Victory parades never get old. The Warriors could win 20 titles in a row, and I don't think fans would tire of the experience. Like a birthday party with family, these annual celebrations joyfully bring people together around someone they love (in this case a team), and Tuesday's parade in Oakland was as special as any before it. But if you have a problem with bandwagon fans and superteams, this wasn't the event for you.
Of course, we really aren't bandwagon fans. Warriors fans have been among the most loyal and passionate in professional sports through many lean years. Sure, our numbers have swelled in this age of the Golden Dynasty, but as I learned on Tuesday at the parade, old or new, citizens of Dubnation are an authentic collection of passionate fans from all over the Bay Area, all over the country, and all over the world. I took a day off work Tuesday and went with my daughter and other family members to Oakland to celebrate. What follows is a montage of Dubnation quilted together at yesterday's parade celebration.
On our Way
My daughter and I left the house in Roseville at 5:30 am, and we picked up my brother-in-law and his two kids. We drove to Vallejo where we met up with my cousin Czar and his family. From there, we caravanned to Oakland, parking in the neighborhood that Czar and I grew up in. We stopped for a bathroom break at our uncle and aunt's house, which is right behind the homes we once lived in. Going to these parades for Czar and me is a homecoming that takes us back in time. Our kids, who grew up in the suburb, didn't get the Oakland experience, so it was neat for them get a taste. I would learn later in the day that there is this kind of shared nostigia with most Warriors fans who grew up in the East Bay.
In the Old Neighborhood
The walk to the parade from there was about four city blocks. We arrived at the lake and took one group shot in front of the Oakland courthouse, and then I broke out the Red Auerbach victory cigar.
We found our spot on Lakeside Drive at about 10:30, and next to us was a woman named Rashedah Muhammad and her daughter Robyn. They were selling bottles of water for $2.00 each smartly taking advantage of an opportunity to make some extra cash on a hot June day. The main enterprise for them, of course, was the parade and seeing Robyn's favorite player, Steph Curry. Rashedah admires Curry because he is an electrifying basketball player but even more for his character and his faith in God. Rashedah and Robyn are from East Oakland, and they've been Warriors fans all their lives. I asked Rashedah about her favorite aspect of being a Warriors fan, and her answer was the viewing parties that are put on during the playoffs when the team is on the road. It's the most affordable way to enjoy the Warriors with their fans. She is thankful that the Warriors have given fans that option.
Robyn and Rashedah
Once everyone in our party settled in, I began meeting people. Paul Hughes was standing alone away from the street crowd, looking straight ahead wearing a jersey from the We Believe era. Hughes made the trip in on BART from Union City, and he has been a lifelong Warriors fan. His favorite player today is Draymond Green because he's the heart and soul of the team, but his first inspiration as a fan came from Purvis Short. Hughes remembers seeing games in the early 80's live at the arena that was then called the Coliseum. He fell in love with Short's smooth high arcing rainbow jumpers. "That's when I really started loving the game," said Hughes. Anyone who ever watched Short live would marvel at how he would dribble the ball in the corner, setting up his rthym, and then executing a turn-around jumper with an unusally high arc that would swish through the net. Short famously shared with reporters that his father would hold up a broomstick while guarding him, encourgaging him to get arch on his shot so that it would be harder to block. He was a very good NBA player who played an old school pick-up game style. Hughes, an old school fan himself, laughed with me as we reminisced about those teams that were so fun to watch. This guy is true I thought to myself as we talked.
After chatting with Hughes, I made my way back to Lakeside Drive. I spotted a character decked out in all kinds of Warriors paraphernalia crossing the barricaded street carrying a broom and a sign. He made his way back to his spot about 100 feet to the right of where we were on the route. So I went over to him to find out his story. Ramir, originally from Olongapo City, Philippines, came from Hercules to be a part of the festivities. He has been a Warriors fan since he came to the United States in 1981. Ramir is living in the moment, and he is savoring the Warriors' recent success. In fact, he told me that his most cherished Warriors memory is their recent sweep of Cavaliers. The picture don't lie. But his earliest and most enduring memory dates back to 1981 when he attended a Lakers game and had the chance to see Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Magic Johnson. What he remembers most of that game was moving from the rafters down to seats right behind the basket. He enjoyed his upgrade for a half, and then security came down and made him go back to his seat in the upper bowl. How many vintage fans have shared similar stories? That's practically a rite of passage for Warriors fans who go back to the 70's, 80's, and 90's.
Joy Concepcion was standing next to Ramir, and I thought they were a pair. Turns out they both came to the parade solo. Joy came to the parade from San Jose, and she has been a Warriors fan since the days of Run TMC. Her most treasured memory of the Warriors is the 2015 Championship. "That year I went broke," she told me laughing. "I went to three playoff games, and they cost me $1,200 each." Like the million other people who took a day off to celebrate in Oakland, Joy and Ramir are two ordinary people with an extraordinary passion for the Bay's team.
Joy and Ramir
Michael and Kristen and their three children also drove in from San Jose to catch the celebration. Like so many at the parade, they brought the kids. Michael has been a fan of the Warriors since the days of Run TMC, and he remembers back then going to Longs Drug and buying Club 200 tickets for $20.00 apiece. I asked his children who their favorite player was, and one said Steph and the other KD. "Do you like Lebron?" I asked. "No!" they said together.
