Victim of their own success? Warriors could make their new home in San Francisco before long
Golden State might be leaving their 'rabid' home base in Oakland for their proposed US$1b new home across the bay in 2018
The best basketball team in the world plays in one of the best areas in the world. The Golden State Warriors are the pride of the San Francisco bay area. The current NBA champions, last week the Warriors became the first team in the 69-year history of the NBA to start the season with 17 consecutive wins, downing the Phoenix Suns.
Far from a championship hangover, the Warriors have been absolutely dominant this year with an average winning margin of close to 16 points a game. They are electric on offence and suffocating on defence.
They are young, but experienced and their star player Stephen Curry is not only the reigning league MVP, he is one of the most grounded and genuinely likeable superstars in sports. I mean it's just all going on for the Warriors and their home base. San Francisco is arguably the most scenic city in the US, if not the world. Less than one hour south you have the global tech hub of Silicon Valley, while a little more than an hour north you have the word class Vineyards of Napa Valley. Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter are all here. It's almost unfair.
When the Warriors annihilated the Los Angeles Lakers 111-77 to set the consecutive victory mark at 16, they were wearing their alternative uniforms with "THE CITY" emblazoned on the front and a cable car outline on the back with the player's number in it. The city, of course, is San Francisco home to iconic cable cars climbing endless hills. But the city where the Warriors actually play is not San Francisco or even San Jose or Palo Alto or Berkeley.
The best basketball team in the world play their home games in Oakland, California, which by any standard is at the bottom end of the glamour scale in the bay area. Oakland has been the embodiment of racial radicalism, going to back to the days of the militant Black Panther movement, which was born here in the mid-60s. Today, the rampant gentrification that has swept the bay area seemingly has left Oakland behind. However, it is still home to the Warriors - for now at least.
Just as all the high-end tech companies have rushed into the city of San Francisco and completely altered its landscape, so to are the Warriors looking to join the gold rush. The team's owners have purchased a plot of land in the Mission Bay neighbourhood to build a waterfront arena and two adjoining office towers and officially announced that they would like to move the Warriors to San Francisco for the 2018 season. The best part is that they are planning to finance the entire US$1 billion cost themselves with not a nickel of public funds. The San Francisco Giants completely transformed the area 15 years ago when they built a new stadium, also using private funds, not far from the proposed Warriors venue.
Meanwhile directly across the bay from the proposed new complex sits Oracle Arena in Oakland, where an NBA team have begun to defend a championship like no team ever has. The distractions seem insignificant and rightly so. In four years, maybe half the players on the squad will be somewhere else.
Curry will be 31 years of age and on the back end of his prime when, and if, the Warriors make their move to San Francisco. If there is a dynasty of any kind, it will basically have to be now and while it will be the bay area's to share, it will be Oakland's to host. And that in itself is much deserved.
In 1962, the Warriors moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco before hopping across the bay to Oakland nine years later in 1971. Over the last 40-plus years. no one seemed to mind them being over there either, particularly considering how the team were mediocre at best. One thing though was a constant: Warriors crowds were among the loudest in the league.
"I'm disappointed that they're going to leave Oakland," said Hall of Fame player and broadcaster Charles Barkley. "You want a rabid fan base. That place was always loud. Even when the team were not no good, it was loud." However the move is hardly assured. There is one group in particular, and a fairly influential one at that, who is against it and has vowed to fight because of the endless gridlock and sky-rocketing property prices it will bring. They miss the old, charming and counterculture city of days gone by. In San Francisco, they are fighting gentrification. In Oakland, they are hoping for it. The best basketball team in the world is caught somewhere in the middle.