(photographs by Garrett Wheeler, Ray Chavez, Anda Chu, Thearon W. Henderson and @SkyHighOakland)
By Garrett Wheeler
We take our place at 12th and Broadway in a throng of blue and gold clad revelers, the sounds of Mac Dre and E-40 thumping from portable speakers. Small clouds of weed smoke drift through the morning air, champagne bottles are passed around. A dance circle forms and some girls drop and pop while others goad them on, waving and cheering in delight.
It's 8:30 AM, a full hour and a half before the parade is scheduled to begin, but the festivities are well underway. I’ve called in sick (err, professional development day), dragged my butt out of bed at 5 AM, and traveled two hours to celebrate this Warriors season with close to a million other like-minded folk. Because like Steph and Coach Kerr reminded us all season, winning championships don’t come easy.
As the minutes tick by, the party keeps growing. Bodies enclose around us. Standing room becomes sparse, and latecomers begin hanging off ledges, climbing atop bus stop awnings and into trees. Three CHP officers on motorcycles fly by and that is all the mob needs to understand that the moment has arrived: the men who delivered the first Warriors championship in 40 seasons will soon be among us, if only for a moment.
And then, there they are. First the D-League guys, (and D-League Champs!) McAdoo and Kuzmic, plus Justin Holiday. Then, Klay Thompson, hat backwards, nodding and clapping in affirmation from the bow of his double-decker bus. Yelling, screaming, chanting as the Champs slowly cruise by atop their buses. Wait, is that MC-Hammer up there next to Mayor Schaaf? A new chant: “Too legit, too legit to quit! Too legit, too legit to quit!” Hammer Time bopping his head to the rhythm, holding up two fingers in acknowledgment.
Buses with two players on each filter down Broadway. Draymond and Mo Speights, then the two bigs, Ezeli and Bogut. Harrison Barnes and Leandro. D. Lee and Shawn Livingston. Finally, the MVPs. Curry at the helm, clutching a gleaming Larry O’Brien trophy in one arm, waving and pointing with the other, pausing for the occasional selfie. The Baby Faced Assassin is surrounded by family, of course. Those faces that have become so familiar are all there: his wife Ayesha, little Riley, brother Seth and sister Sydel, and parents Dell and Sonya. The Curry’s, what adoration! A new “Riiii-Leeeyy” chant swells forth and Sonya is all beaming smiles, and Dell is a proud, proud man.
But wait, who’s that toward the rear of Steph’s bus? That would be Finals MVP, Sir Andre Iguodala. The chant quickly switches to “M-V-P, M-V-P!” and there’s Andre’s wide, toothy grin and a Bill Russell Award trophy hoisting into the air, glinting in the mid-morning sun. The man who contained Lebron on one end of the floor and hit daggers on the other is before us, and then he too is gone.
Coach Kerr rolls by in the back of a black Lincoln Continental convertible followed by a few buses packed with season ticket holders. And now the parade has traveled out of sight, but the memories, as they say, will last a lifetime.
We leave our spot and join the mass of people attempting to traverse down to Lake Merritt for the parade terminus and rally, but the streets are blocked and we’re routed all the way around Laney College. By the time we reach the Kaiser Center, it’s readily apparent that we won’t be getting within a mile of the stage so we post up near a giant screen erected on Lakeside Drive. We watch the interviews, the executive speeches, and the owners’ speeches as the sun grows warm overhead. There are no chairs and no shade but still we watch as Tim Roy and Bob Fitzgerald each have their turn with the mic.
Then one by one, Bob and Jim Barnett introduce the starters, plus Iguodala, and each gives a short speech at the podium. (Ok, Green’s speech wasn’t short, obviously.) The players talk about how magical the season has been, and how much they owe to Warriors fans. They talk about the City of Oakland deserving a championship, and about how they respect the Town and the people who call it home. “Stay in Oakland!” people yell, while others wonder aloud if there is anything that can keep San Francisco from stealing away a team that’s played its last 43 seasons in Oakland.
And while, as an East Bay native, I’d love to see the Warriors get a sweet new stadium in Oakland and the Coliseum City fantasy become reality, it’s necessary to separate the future from the present in order to savor this moment. After-all, this was a championship, a season really, that was so extraordinary, so perfect, that all those hyperbolic clichés actually apply.
It was a story-book of narratives: the rookie head coach humbly allows his players to be themselves and never overreaches; the team’s best player becomes a league MVP and an NBA mega-star; the “heartbeat” of the team pulses from a stretch forward with moxie like Ali; Klay drops 37 in one quarter; an undersized lineup runs and guns (and defends) its way past bigger and stronger opponents; King James himself is dethroned, in six, and the Warriors win it all.
Long after the confetti is all cleaned up and the players and coaches have gone their separate ways, the legend of the 2015 Golden State Warriors will live on. It was a season Warriors fans will never forget, a season that bonded all corners of the Bay Area together. Because as frivolous as sports can seem in comparison to the graver realities of life, it’s moments like these that seem to transcend the stats and the box scores and even the hardware that comes with a winning season.
To quote Riley Curry, quoting Big Sean: “I’m way up, I feel blessed."