Oakulture

Documenting the Oakland cultural renaissance


2 Comments

The Warriors’ Million Fan March Validates Oakland as A Championship City

This is what 1.1 million people look like

This is what 1.1 million people looks like

It’s been called, somewhat cleverly, the “Million Fan March.” Last Friday’s Warriors Parade drew an estimated 1.1 million people to Oakland to celebrate the city’s newly-minted NBA Championship trophy. The parade capped a dream season which saw the Dubs rise to legendary status, compiling one of the best records ever in NBA history, and convincingly out-Splashing four other playoff teams to earn the title.

photo by Steve Snider

photo by Steve Snider

The parade meant everything to the Dub Nation, who descended on the Eastlake lawn in a swarming sea of gold and blue, but it might have meant even more to Oakland, a perennial underdog who finally emerged from the long shadow cast by San Francisco to recast its identity as a winner. Though the Warriors’ surname says “Golden State,” this was an Oakland team, through and through, exemplified by the trash-talking, swaggering Draymond Green, a classic overachiever who backed up his lip service and attitude with on-court bravado when it mattered most.

Draymond Green

Draymond Green

Throughout the season, longtime Dubs fans traded war stories about the days of Run-TMC, and 2006’s “We Believe” squad, or even the 74-75 unit captained by Rick Barry which was the last Warriors team to win an NBA championship, some 40 years ago. Those with even longer memories might have harkened back even further, to the shortlived American Basketball Association’s Oakland Oaks.

oakland oaksBut never in the team’s history as the Bay Area’s professional basketball franchise had it had a team as talented as the 2014-15 edition. Perhaps even more important than talent, though, was the team’s unselfishness and chemistry; in a league where sniping at teammates is par for the course, the Warriors played nice with each other all year long.

To win the championship, the Dubs overcame a slew of doubters, none more prominent than TV analyst Charles Barkley, who predicted incorrectly that jump-shooting teams don’t win championships. What Barkley didn’t realize, though, was that prolific offenses who also play excellent defense have historically had a statistical advantage in winning NBA titles. (But then again, as Green pointed out,$ir Charles never won a ring, so how would he know?) In any event, it’s likely their success will alter pro basketball trends, as teams seek to match their versatility and assemble lineups which can excel in small-ball finesse.

Klay Thompson with the NBA Championship trophy

Klay Thompson with the NBA Championship trophy

The Warriors also had to overcome their own doubts. A young team, they lacked significant playoff experience, and it showed at times. But they adjusted to adversity and overcame obstacles both real and imagined, even down to the final showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Like a boss battle in a video game, the Warriors figured out a way to beat LeBron James, the self-proclaimed “best basketball player in the world.” They won, ultimately, by rising to the challenge at critical times, and by playing as a team – a message to other ego-driven, superstar-oriented NBA franchises.

Sure, there were some dazzling displays of ballhandling and shooting by league MVP Steph Curry, but it’s completely Oaklandish that renaissance man Andre Iguodala, a force at both ends of the court, won playoff MVP honors. In the final game, “Iggy” hit just as many three-pointers (three) as Curry, a testament to the emotional leadership he provided all year.

Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes

Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes

The massive turnout for the parade and rally was almost three times the size of Oakland’s population – an indication that the Dubs’ bandwagon had swelled with every thrilling victory in an 83-win season. Many in attendance had not even been born the last time the Warriors won an NBA title. While sports fans can be brutish and belligerent, especially after drinking since 5 am (which is when crowds began to arrive at the rally site), the assembled masses on Friday were generally well-behaved, even though the crush of population density threatened to flare tempers and/or result in claustrophobic episodes.

“The parade meant everything to the Dub Nation, who descended on the Eastlake lawn in a swarming sea of gold and blue, but it might have meant even more to Oakland, a perennial underdog who finally emerged from the long shadow cast by San Francisco to recast its identity as winners.”

One example of the compassion Warriors fans hold in their hearts came on the Lake Merritt Drive overpass. When the parade concluded, the overpass was packed with people, including young children and babies in strollers. There was scant elbow room. As the rally started, it became apparent that not only were the people on the bridge not going to be able to move any further forward, but only those up in the front would actually be able to see what was happening. At that moment, several hands appeared to hoist up a young wheelchair-bound fan above the heads of the crowd, so he could view the proceedings. That right there says all you need to know about the nature of the Dub Nation.

Jun 19 2015 020

The championship and the parade take on an even greater significance because of the very real possibility that this is the Warriors’ last season in Oakland. Talk about going out on a high note. Yet the season and the celebration will continue to live on, quite possibly in mythical terms. It’s something, as Iguodala pointed out in a post-Finals interview, that can never be taken away. This championship, it must be said, belongs to Oakland.

Oakulture has already pointed out the cultural significance of the Warriors, and their resonance has grown exponentially with them securing the trophy. It’s a measure of how exciting they were that this year’s Finals garnered the highest TV ratings in 17 years; their deeds won’t soon be forgotten.

