OAKLAND -- As much as the Warriors enjoy and appreciate their loud and ever-growing fan base, they would like to turn back the clock.
Ten years, to be precise.
As the 2016-17 Warriors prepare to chase their second championship in three seasons, they want Oracle Arena to become the cauldron of noise it was during the 2007 NBA playoffs, when it polished its reputation for being the loudest venue in the league.
“If it's not crazy and loud, and just blowing the roof off as we chase that ultimate goal every step of the way,” Stephen Curry says as the Warriors look to Game 1 against Portland on Sunday, “I'll be a little disappointed.”
Recreating “We Believe” levels, though, is a lot to ask given the dramatically different circumstances surrounding the teams.
The noise of ’07 was a relentless blast germinated by 13 consecutive seasons without a single playoff appearance. Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who worked decisive Game 6 of the first-round series between the Warriors and the Mavericks in ’07, has vivid memories.
“That was loudest game I’ve ever heard as a player or broadcaster,” he recalls. “I’ve never heard a louder game than that.”
Unprecedented in local sports history, it was a sonic explosion, shaking the building, driving the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks insane and helping the audacious Warriors blow them out of the postseason.
Kerr and his players would love to recreate that unforgettable Oracle vibe. They’d like to see Oracle become “Roaracle” or the “Screaming O” once more.
“When our fans are incredibly into it and loud, it makes a huge difference for us,” Kerr says. “I expect when the playoffs start I expect this place to be as loud as ever. We need it that way, frankly. It helps us.”
Maybe it will. But it can’t be the same.
In recent years, even as Oracle is consistently packed, the decibel levels have diminished in intensity and frequency. Why? Gone are those guttural, cathartic roars that lifted the “We Believe” team. That bunch performed beyond the wildest expectations, and fans were transported to the land of fantasy.
Current fans have lived in fantasyland for three seasons. The Warriors have been winning at a record pace, not just for the franchise but also for the entire league. It’s natural that after watching their team post the best three-year record in NBA history, and set a single-season record for wins, fans that once yearned for the occasional playoff appearance have gotten comfortable.
Oh, they still cheer plenty at Oracle. But it’s sporadic, a reaction or an acknowledgement, rather than involuntary and incessant. The days are bursting eardrums may be over.
“In general, this atmosphere at Oracle is the best in the league and I’ve felt that way for a while,” Kerr says. “I do think that our success the last few years has changed things a little bit. The expectations are higher.
“Let’s face it: part of that crowd in 2007, there was (13) years of frustration that went into that. We’ve had a lot to cheer about the last few years so maybe the noise isn’t quite as loud.”
Even as they prepare to pack up and move to San Francisco in 2019, the Warriors have sold out 230 games in a row at Oracle. Theirs are the most coveted tickets among the six major sports teams in the Bay Area. That the waitlist is approaching 40,000 indicates the desire for Warriors basketball.
Everybody loves a winner. But can everybody love winners as loudly as they love upstarts? Those Warriors were the bullied and long-downtrodden finally getting off the mat and fighting back with a vengeance.
These Warriors are Goliath. They enter the playoffs atop the elite, with the best record in the NBA and, therefore, homecourt advantage throughout the postseason.
“We worked so hard this year to get the No. 1 seed, three years in a row actually,” Klay Thompson says. “And you know, you can't take that for granted as a player or fan.
“So, I just want to call out to all the fans: Dub Nation just be loud from the get-go. From Game 1 it starts. You know, it doesn't start from if we make the Western Finals or The Finals, but it starts Game 1 against Portland and really embrace that home court advantage.”
The homecourt advantage is real, as real as the sagging of opponents when Curry or Thompson are flooding overwhelmed defenses with 3-pointers. The Warriors were 36-5 at home in the regular season. They were 39-2 at home last season and 39-2 the previous season.
Yet, as defending champions, they finished last postseason with consecutive losses at home to the Cavaliers. The Warriors were up 3-1 and coming home for Game 5. They lost it, and then lost Game 6 in Cleveland and Game 7 again at Oracle.
The building known for its boisterousness, for being exceedingly tough on opponents, couldn’t muster enough to push the Warriors to a second consecutive championship
The franchise responded by signing Kevin Durant, followed by a retooling of the roster and, once again, posting the best record in the league. And, of course, giving Oracle another chance to see if it can summon a touch of magic.
“We start every series at home,” Curry says. “But big games, exciting games, we feed off our crowd's energy. We're chasing something. We're not protecting anything this year.
“So, we got to be ready and hopefully that atmosphere is a reflection of that.”