Players and coaches and many others on the Warriors' payroll are trying hard to adore their new house. It’s not that they hate it, not openly, but those not inclusive of ownership or the highest executive levels don’t exactly rhapsodize about the place.
It’s so hard for them to love Chase Center because so many really miss Oracle Arena.
Miss Oakland, too.
They miss the noise and the people and the memories and the casual warmth of the place. Even as the Warriors continue settling into Chase, embracing its new-age amenities, thoughts of Oakland and Oracle linger for many, a lost love still strolling through their minds and tugging at their hearts.
If you listen to the lines and read between them, the affection is impossible to miss. It’s easy to feel it, though they are careful to respect the new place, the one craved by ownership.
“The soul of our team come from Oakland,” Draymond Green says. “That’s just kind of what it is. The soul of this organization was built in Oakland. That's just ... that’s just the reality. I mean ... yeah. That’s what it is.”
Draymond didn’t need to say any more. His pauses, reflective and prudent, somehow amplified the remainder of his message. Oakland and Warriors basketball were soulmates.
When the team takes the floor at Chase on Wednesday to face the San Antonio Spurs, every player will bear a piece of Oracle and Oakland. They’re wearing the “Oakland Forever” jerseys worn by teams from 1997 to 2010 and popularized by the “We Believe” Warriors of 2006-07.
“That’s fire,” Green says, his enthusiasm leaping through the Zoom screen. “I rock with Oakland. My second home.”
Stephen Curry is the only Warrior to have worn the jersey before it was reinstated this season. He wore it during his rookie season, and if you Google images of “Warriors Oakland Forever jersey,” you will see the two-time MVP modeling it.
“They were fire,” Curry says of the dark blue jerseys with orange and gold trim. “But that was the old material. They were heavy as hell. That was the one thing I do remember. You put those on versus how they make it now, it’s like night and day. But the look is just so classic.”
Coach Steve Kerr never wore a Warriors jersey, but he came to Oakland and played at Oracle dozens of times during his NBA career. He’s a fan of the jerseys, too, but his fondness runs deeper.
“I think they're really good-looking and the fact that they say ‘Oakland’ on them is just awesome,” Kerr says. “I will forever have five years of incredible memories of playing at Oracle and practicing in Oakland every day at our facility and living in the East Bay.
“Those guys are right Oakland will forever be a huge part of our identity and our roots.”
“Those guys” are Curry and Green. Curry was drafted by the Warriors in 2009, after the team posted a 29-53 record yet finished ninth (among 30 teams) in attendance. Green was drafted in 2012, as the franchise was making its way out of the NBA wilderness. In 2012-13, when the Warriors under coach Mark Jackson made their second playoff appearance in 19 seasons, Oracle sold out every game.
The sellout streak lasted until the final game, June 2019, the 347th consecutive game for which every seat was sold. That span included five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, and three championships – and three parades through the streets of Oakland.
“The combination of the great love for basketball in the Bay Area, with the rise of this team, starting eight or nine years ago, it was sort of this perfect storm,” says Kerr, who replaced Jackson after the 2013-14 season. “I know that when I came in as a player there was always a feeling. I felt it in Seattle, too. I feel it in Toronto. There are certain cities where you can just tell people love basketball. There's a buzz in the arena from warmups on, even when the home team isn't that great, you can tell people are just excited to watch basketball.
“That's how I've always felt coming to Oracle.”
The swapping of Oracle for Chase is a clear architectural upgrade. Oracle from the outside is mostly concrete slabs arranged in diamond shapes neatly placed over glass, hard by the Nimitz Freeway, where cars and trucks grapple like cats and dogs. Chase is all sparkling steel and glass, set a few steps from picturesque San Francisco Bay.
The Warriors now play in a pristine but charmless palace. Listening to the comments of those employed there, though, it often sounds as if they are tolerating it. Like an arranged marriage.
Oracle and Oakland were, and in some ways still are, home. It’s no longer where games are played, but the passion of those that speak of it are a pretty good indication it’s where the heart is.