East Bay fans still love Warriors, but it’s complicated

Before Klay Thompson stumbled and bodychecked a fan; before Draymond told the haters to “Shut up!” on live television; and well before fans from all over the Bay Area filled both sides of Market Street, waiting for a glimpse of their champion Golden State Warriors, Amir Shabaz set out to find the perfect nook to set up his folding table.

Shabaz, known as “Keez” by his Oakland street artist brethren, was looking for the ideal spot to lay out his freshly printed set of Warriors championship T-shirts in variations of gold, blue and black. He arrived nearly four hours before the start of the parade, as city workers were putting up the final barricades to cordon off the incoming stampede of fans. The goal was simple: find an ideal spot and sell out of shirts before the parade even starts.

“Tricky thing about sportswear is that it spoils,” the East Bay native said. “There’s a high potential that I get stuck with the product if I don’t get rid of it early.”

Shabaz was first inspired when the Giants went to the World Series in 2010 (the same year he opened his design studio in Oakland) and began street vending his shirts during that championship run. But his favorite parade memory is still from the 2018 Warriors celebration.

“Insane,” he recalls.

His folding table was set up near the boathouse on Lake Merritt as the Warriors celebrated the 2018 title, parading through the heart of downtown Oakland. But this year is another milestone for the storied franchise as it celebrates its first championship in a new city, and Shabaz has noticed the difference.

“I couldn’t really incorporate Oakland in the design,” Shabaz said. “I had to factor in that while a lot of people [at the parade] are from Oakland, it’s not an Oakland team anymore. I couldn’t tie the city into it. ”

But the franchise has deep Bay Area roots, predating its time in Oakland. The San Francisco Warriors, as they were known at the time, played many of their games in the Cow Palace just south of the city from 1962 to 1971.

NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry played for the Warriors in the Palace and then for the Oakland Oaks in the ABA for two years before returning to the Warriors when they moved over to the East Bay. He won a title in 1975, and then 40 years passed before this core’s first in 2015. In other words, this fan base has endured worse than a move across the bay.

“Forty years is a long time to support a team without having any great success,” Barry said. “The fans are very patient, very loyal. I think that they’ve accepted the fact that they’re back in San Francisco. ”

Warriors star Jordan Poole crosses Market Street to shake hands with spectators as the parade route begins to swarm with fans who breached the barricades.

Warriors star Jordan Poole crosses Market Street to shake hands with spectators as the parade route begins to swarm with fans who breached the barricades.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

While the team may have settled into its new home in the Chase Center, the hole left by the ownership group on their way out still rings out in the now basketball-void Oakland Arena. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority had to fight a lengthy court battle to force the team to pay the $ 45 million it owed for arena improvements made in 1996 before they bolted out of town.

Despite celebrating their last three championships with parades in Oakland, the team had planned to host their celebration in San Francisco only this year, according to Warriors spokesman Raymond Ridder.

There were other, minor acknowledgments of the team’s recent history instead. Steph Curry, among other players, wore shorts that read “Oakland” on the front. And Paul Wong, the superfan whose handmade “WE BELIEVE” placards defined the 2007 playoff run, was invited to walk with the team inside the barricades on behalf of his We Believe Foundation. (Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also rode in the parade, in her signature snail car.)

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, in her snail car at the Warriors parade.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, in her snail car at the Warriors parade.

Charles Russo

As Wong reflected on the crowd that attends games at Chase Center now, there’s a clear distinction from “Roaracle” arena.

“We were a part of the show,” he says of the Oracle fans. “We were not there to attend the show. It’s a big difference.

“[Now] it’s a very pricey venue to attend. It’s not something for everyday folks. ”

Wong noted that he sees a lot of the same staff when they visit the new Chase Center for games. Familiar faces of ushers and security staff from the old Oracle Arena serve as a reminder that the foundation of this team off the court still very much lies across the bay.

But before the parade got rolling, Wong knew East Bay fans were still loyal, even if many Warriors fans have been priced out of games. “That bridge is not going to stop them from coming over,” Wong said. “And it is going to be a beautiful sight to see.”

He was right: Monday was BART’s highest ridership total since the start of the pandemic. More than 190,000 people rode the train on Monday, according to BART.

Steph Curry was among several Warriors representing Oakland at the parade.

Steph Curry was among several Warriors representing Oakland at the parade.

Charles Russo

Kelvin Ho grew up watching the Baron Davis-era Warriors play in Oracle Arena in front of a passionate Oakland crowd. He was one of the thousands of fans that piled into BART from Hayward for a chance to be sprayed by a water gun-toting Jordan Poole during the parade Monday.

Poole paid homage to the team’s old home by wearing a throwback Warriors jersey with “Oakland” printed across the front.

“They’re representing the whole Bay Area now – not just Oakland,” Ho acknowledged.

He and his friends forged into the crowd near the Montgomery Street intersection to relive the highlights of another magical title run.

This year’s parade might have had a new ZIP code, but the hue of Oakland green was unmistakable through the blanket blue and gold confetti in the crowd. And that’s probably why Shabaz felt very much at home. Well before the Warriors players started rolling down Market Street, his T-shirts sold out.

Atreya Verma is an Oakland-based writer focused on reporting on the intersection of sports and culture. You can follow his work and share your thoughts with him on Twitter @atreya_verma.

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