Michael, Kristen, and the kids
Like Michael, Devon from Oakland also remembers a time when tickets were more affordable. "I would go to games back when it was $25 for a family, and that included hot dogs!" Devon's devotion to the Warriors dates back to when Jason Richardson, his all time favorite Warriors player, was winning slam dunk contests. But surprisingly, it was wasn't the athletes on the court that Devon remembers most. As a child, Devon loved watching the Warriors mascot, Thunder. "I remember seeing him jump on the trampoline. I was watching him up close and he gave me a free soda. I looked at him like a cartoon character." That one moment in time, that contact with someone from the Warriors organization who in the eyes of a child was a real life superhero, made a lasting impression on Devon, and I would learn that he wasn't the only one touched by Thunder.
Standing next to Devon was Ziril Wilson. Wilson, also an Oakland native, told me that he's been a fan of the team since the days of Rick Barry. Ziril is a rap artist, and his group is Dub City Rap. He played for me one his raps on his iphone. Ziril's two favorite Warriors are Rick Barry and Steph Curry, and his favorite Warriors memory was, as he put it, "Seeing the look they put on Lebron's face when he got swept."
After wrapping up my conversation with Ziril, a young man in a bright red mohawk, long thick beard, and an Irish kilt passed by. He headed to a park area shaded by three giant eucaplytus trees. I followed him over and engaged him. Meet Chris "Freekshow" Zuniga.
Chris made the ride up from the South Bay where he professionally wrestles for and is reinging champion of the Under Ground Wrestling Alliance. He has been a Warriors fan for just 6 years, but (no surprise here) he has been a lifelong Raiders fan. Chris fits right in the Black Hole scene at the Coliseum. I asked him if he would be wearing his Warriors shirt at his next wresting match, and he seemed to really like the idea. I followed up with a less-than-original joke about him being the Ultimate Warrior, and he gave me a courtesy laugh. Isn't it funny how things circle back when you think about the Cavs in their 2016 parade and how Lebron and his teammates mocked the Warriors with their Ultimate Warriors shirts?
When I commented on his kilt, Chris laughed and said, "Since Braveheart came out everyone thinks that only the Scots wear kilts. The Irish also wear them." Though he has only been a Warriors fan for six years, Chris made a connection to the Warriors back when he was he child. He was at a birthday party at Chucky E Cheese and had an encounter with Thunder. Chris was mesmorized by Thunder's acrobatic abilities, his athleticism, and the way he engaged people, especially children. "[Watching Thunder] made me want to be like him. It brought you in. It's what inspired me to be a professional wrestler." Interesting. I had no idea how much Thunder touched people. In the opinion of many die hard Warriors fans, Thunder was a cynical manifestation of former Warriors owner Christopher Cohan's "It's a Great Time Out" marketing campaign. Put a mediocre product on the floor, but if you entertain them with circus acts, they will come anyway. Maybe we were wrong about that. I learned on Tuesday that Thunder is actually an important strand in the fabric of Warriors history. When you touch the heart of a child, when you tap into his or her wonder and awe, that magic stays with them. Chris sees what he does as a professional wrestler, performing in front of young audiences, as a calling. "When I see the kids, it becomes real to me. Taking pictures with the children is real to me. There is no greater joy, and I would do it if I didn't get paid."
While Chris and I were talking, Andre Bryce and Alisha Whitaker approached him. Alisha asked if she could take a picture with him. I told them that I was his agent and the each photo would cost $20.00. They laughed, and we continued our conversation. Andre, who has been a fan of the Warriors since they came to the Bay Area, said that his favorite memory of the Warriors was their first Bay Area title in 1975. I asked him what made that memory so special, and his answer captured what this day was all about:
"When the Warriors won the championship in 75 the feeling was like I was a part of the town. That I was something. These kids out here feel like they are a part of a town that won. Look at all the kids in blue. Even some of the pets people brought are in Warriors colors."
Andre was the third person I met to bring up Thunder. "Thunder was an inspiration to kids. I'm concerned about the future." For fans like Andre, Alisha, and Chris, the Warriors are not just a sports team or just entertainment; they're an attraction that glues us together and gives hope and joy to a broken world. Everyone knows that sports at every level has its pitfalls and traps, especially for young people. But ultimately they bring us together, and in times like this they bring out the best in us.
Andre, Alisha, and Chris
After my conversation with Andre, Alisha, and Chris, I headed back to the Lakeside Drive. On the way back, I ran into Kai, her son, and her friends who are visiting from Estonia. They were the first international parade attendees I met on Tuesday. Kai is also from Estonia, and she has been here in the United States for 15 years. Her last five have been in Northern California, and she quickly adopted the Warriors as her team. She loves Draymond Green and Steph Curry, and her best memories of the Warriors have been the parades, and it's easy to see why. Estonia is right above Latvia on the map, and so, naturally, I had to ask the ladies from Estonia with a nod and a wink if they knew who Andres Biedrens is. And they all smiled and said, "Of course!" When I asked them if they knew where he could be found so that the Warriors could get back the money he owes them for not showing up the last three years of his contract, they just gave me a blank stare. I smiled, said "Go Warriors, go Estonia" and they smiled back.
