Fans streamed toward the exits wIth about four minutes remaining in the Golden State Warriors’ beatdown of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. It’s an increasingly common sight that started a few years ago when the team began claiming the national spotlight.
The Dubs have always had one of the best crowds in the NBA — despite what out-of-towners might think. Fans in the Bay Area genuinely love the game of basketball: They must if attendance at Oracle Arena in Oakland regularly ranked in the top 10 of the league while the team hovered near the bottom of the standings.
That’s changed to an extent lately. The crowd has become more corporate and staid. There have been several moments that exhibit this over the last two years: From Stephen Curry going into the bleachers unimpeded during last year’s playoffs to fans sitting on their hands as Too $hort blared during a rivalry game, as Oakland-based columnist Marcus Thompson pointed out.
All you need to know about the change in Oracle: the song played Too $hort asking “What’s my favorite word?” … hardly any response lol
— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) January 17, 2017
None of this is necessarily bad, just different.
Prosperity begets more prosperity, and the Warriors as an organization are looking to maximize that by building a shining new stadium in Mission Bay, announced with a splashy Chase Center groundbreaking on Tuesday that featured lots of smiles and thanks from president Rick Welts and owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, who worked long and hard to make this a reality.
It’s too bad the team will be leaving Oakland, but as Warriors hero Baron Davis — one of the first stars to sign with what was viewed as a lowly franchise at the time — told me Monday, things won’t change that much with a move across the bay.
“I just think that the brand has expanded,” Davis said. “And, you know, San Francisco being a big city and a city that everybody can get to, it’ll be great. The Warriors is a Bay Area team so you can put them anywhere in the Bay — the people are going to show out.”
Lacob and Co. were smart to structure the move the way they did, refusing to accept public funds, picking a site that will be accessible to East Bay fans via BART and the Central Subway (even if they did that by accident) and making the administrators at UCSF a major stakeholder to the project.
But by completing this move to San Francisco, they’re adding pressure on the team to succeed. The City’s lights shine a little brighter, and the fans based here are more likely to bail on a loser. Head coach Steve Kerr knows this — even joking that the nature of his position means he’s as likely to be coaching another team by the time the new facility was operational in the 2019-20 season as he was still being the leader of the Dubs.
“It’s hard to duplicate an atmosphere and an environment in an arena because it’s organic,” he said. “What happens in an arena — the way it’s built, what happens with the team, the level of success — very rarely can you just say, ‘We’ll match that with the new place.’”
Kerr is confident they will, of course, but nothing is guaranteed in professional sports.
There’s so much nuance to this decision. Golden State is committed to being the NBA team of the Bay Area, but it makes sense for them to make the move. And ensuring The City has the first large-scale venue like this, which it desperately needs, explains why Mayor Ed Lee was such a steadfast champion of the plan.
Ultimately, we have to acknowledge that change is inevitable and that if it happens in a way that equates to a net-positive, then that’s about the best we can do.
And it would benefit Lacob to deliver on those championship promises he made at the ceremony sooner than later.