By Andrew Tan
Special to S.F. Examiner
The Golden State Warriors’ 47-year tenure at Oracle Arena came to an exciting, albeit disappointing, conclusion on Thursday night. The game marked the Warriors’ last-ever contest in the storied building as the team is set to move to the new $1.4 billion Chase Center in San Francisco next season.
Since the franchise’s move to Oakland in 1971, Oracle Arena, or the Coliseum Arena or The Arena in Oakland, has been the site of some of the most gripping moments in all of sports lore, let alone in NBA history. So, with Golden State’s last game at Oracle in the books, we count down the top 10 moments in the history of the venue.
No. 10: Marvin Gaye returns to the stage on January 4, 1974 after a seven-year absence
The only non-sports event on the list, Marvin Gaye’s performance at the Oakland Coliseum Arena is difficult to rank because there is no direct comparison between music and athletics.
In 1967, Gaye took a lengthy hiatus from performing live after his beloved duet partner Tammi Terrell collapsed into his arms on stage and was later diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor that took her life in March 1970.
The studio success of his albums “What’s Going On” (1971) and “Let’s Get it On” (1973) during this seven-year period had fans clamoring for Gaye’s return to the big stage and, in 1974, he finally capitulated, performing in front of over 14,000 fans in Oakland.
No. 9: Warriors win No. 73 on April 13, 2016
On the last day of the 2015-16 NBA regular season, Golden State made history against the Memphis Grizzlies by breaking the record set by the Chicago Bulls for the most wins in an NBA season.
Two factors stop this historic moment from rising any higher on this list. First, the season did not culminate in a championship. And second, the Warriors’ victory was not the top storyline of the night, as it was easily overshadowed by Kobe Bryant’s final game in a Lakers uniform, in which he scored 60 points.
No. 8: Banged up Warriors fall in Game 6 of 2019 NBA Finals, the team’s last at Oracle, June 13, 2019
Its status as the final game at Oracle and the significance of the Raptors’ first NBA title, and the first for the entire country of Canada, dictate that it must be on the list.
The Warriors may have lost the game and missed out on its coveted three-peat, but last week’s swan song may have been the best demonstration of Golden State’s championship grit and mettle in the team’s run. Standout performances from Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green kept the Warriors in the game and Klay Thompson provided the most heroic moment of the night, draining two free throws after tearing his ACL.
No. 7: Warriors celebrate 1975 Championship in Oakland Coliseum Arena, May 29, 1975
For its first Bay Area championship, the team held two ceremonies, one in Oakland Coliseum Arena and the second in Union Square. In Oakland, several thousand fans watched as the players received their championship gear while sporting outfits that matched the era, most notably Warriors player Rick Barry’s matching acid-wash jean pants and shirt.
The celebration came long before the extravagant parades of today’s championship teams, but its significance for the franchise, which had moved to Oakland only four years earlier, makes this rally a necessary inclusion on the list.
No. 6: “We Believe” Warriors upset 67-win Dallas Mavericks in Game 6, May 3, 2007
Backed by a raucous home court, starved of playoff basketball for 12 straight years, the Warriors proceeded to blow the doors off the Mavericks, winning 111-86 in a game that was never close. Above the security office at Oracle is a hole in the drywall, topped by a We Believe T-shirt, where Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki leaped up and punched in frustration. He later signed it, and it will make the trip to Chase Center.
The series win over Dallas marked only the third time in NBA history that an eight-seed had upended a one-seed. It was the organization’s crowning achievement in the millennium before the dynasty.
No. 5: Klay Thompson goes ballistic and scores 37 points in the third quarter against the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 23, 2015
It started out with a couple of buckets to keep the Warriors level as the upstart Kings tried to gain the edge. Soon enough, players from both teams realized that Thompson had the hot hand and his teammates, including fellow Splash Brother Stephen Curry, fed him the ball every possession.
During the historic period, Thompson went 13-of-13 from the field, including 9-of-9 from three.
By the end of the night, Thompson had accrued 52 points on 16-of-25 shooting and had broken the NBA record for points by an individual in a single quarter.
No. 4: Warriors win Game Seven of 2016 Western Conference Finals to complete comeback from 3-1 deficit, may 30, 2016
The Warriors started slow, against Oklahoma City Thunder until Curry unleashed a third quarter for the ages. An explosion from the season’s MVP pushed the Warriors into control and gave the team a lead it would not relinquish for the remainder of the contest.
At the final buzzer, Curry and Durant embraced at halfcourt, the last time the two players would see each other before Golden State’s free agent pitch to Durant that summer. Outside of the comeback itself, the importance of this series win cannot be overstated in pushing Durant out of Oklahoma City and into the Bay Area.
No. 3: Vince Carter dazzles in Dunk Contest, Feb. 12, 2000
When NBA fans think of the dunk contest, Vince Carter’s performance at the Arena in Oakland at the 2000 All-Star Weekend is the first to come to mind. Carter, then in his second year with the Toronto Raptors, competed against teammate and fellow superstar Tracy McGrady as well as Steve Francis of the Houston Rockets.
Carter — first drafted by the Warriors and traded to Toronto — pulled off dunks that people had never imagined before, including a 360 windmill, a bounce pass from McGrady through his legs and one in which he stuck his arm elbow-deep into the basket and hung on the rim.
As cameras panned around the stadium, they showed audience members with mouths wide open in awe while Carter sent the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett and Chris Webber into disbelief. After Carter’s very first dunk, announcer Kenny Smith famously cried out “Let’s go home! Let’s go home ladies and gentlemen! Let’s go home!”
No. 2: Warriors blow 3-1 game lead in the 2016 NBA Finals and lose it all
After a fourth quarter scoring drought for both the Warriors and the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors were about to take the lead on a facebreak Andre Iguodala layup. Then James, who looked like he had been shot out of a cannon, tracked down Iguodala’s shot and pinned the ball against the glass to maintain the Golden State field goal drought. A couple possessions later, Kyrie Irving of the Cavs sealed the Warriors’ fate with a clutch stepback three from the right wing, piercing a dagger through the heart of Dub Nation.
The Cavs’ victory cast doubt on the future of Golden State’s dynasty. However, besides the objective brilliance of the Cavs’ comeback, this moment was, in fact, essential to the Warriors dynasty, as it led to a massive summer of free agency that would propel the Warriors to virtual invincibility — until last week.
No. 1: Warriors — led by “The Hamptons Five” — win 2017 NBA Championship, June 12, 2017
Without the devastation of the No. 2 moment on this list, there may have been no championship-sealing victory at Oracle. In the shock move of the offseason and really in the history of free agency, Kevin Durant decided to sign for Golden State teaming up with a cast that had already set the NBA wins record the season before.
This signing almost certainly would not have happened without the Warriors making a comeback in the Western Conference Final and then losing to the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals.
Retooled and ready to dethrone “the King,” the Warriors finals matchup with the Cavs and James was little more than a formality with “The Hamptons Five” leading the way. Throughout the regular season, NBA fans complained that the Warriors finals win was a foregone conclusion.
In the end, the Warriors hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy high above their heads, returning the franchise to its previous glory and cementing a dynasty that continued into following years and now rivals that of the six-time champion Michael Jordan-led Bulls.
To see moments that didn’t make the cut, visit www.sfexaminer.com for the honorable mentions.