Kai, her son, and friends from Estonia
After saying goodbye to Kai and her friends, I headed back to meet up with my family along the parade route. On my way back, I ran into a man carrying what looked like boxing title belts. He reminded me a little of Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Tony Mayfield came from the City to enjoy the festivities and to sell his wares. He produces these title belt souvenirs and has been a Warriors fan all his life. Like many others whom I met, the 2015 Championship was Tony's favorite Warriors memory. His favorite player is Klay Thompson because of the way he takes care of his body. "When some of the other stars on the team went down," said Tony, "Klay produced for the team filling the void when called upon. When those injured stars returned, he slipped back to his role, still producing as a scorer but playing within the framework of the team."
After I took Tony's picture, he insisted on taking my picture as well, so I obliged. We wound up taking pictures with others in the crowd too. Tony shared with me at the end of our conversation that he was the son of the famous singer and song writer, Curtis Mayfield. It just goes to show that you never know who you're going to run into at an event like this.
Once I made it back to my friends and family on the parade route, I was ready to put away my notepad and be a normal spectator. The floats had not yet made it to our area, and while waiting a gal on roller skates stopped to buy water from Rashedah and Robyn. I pulled my notepad out again and asked her if I could snap her picture.
Jessica Jirsa has been in the Bay Area for 8 years, and she is originally from South Dakota. She has been an enthusiastic Warriors fan since her arrival. She is a fine artist by trade, and she sculpted 2 of the 50 Oakland A's Stompers that have been erected around different landmarks in Oakland. Jessica became a Warriors fan when they were still underdogs, and she has fond memories of those days. Her favorite Warriors moment was Klay Thompson scoring 37 points in the third quarter at home against Sacramento. When Jessica is not creating works of art or watching Warriors games, she is on her roller skates. She is a member of the Shevil Dead squad that plays in the Bay Area Derby league. I asked her what drew her to the Warriors, and she mentioned that besides how great they play and the joy they bring to each game, basketball is similar to roller derby. She didn't have time to get into all of the nuances, but she explained it this way: "Like basketball, roller derby is a 5 on 5 sport. We do pick and rolls, though with more contact using hips and shoulders. When we are on the offensive, we are always still thinking of and prepared for our transition to defense. The game is as mental as it is physical, and there all kinds of body types."
The floats finally made their way to our part of the route after my conversation with Jessica ended. Of course, it was nice to see the Warriors players and coaching staff interacting with fans along the route. But as Steph Curry astutely pointed out in an interview after the event, this wasn't about the team as much as it was about Dubnation. The most fun and exciting aspect of the day for me was seeing the spectators en mass enjoying the moment. People were on fire escapes and perched on top of any structure that would give them a good view. For a few hours on a beautiful June 12 Oakland day, one million people came together from all walks of life to joyfully celebrate something very special to them. There was a tremendous sense of community, and for a moment, at least, we were able to put aside differences in our common love for something special.
Having been a Warriors fan myself since the early 80's, the parade experience provided a memorable way to connect to this ecletic group of fans who know something good when they see it. That word eclectic gets thrown around a lot, but if you've spent any time in Oakland there's meaning to it there. As a hard core fan of the team, always mindful of the national narrative of band wagon fans following a superteam that has been unfairly empowered by the signing of a mega star in KD, the parade was a fun way to collectively vanquish that propaganda. One million strong, Warriors fans have been true to the Warriors over many years, and we've been at the bottom of the trough for many more years then we've been riding on the crests. And so now that we are riding this exhilarating dynastic wave, no one is going to, excuse the pun, rain on our parade. The Warriors were a team organically assembled through a vision and a plan that started with Joe Lacob. Lacob hired the right people, and those people hired the right coaching staff and drafted the right players based on a very clear set of criteria that fit into their master plan. It's no accident that the Warriors are the class of the NBA. Once they established a great culture, they drew other free agents like bees to honey. This is a merited achievement, not an act of priviledge as the national narrative would have it. The Warriors owe a huge debt of gratitude to their fans, maybe the best in sports. And their fans owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to them for the quality, excellence, and joy they have manufactured for the Bay Area.
Next season will be the Warriors last in Oakland. So much of East Bay culture is etched in the Warriors, and though they are really a team for all of the Bay Area, their heritage is uniquely Oakland. That came to life once again yesterday at the parade. I'm sure that the Chase Center will be a beautiful, first class venue, and San Francisco is a great city. But The Town is also a very special place, and is and always will be emblazed in the Warriors identity and history.
Finally, Thunder came up three times in my encounters, and so it would be a Steph Curry behind-the-back-turnover not to mention that Sadiki Fuller, the original Thunder, passed away in May. I hope he knew how special he was to so many Warriors fans, and I hope his family has a chance to read this.
The post The Problem with Bandwagon Fans and Super Teams: A Montage of Dubnation from the Warriors Parade appeared first on Fast Break.