The Golden State Warriors are one playoff run from their move to San Francisco.
Their move back, actually. The Warriors played the nine seasons in San Francisco, as the San Francisco Warriors, before relocating to Oakland. After 48 seasons in Oakland, are they planning to reclaim their San Francisco name when they move into the new Chase Center next season?
“If you had asked that question five years ago,” Warriors president Rick Welts said, “I would have lied to you and said we hadn’t made up our mind, but the answer would have been, ‘Of course, we’re going to be the San Francisco Warriors. What are you, crazy?’ ”
The Warriors played their final regular-season game in Oakland on Sunday. Their tenure there is ending in glory — three NBA championships in four years, with the possibility of one more this spring — after decades of misery. Oakland supported the Warriors through thick and thin, all with the Golden State label.
“For years, Oakland has felt deeply insulted that they don’t call themselves the Oakland Warriors,” said Carolyn Jones, who covered Oakland for the San Francisco Chronicle. “They have tried and asked and cajoled.”
Yet the Warriors are leaving substantial footprints in Oakland, where the mayor says she loves them even as they leave her town. As it turns out, the residents will not suffer the indignity of watching a team that refused to call itself Oakland name run up and down the court again as the San Francisco Warriors.
“What happened in between was four trips to the NBA Finals and three championships, and that team — that nobody could figure out who they were or where they were — became a worldwide brand,” Welts said.
“The way our team has performed and established the Golden State brand around the world — from China to South America and everywhere in Europe — right now, it’s a no-brainer to keep the name.”
The Warriors do not plan a presentation free of geography. The team name might not say San Francisco, but team executives will.
“We are going to embrace San Francisco,” co-owner Peter Guber said. “You’re going to see San Francisco evolve as a name on different products.”
Said Welts: “We really believe this will stand toe to toe with the great buildings in the world. Every artist in the world is not going to consider their resume complete until they have played Chase Center in San Francisco.”
In the new arena, Welts said, the Warriors’ uniform mix will continue to include “The Town” jerseys, the refreshing Oakland antidote to the pretentious “The City” nickname San Francisco bestowed upon itself long ago.
The Chase Center will anchor 11 acres of restaurants, retail spaces, offices, 3.2 acres of public plazas and open spaces, and 5.5 acres of a public waterfront park.
The championship parades bought the Warriors priceless goodwill in Oakland. Jones said Oaklanders have grown to adore this core of Warriors players, not only for their success but their community involvement.
“You see them around town,” she said. “They’re super friendly.”
Stephen Curry, the two-time NBA most valuable player, lives in the East Bay and has opened a pop-up store in downtown Oakland. Curry has not decided whether to move when the team does, or whether to open an Oakland store again next season.
However, rather than sell their downtown Oakland headquarters and practice facility, the Warriors have teamed with Kaiser Permanente on a 20-year deal to keep the building open for basketball camps and clinics as well as non-profit programs, particularly health and education initiatives focused on at-risk youth.
Welts said the Warriors worked on that deal for two years, intent on maintaining a presence in Oakland even as they vacated Oracle Arena.
“We’re leaving a building,” Welts said. “We’re not leaving the city.”
The Raiders are leaving town, even as they keep Oakland in their name until they depart for Las Vegas. The Warriors will remain the Bay Area’s NBA team, a few miles across the bay.
“I always hate it when journalists put the Warriors and the Raiders in the same sentence,” Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf said. “The Warriors are not leaving Oakland, as our team. Their victories are still our victories. Their players are still going to be showing up in our schools and contributing to our local non-profits.