OAKLAND – The last goodbye to Oracle Arena is upon the Warriors, and there is no doubt they and their crowd will do all they can to bring down the walls.
Whether the roar will be enough to deliver victory over the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night in Game 6 of the NBA Finals is another matter. It will be determined by the quality of the basketball, which in this instance is the co-star.
This night belongs to the building formerly known as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, then The Arena in Oakland, followed briefly by Oakland Arena and, lastly, Oracle Arena. This night is about 47 years of memories, of times good and bad, of fans that have entered the gates and those who greeted them with a smile and a kind word.
For even with hundreds of players and coaches shuttling in and out since 1971, some growing attached and others never taking -- or not having -- the time to get to know the people or the place, the fans kept coming.
They came to see Rick Barry’s fine all-around game, Larry Smith’s hard-hat work ethic, Purvis Short’s rainbow J. They came hoping Joe Barry Carroll would be a star, knowing Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin -- Run-TMC -- would provide entertainment and to give Don Nelson, in his first stint, standing ovations for coming out of the locker room.
They came to see Chris Webber, the big man of Nelson’s dreams, make the Warriors a playoff team year after year -- only to see Webber run out by Nelson, who then threw up his hands and walked.
Those were the toughest times, the years between 1994 and 2002, with only masochists venturing out to watch the Warriors lose two of every three games, or worse, as players argued, a coach was attacked, Todd Fuller was a lottery pick and inept owner Chris Cohan gloated after acquiring Jason Caffey.
Tickets? An empty milk carton could get you two. And yet, a few years later, when general manager Mullin traded for Baron Davis, Nelson came back and the Warriors ended their 12-year playoff drought, fans not only returned but also stalked a 42-win team as if its members were handing out bags of cash
The “We Believe team,” with a single playoff appearance on its resume, was a comet that turned up the heat inside Oracle as no Warriors club ever had. A nickname, “Roaracle,” was born and visiting coaches dreaded entering the place.
Oracle has been filled to at least 92 percent capacity ever since -- with 100-percent capacity in its final six seasons.
“Just the atmosphere out there, the energy, the noise, over the last five years with our team's rise, combined with that organic energy that this place has always had, it's just been an incredible experience to coach here,” coach Steve Kerr said.
It is under Kerr that the latest team -- behind the five-man core of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Klay Thompson -- has gilded Oracle, taking it from a place to go, to The Place To Be, to The Place To Be Seen.
“It's a special place,” Green said Wednesday. “I've been here now for seven years, a ton of great moments, a ton of great memories. It's always a bittersweet thing when talking about that.”
It’s bittersweet because the Warriors are moving to San Francisco in October, to play next season and many more in an incredible building built for basketball royalty. The recent teams deserve the best because they’ve been the very best version of the Warriors. And Chase Center will, in due time, develop its own personality.
It will have to. The personality of Oracle, and the place definitely has one, cannot be transplanted any more than the soul of Oakland can be transferred to San Francisco.
Oracle, no matter its name, was simultaneously cranky and warm, boisterous and welcoming. It was there to be felt as well as heard.
“I really believe it's going to kind of hit us before we get here,” Livingston said. “But once we're in the game, I think we'll be locked into what it's going to take to win here. I don't know if we'll be thinking about, man, it's our last game. I think those feelings, those emotions, will more so hit us before the game.
"And then God willing, we take care of business after.”
The people will not fail. And when the Warriors walk off this floor for the last time, no matter the outcome, there will be cheers and tears for this night and all the years before.