You can almost guarantee when both TNT and ESPN–the networks that are broadcasting the NBA playoffs–have a Golden State Warriors game on, the producers will make sure to feature shots of the beautiful San Francisco Bay, the historic and storied Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars carrying smiling tourist and locals up and down the hills of one of America’s greatest cities. The problem is that the Warriors play their exciting brand of up-tempo basketball in Oakland, California, the city that sits six miles east across the bay from San Francisco is the forgotten sister, the step-child, the ugly one.
Fair or unfair, the city of Oakland has a bad reputation that is mainly based on it’s crime rate. National Journal Magazine called Oakland the crime capital of the San Francisco Bay in 1983 at the height of the crack epidemic, and cheatsheet.com rated Oakland the number two most dangerous city to live in America in a March 15, 2015 piece.
Oakland has a basketball pedigree that no other city in the state of California, save Los Angeles, can compare to. The players that Oakland has produced that were good enough to play in the NBA are some of the game’s best: Gary Payton and Jason Kidd and current playoff contributors:Washington Wizards forward Drew Gordon and Portland Trailblazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. The city of Oakland has blessed the NBA with talent for quite a while and should not be forgotten, especially now when there’s a better-than-good chance a couple NBA Finals games will be held there.
NBA basketball has been played in Oakland since 1971; the old ABA Oaks (1967-69) played there prior to the two leagues merging. The 1975 champion Golden State Warriors are one of the NBA’s best title teams and was the first to have a full-time African American coach win a title in Hall of Fame inductee Al Attles. The city has history written all over it and should not only get be seen from an overhead view of the arena. The world needs to know that there is a loyal Warrior fan base that doesn’t only hail from San Francisco, San Jose and Berkeley, California.
There is no doubt that most, if not all, of the Golden State Warriors live in nearby cities and travel to Oakland for games and practices. The pull of the Bay Area can be strong especially when those we are speaking of hover above a certain tax bracket. Even so, I would like to see more of the host city and all it has to offer. The African American Museum and Library on 14th Street and the Cesar E. Chavez Library on East 12th Street are both centers of multi-cultural learning. The Fox Oakland Theater on Telegraph Avenue plays host to some of the world’s best comedy and theatrical acts. The basketball at Mosswood Park on West McArthur Boulevard has been the place where the city’s best players come to prove themselves against pros and college talent.
On Thursday night the Warriors held a 17-point lead early in the first half, but lost it before heading into halftime tied at 53. No matter the score, the crowd in Oracle Arena, be them from Oakland or in town from parts unknown for the only NBA game game on schedule that night, were on their feet cheering every Steph Curry dribble move and Draymond Green offensive rebound and put back. And when the game was in question with Rockets guard James Harden racing down the court with less than eight seconds left and a one-point deficit, the crowd wouldn’t let the Warriors lose. From my living room in Atlanta I could only imagine that the fans in attendance weren’t going anywhere any time soon. Oakland folks are proud basketball fans and proud of their Warriors.
This city is a basketball town and unfortunately will be a second class basketball citizen as soon as the new arena in San Francisco is done being built. The Warrior organization announced the move last year to minimal fanfare and according to a December 17, 2014 story by Sam Sorkin of the SB Nation Warriors blog ‘Golden State of Mind’ team owner Joe Lacob is aiming to have that move done by 2017.
With over 400,000 residents, the city of Oakland cannot easily be ignored, and the better the Warriors continue to play the more the city will continue to be part of the epicenter of the NBA Playoff picture. Whether the networks, the league or team ownership want to admit it, the team is already sitting on prime real estate.
Like it or not the city by the Bay that’s front and center is Oakland not San Francisco.