Up and down Market Street, echoing through the canyons of downtown San Francisco, the chant went up early and often, loud and proud, over and over. "M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!"
High above the bedlam, on his perch atop a double-decker bus, Steph Curry took in the adulation holding his NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in one hand and the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy in the other. San Francisco held a championship parade for the triumphant Warriors Monday. Its citizens crowned a new king.
I walked the length of the parade alongside Curry's caravan, a strategy used at past parades to get a full sense of the situation. I've walked alongside Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Kevin Durant over the years. Those were all tremendous crowds and momentous occasions. But I'd never witnessed anything like this.
In leading Golden State to its fourth championship in eight years, Curry has transcended to another level in the eyes of Bay Area sports fans. He now stands alongside names like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice in the pantheon of all-time regional greats. Perhaps he's risen a rung above. If Monday's coronation was any indication, King Curry will reign supreme for years to come.
The word adulation doesn't quite do it. It was more like pagan idolatry. Or tribal ritual. Fans screamed at the top of their lungs as Curry and his lovely family drove by, holding their hands up in the air as if to absorb a spiritual offering from the great man. Curry's wife, Ayesha, stood by his side, taking care of three children while absorbing her own fair share of cheering. "Ayesha can cook!" they chanted, referring to the Boston bar that infamously hung a sign during the Finals that claimed, "Ayesha can't cook!"
Well, the people of San Francisco have spoken. Chef Curry and his queen are both masters of the culinary arts.
On three occasions, Curry jumped off his bus and mixed with the people, running up and down the street like a madman and spraying his fans with Champagne. It was a crazy scene that will live in San Francisco sports history. Nobody had more fun than Steph Monday, and the crowds rejoiced.
I'd estimate hundreds of thousands of people lined Market Street, from Main Street to 8th streets, stacked 10-20 deep in spots along the parade route. They were hanging from tree limbs, crowded on top of bus stops. Office workers hung out of windows and waved banners. I saw one man standing atop a Market Street sign, near Fifth, screaming his head off as Curry rode by. There was a Beatle-mania feel to the whole thing, with men, women and children all shedding tears of pure joy as their hero waved and pumped his fist, smoking a victory cigar along with way.
Before it all began, Curry spoke at a televised rally and reflected on the journey he's taken with teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. That core trio has been together through all the championship Champagne and the bitter setbacks.
"We've grown up right in front of your eyes," said Curry. "How cool is it that it's seven years to the day, from Game Six of 2015 to Game Six of 2022? That same day, we're celebrating another championship. We represent you guys, like the light that you give us, the inspiration. ... All those things matter. This is what it's all about, giving us the platform to go and do amazing things that haven't been done in history, representing the entire Bay Area in the process."
At the start of the Finals, I wrote a column saying this is exactly what San Francisco needs. Here's how it started out:
Nothing brings a city together like a championship.
I've seen it over and over. Be it the Giants. Or the Niners. Or the Golden State Warriors. Winning breeds community and pride. Our tribal instincts come to the surface, allowing an oft-divided community to rally behind a common cause. It's us against them. And screw them.
And that's exactly how it played out Monday. The Bay Area came out in force to celebrate a huge victory, literally and figuratively. For a city that's taken some serious lumps during the pandemic, these are the optics the world needs to see. A victorious city that knows how to get things done.
Say what you will about sports, and its out-sized imprint on our society as a whole, but all you had to do was walk that parade on Monday to see how deep these feelings run. Think of a single other event that could muster that kind of turnout and outpouring of emotion. I can't. Championships weave the fabric of community. And the Warriors have sewn a most glorious cloak.
"The timing couldn't be better," said our newly minted Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who rode in the parade. "I really do sense that there's a lot of optimism about where we're going. We're coming back! That's what I'm sensing from my neighborhoods and the people I'm talking to."
Mayor London Breed, who also rode in the parade wearing a Warriors jersey, took it step further when asked what this means to San Francisco.
"It's hard to put it in words," said Breed. "This means so much, not just to The City, but to the players, the coaches, the fans and the Bay Area. This is amazing for San Francisco, and I'm so happy that we're hosting the parade for the first time ever in The City. It feels so good."
What about all the critics out there, mayor? The people who think San Francisco is a failed city.
"Oh, yeah. They're all quiet right now. All the haters, all the naysayers," said Breed. "They're not even saying anything because you can't help but be proud of how hard this team worked to prove everyone wrong about what they're capable of. They're real champions, on and off the court."
Perhaps Green said it best: "This has been an amazing year. I just want to say thank you all and as always, f--- everybody else."
The Arena, a column from The Examiner’s Al Saracevic, explores San Francisco’s playing field, from politics and technology to sports and culture. Send your tips, quips and quotes to firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow him on Twitter @alsaracevic.