in New Bedford helped shape the way he runs his franchise, which has led to Golden State becoming one of the gold standards in the league after long being one of its afterthoughts prior to his ownership.

Back in 2013, I interviewed Lacob for a Standard-Times article, and at first he admitted that he couldn’t remember much about his time growing up in New Bedford – until suddenly memories of fishing at Padanaram Harbor, shopping at Arlan’s Department store, and eating at places like the Shawmut Diner and Ruba’s came flooding back.

He may be a billionaire sports team owner now, but once upon a time, Joe Lacob was one of us. Maybe once the NBA Finals are over, he can take a trip back home to New Bedford – hopefully to help us celebrate the Celtics winning their 18th championship.

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