Fans share memories of Oracle Arena as last Warriors game in Oakland looms
OAKLAND - It’s not the building. It’s the relationships forged within.
The friendships, the family, and yes, a little hero worship.
As the Golden State Warriors’ final few hours at Oracle Arena drift off into San Leandro Bay, fans, workers, players and coaches of the Bay Area’s only professional basketball team are reminiscing about their home court for the past half-century.
Next season, the Warriors will play across San Francisco Bay at the shiny new metal-and-glass Chase Center in San Francisco’s Mission Bay district. A plaza of restaurants and other businesses called “Thrive City,” a gesture to Warriors’ partner in the project Kaiser Permanente, will open before the team’s first game at the center on Oct. 5.
“A lot of my favorite memories come from being a player here and marveling at the energy in this building, coming from a crowd that did not have a whole lot to cheer for, frankly,” coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday before the NBA Finals Game 3 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
“The Warriors went through a long dry spell, and yet you would come here and there was an atmosphere, an energy you could feel.”
He said one of the other places he felt the same energy in was in Toronto.
“They weren’t that great, but, man, the fans loved basketball,” he said. “So it’s something that jumps out to me about this Finals. You’re dealing with two areas, cities, general areas, that are just basketball crazy, and you can feel it inside and out of the building, around town. And so it’s been just an incredible experience to play and coach at Oracle, and hopefully we can go out in style and win our last games here.”
Down 2-1, the Warriors need to win Game 4 Friday to guarantee it’s not the last game in Oracle Arena history.
If they win, Game 6 on Thursday will be the last roar at Oracle.
For 30 years, a half-dozen Sonoma County attorneys have shared a four-seat block of Warriors season tickets at Oracle. They’ve gone to hundreds of games and witnessed basketball legends — Rick Barry, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and more.
The best part for all these years, said Walter Rubenstein, wasn’t necessarily the important games won or the even the postseason victories.
“I was able to go with my two daughters and her friends,” he said, “and it was a great way to bond. I don’t remember all the scores, but I remember who I was with.”
Other buddies in the group, including original ticketholder Jonathan Steele and Chris Andrian, tell epic tales of trips to the East Bay where everything went wrong, but still, they made great memories with friends.
Andrian, a native San Franciscan, began following the team when they were the San Francisco Warriors and played most of their games in the Cow Palace. They moved to the Oracle building in 1972.
“Even though I was pissed they were going there,” he said, “I’ve become an Oracle guy. And now it’s going to be hard to leave.”
The playoffs in the 2007 “We Believe” win over the Dallas Mavericks stand out in Andrian’s memory. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been in any place that was as electric as that,” he said.