The

The “Mac Tre” mural by Crayone and the Illuminaries

Like folkloric heroes, the Warriors have been celebrated in song—mostly rap songs, which is another Oaklandish trait—as well as in visual art, through the creation of the now-famous “Mac Tre” mural in West Oakland, painted by Crayone and the Illuminaries, which has become a must-visit location for Dubs aficionados. They’ve also made an impact on fashion, and inspired entrepreneurship from a score of independent artisans and designers – some of the various t-shirts include Hiero– and Wu-Tang-themed designs, Eesuu Orundide’s “Oaktown Splash,” and one proclaiming “East Oakland Warriors” in the old-school font they used during the 74-75 season. They even inspired the Original Scraper Bike Team to paint their rides in team colors.

Original Scraper Bike Team

Original Scraper Bike Team

No longer are the Warriors the laughingstock of professional sports, the team nobody wanted to play for. The days of wondering who the team would pick in the draft lottery—only to see that player either fail, or become a star on another team—are over.  Children will grow up with the memory of this season and be inspired to achieve great things. Heck, Curry’s daughter Riley not only already runs the world, but also inspired a cute reinterpretation of the Fairyland sign.

“Rileyland”

That’s quite fitting, because this dream season resembled nothing so much as a fairytale. As to where the story goes from here, well, there is much left to be told. If they keep winning, the Warriors could add more hardware to their trophy case. In the meantime, they have provided the most concrete proof to date that Oakland is a major-league city, one which breeds champions.

Advertisements


2 Comments

Warriors’ NBA Finals Appearance Has Cultural Impact

team

It’s been exactly 40 years since the Golden State Warriors were in the NBA Finals. That’s two generations in terms of population demographics, but much longer in pop culture terms. Basketball is much more mainstream now than it was in 1975, when Rick Barry was shooting underhanded free-throws. Just check league MVP Steph Curry’s endorsement deals for confirmation of that fact. Barry didn’t even get his own signature sneaker, much less deals with insurance, fashion, and headphone companies. Curry –aka the Babyface Assassin — has all of that, plus the top-selling player jersey for 2015.

The Dubs’ ascension into the NBA elite is pure vindication for Golden State’s  long-suffering fan base, who literally endured decades of being an also-ran franchise best known for players they drafted who went on to become stars with other teams.  Remember the “Warriors Worrier” PR campaign of the late ’80s? The name sort of made sense, because the team only cracked the .500 mark three times during that decade.

Rick Barry

Rick Barry

The 90s and 2000s weren’t much better. The first Don Nelson era produced the emergence of the “Run-TMC” teams with Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin (who made it into the second round of the playoffs twice), but that period is still overshadowed by the rather-ugly enduring image of Latrell Sprewell choking coach PJ Carlesimo. Few players wanted to come to Oakland after that, and during the first half of the 2000s, our marquee guys were either underachievers like Donyell Marshall or over-the-hill journeymen like Antawn Jamison. The Warriors survived an eleven-year playoff drought covering the tenure of no less than six head coaches between 1995 and 2006. Their fortunes began to turn around in 2012, when second-year coach Mark Jackson won 47 games, but the following year, they didn’t advance past the first round despite a 51-win season, prompting ownership to bring in Steve Kerr as coach.

Curry tees up the Pelicans' Anthony Davis

Curry tees up the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis

If hindsight is 20/20, that move—questionable at the time—proved golden. Kerr acted like anything other than a rookie in winning 67 games, one of the highest totals of all time. Not only did the Splash Brothers—Steph Curry and Klay Thompson—live up to their billing as the league’s deadliest backcourt combination, but Draymond Green emerged as the heart and soul of the team, a versatile swing man who played defense and offense with equal passion. Players stifled under Jackson, like Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut, flourished under Kerr. Andre Iguodala accepted the sixth man role without complaint; another former All-Star, David Lee, graciously surrendered his job to Green with nary a peep – unselfishness on a level rarely, if ever, associated with professional sports. Role players like Shaun Livingston, Maureese Speights, Leandro Barbosa, and Festus Ezili all played their parts well. The Warriors developed the deepest roster in the league, a 10-man rotation which relied on team chemistry as much as ball movement and offensive/defensive intensity. Making up 20-point deficits was possible for this team, built on versatility and execution, yet not lacking for star power.

Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr

If there was a more exciting team in all of sports to watch than the Warriors this year, that team must play on another planet without cable TV. All season long, the Warriors seemed to be playing at a higher level than their opponents, resulting in many blowout victories, and a plethora of ESPN-worthy highlights. The Warriors of old never seemed to care much for playing defense, especially during the Don Nelson years. But this team was different. When games got tough, the Warriors got tougher. How many times did they break opponents’ resolve by drilling-down with a defensive stop resulting in a spine-snapping transition 3 or dunk? How many times did Curry hit highlight reel shots? Did we mention Klay’s 37-point quarter? Or breakout games where Green, Barnes, or Ezeli showed they can shoulder the scoring load? Speaking of Barnes, his 4th-quarter explosion after Thompson’s injury in Game Five vs. Houston is exactly the stuff championships are made of. When the chips are down, quitters quit and winners win. The game hung in the balance prior to his scoring nine straight points; afterward, it was all but academic.

