There was only one justifiable reason for Cam Newton to stand up and vacate the best seat in Charlotte.
Sneaking away from his midcourt chair, moments before the final buzzer, allowed the face of the Carolina Panthers to park himself just outside the tunnel where Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors had to walk off the floor.
Newton simply wasn't taking any chances. Even the hottest quarterback in the NFL felt the need to guarantee that he wouldn't miss out on 30 precious seconds of bro-hugging and hand-slapping with the most in-demand showman in North American sport.
No. 30 + No. 1 = 31 (wins). pic.twitter.com/7Cg8w8ktzD
— ESPN (@espn) December 3, 2015
A few nights later in Canada, similar scenes materialized. Toronto's very own Drake was forced to wait in a hallway outside the Warriors' locker room with a gaggle of press grunts for a good half-hour -- and was snapped on Twitter as he loitered helplessly -- just to ensure he'd get the same small Newtonian dose of drive-by dap.
It's the sort of stuff you see every day when they ask you to follow the Golden State Warriors around. Even A-list celebrities turn into 12-year-olds when the time comes to brush shoulders with Curry and his free-scoring pals. Your Cams and Drakes suddenly become just like your kids, desperate for any interaction with the NBA's new darling, no matter how short or harried.
You can understand, then, why there's such a frenzy sparked by Curry & Co. among mere mortals, especially those residing in Eastern Conference cities, where there's only one chance per season to see the show first-hand. On Friday night in Boston, on the second-to-last stop of a seven-game, 13-day jaunt spanning some 7,500 miles, word quickly spread along press row about how Golden State's visit had emerged as the toughest regular-season Celtics ticket since the night in 2008 that the newly crowned champs hung their first banner in 22 years.
Which means it was a tougher ticket than the first regular-season game LeBron James played in Miami Heat colors in 2010. Or the game in January 2014 when Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce returned to TD Garden for the first time as Brooklyn Nets.
What's perhaps even wilder than the constant chaos that trails Golden State these days on its travels: Curry and his fellow Warriors really don't seem to mind the nightly madness they invite. Draymond Green told his teammates in the immediate aftermath of Golden State's first loss of the season Saturday night in Milwaukee that, at a still highly ridiculous 24-1, now they could actually proceed with a something resembling a regular season. For this team, though, Green knows as well as anyone that there might be nothing ordinary about their regular season for the foreseeable future.
Green knows it and loves it, frankly.
"Not to us," Green told ESPN.com, flatly rejecting a reporter's suggestion that the 82-game grind, as we're taught in NBA scriptures, is often supposed to feel like drudgery that fills the calendar until the real season starts.
"It ain't grueling to us," Green said, "because we have so much fun together."
There's that word again: F-U-N. We touched on it in this SportsCenter essay and, no matter how much eye-rolling ensues, have come to believe that the smartest conclusion to draw from the best start in NBA history is that these Warriors love winning regular-season games more than any team before them.
Pacing themselves? Peaking too soon? Ailing Warriors coach Steve Kerr might be a Gregg Popovich disciple, but his players are the absolute anti-Spurs in this regard. They talk about trying to break every regular-season record that dribbles within sight. They openly address how much they want to chase the game's mythical numbers, be it the Lakers' record 33-game win streak, Chicago's historic 72-10 mark, or the comparatively minute matter of becoming the first team in history to ever sweep a road trip spanning at least seven games in length.
They didn't quite make it to 7-0, or 33 wins in a row, but like most things with this group, that boundless ambition starts with Curry and his crazy range.
That he will ultimately rank as the greatest shooter we've ever seen -- which we all so fiercely debated last season -- suddenly seems to be almost universally regarded as a matter of mere longevity now. What really struck me, after stalking Steph throughout this two-week excursion, is how increasingly Magic Johnson-like he in terms of his comfort with superstardom and the never-ending swarms of admirers it attracts.
I had the privilege of traveling with Magic and the Lakers as an L.A. Daily News beat writer in his final season, Magic's ill-fated comeback in the second half of the same 1995-96 campaign in which Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls famously won 72 games.
That's the last time these eyes have seen a superstar embrace the mania all around him like Curry.
"If you have to be away from your wife and kids, life on the road with the Golden State Warriors' troupe, riding the Curry Coaster, is pretty much the next-best place you can be."Marc Stein
He seems to savor it all, unruffled by all the attention that starts so far in advance of tipoff nowadays, with the hundreds of camera phones ringing the court and focused on his every twitch during Steph's standard pregame shooting routine with assistant coach Bruce Fraser, making it seem like a Bonds or McGwire at-their-peak session in the batting cage.
The closest thing to a complaint that I heard from Curry over the course of the trip was a faux protest about the length of shootarounds that he lodged with interim coach Luke Walton. Yet as a chuckling Curry went on to explain, those long mornings on game days are actually the players' fault.
The high-octane Warriors, it seems, are exceedingly slow when it comes to getting from team bus to the locker room. Or from the film session to the floor. Cue more eye-rolls if you must, but according to the reigning MVP, it's because they're enjoying each other's company too much to rush.
"It's a good problem to have," Curry said.
I usually gave the same answer whenever someone asked if I missed home during these last couple weeks. Who, really, could even pretend to shed a tear for the reporters on this beat? Following this guy around? It's the best gig in sports journalism.
As I tell friends all the time: If you have to be away from your wife and kids, life on the road with the Golden State Warriors' troupe, riding the Curry Coaster, is pretty much the next-best place you can be.
After their first loss in a game that mattered since June 9 -- 186 days prior to Saturday night's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks -- Green leaned against a wall in the bowels of the Bradley Center and summed the experience up for the pack of reporters around him by concluding: "At the end of the day, what we did was cool."
Given how well Curry, Green and the gang seem to cope with what we've always been taught to believe is a joyless slog until playoff time, you can also safely assume that this really wasn't the end of anything for this Fun Bunch.