Programming note: "Warriors NBA Finals Central" airs tonight at 5 p.m., and immediately after Game 1 on CSN Bay Area. Both shows will be streaming live right here.
The day is finally upon us when basketball replaces blather as the NBA’s chief product, and noise of the arena replaces the noise of the chatterers in everyone’s ears.
And make no mistake – it will be loud inside the Warriors’ soon-to-be-former haunt. It will be loud because the Warriors typically engender that sort of thing, because the Finals don’t come around here all that often (Gerald Ford was the President the last time it happened), because the noise has become part of the ambience of the old joint . . .
. . . and because this is being looked upon, albeit erroneously, by locals as Oakland’s Last Hurrah.
Much has been made in the dying embers of the pace between the end of the Western Conference Finals and now, or as we have come to know it, The Age Of Nonsense For Nonsense’s Sake, that ESPN has referred to San Francisco, the Bay Area, and the San Francisco Bay Area whenever geographical reference points need be made, but never Oakland. It’s the sort of thing that towns with a massive inferiority complex seize upon in times of seeming triumph.
But in Oakland’s case, it might be. The Raiders have managed to get three feet out of the door on their way to an unhappy end in Southern California as the second tenant to an as-yet-undermined de facto landlord. The A’s are reluctant perennials, having tried every Bay Area town but Hercules in which to relocate.
And most compellingly, the Warriors have been operating with one foot out the door for the last three years, first with the spectacular failure of the 30/32 Plan and now with the South of The Ballpark Plan. In the moment of their most significant triumph since Rick Barry roamed the earth, the Warriors are reliving their geographical youth.
And all Oakland has left is its ability to make noise.
The arena has always been a loud one when properly aroused, largely because it is old and the seats are pitched in such a way that the noise flows down rather than up or across. Players hear it, and in the right moments, feel it. It is a place where Basketball Matters, and even when the Warriors didn’t in the 29 years (out of 38) when they didn’t make the playoffs, the other team did.
But it is not the place ownership wants to plant its real estate flag, and they are willing to risk losing that deafening and hard-edged ambience for the advantages of their own piece of bayfront property.
So yes, this is Oakland’s last stand at least with the Warriors, because no matter how giddy you might be about the locals, there is no guarantee that this trip won’t be a one-off. Only a few teams have reached this level and stayed beyond one power roster – the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs. Even the Bulls dynasty was a Jordan dynasty.
In other words, not only time but history are working against the Warriors becoming a perennial power. Free agency, injury, contract demands, hubris – they all mitigate against teams staying mighty for years, and when you add Oakland’s tenuous status as an NBA team, things like the way ESPN refers to every place but Oakland suddenly matter even though they do not.
So the noise you hear tonight will be anticipation and love and apprehension and the end of an era and the end of a mood and in many ways the end of the franchise’s entire identity. Oakland brought its own obstinacy, the stubbornness of being the dismissed sibling, and when the Warriors leave, that sense will leave with them. Just as San Francisco didn’t travel east when the Warriors did in 1971, nor will Oakland go west with them if the new building is completed. Not even Stephen Curry can make that happen.
And he’s really good. At least that’s what San Franciscans have been told on the Internet.