“Remember the ‘Warriors Worrier’ PR campaign of the late ’80s? The name sort of made sense, because the team only cracked the .500 mark three times during that decade.”

Splash!

Splash!

Despite all the offensive fireworks, perhaps no better play illustrates the Warriors season than their defensive gem the last 11 seconds of Game Two vs. Houston at Oracle Arena. The Rockets’ best player, James Harden, had the ball. Running down the court, he spotted a double team of Steph and Klay. He passed the ball to Dwight Howard—what was he thinking?—then received it back, with even less time remaining on the clock. With the Warriors trapping him, he seemed confused and didn’t manage to get a shot off. A foul would have given the Rockets a chance to win, but that didn’t happen. It was like Harden—a bonafied MVP candidate who finished second to Curry—was psychologically crushed, overwhelmed by the pressure. The next game was a blowout win for the Dubs, and even though Harden came back to score 45 in the Rockets’ lone victory in Game Four, any momentum was deaded in Game Five, when the Black Rasputin logged an NBA record for turnovers in a Houston loss which wasn’t even close. Sure, we can blame the Lil B curse for Harden’s poor performance, but a more logical explanation is that he was simply outsmarted by players with superior court intelligence.

Klay drives to the hoop

Klay drives to the hoop

The win over the Rockets might have seemed shocking for Warriors newbies and national b-ball fans just tuning in, but the fact is, they’ve shut down potent offenses and league superstars all year with their defensive play, three-point shooting, and nimble transition game. They made adjustments in the playoffs after dropping two consecutive games to Memphis and never looked back.  Is it really any wonder they’re the consensus favorite to win it all?

As the Finals approach, Dubs fever is at an all-time high.  Warrior gear once resigned to closets is now on full display. The Alameda County Courthouse is bathed in blue and yellow lights. And Steph’s daughter, Riley Curry, has become an unlikely media superstar. It’s been a long time coming for anyone who suffered through the days of Chris Washburn, Manute Bol, Tom Tolbert, Tyrone Hill, and Mike Dunleavy.

Draymond Green

Draymond Green

Even though their name doesn’t say it explicitly, Golden State is an Oakland team. They might be moving to San Francisco next year, but in the event of a Finals win, the parade will be held right here, in Oakland. Their Townish affiliation is evident in their unpretentious identity and the loudish “Roaracle” fans who helped cheer them to a 37-2 regular season home record. Their secret weapon is DJ D-Sharp, a hip-hop veteran who isn’t hesitant to play snippets of Too Short or the Luniz during games.

A measure of the Warriors’ pop culture cachet is the numerous songs dedicated to them, the unofficial anthem (and Oakulture personal favorite) being E-40’s Dubbed-out remake of “Choices.”  The rapper known as the Bay Ambassador took an already-good song and made it great by inserting lots and lots of references to the boys in blue and yellow:

Did it happen in a day? (nope)

Came a long way? (yup)

Never know what kind of angle (nope)

Crossover, break your ankle (yup)

Sloppy with the rock? (nope)

Steph Curry with the shot (yup)

Suckers? (nope)

Splash Brothers? (yup)

Ain’t no stoppin’ (nope)

Klay Thompson (yup)

Under pressure, is he choking? (nope)

Do it big like Bogut? (yup)

Never let em tell us that we can’t (nope)

Go hard like Barnes in the paint (yup)

Never ever slowin up the pace (nope)

Shoot a three-pointer in his face (yup)

Almost as good: a reggae video featuring Morgan Heritage and Bobby Lee’s “We A Warrior” set to clips of the Dubs splashing their foes.

Harrison Barnes hi-fives Andre Iguodala

Harrison Barnes hi-fives Andre Iguodala

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Locals Zion-I and Kev Choice are reportedly working on Warriors-inspired tunes right now (edit: The Sole Brothers’ “Warriors” features Zion-I, Blackalicious and Lateef the Truthspeaker). Rapper Rich Cole also has a song, “Dub Nation,” which notes “we the best in the west and the NBA.” As do Ron Lennon & J-Wells — whose “Splash” proclaims, “in the Bay Area they say we too loud/ but we turned up, bout to turn out” —  and uno408. Expect the number of celebratory tunes to increase with every moment the team comes closer to the championship trophy.

Yes, it’s been a long time coming for Warriors fans. And the impact on Oakland is already being felt – just witness the blue/yellow gear being sported all over The Town as the team’s playoff run nears its ultimate destination.

“If there was a more exciting team in all of sports to watch than the Warriors this year, that team must play on another planet without cable TV. All season long, the Warriors seemed to be playing at a higher level than their opponents.”

Errybody say Warriors!

Errybody say Warriors!

Going from perennial scrub to potential champion is kind of a big deal, even for non-sports fans (who can conceivably bask in the afterglow even though they watched “Sex in the City” reruns instead of the games). And of course, there are all the bandwagon-hoppers who probably don’t remember when the Warriors offense was Jason Richardson and not much else. Even if the Warriors lose—which probably won’t happen—they have solidified Oakland/Bay Area pride and earned a permanent place in our region’s cultural iconography—and our hearts. They are the little team that could. And that’s why we love them.