August 20, 2022

Before Klay Thompson stumbles and defeats a fan; before Draymond tells the enemies to “Shut up!” on live television; and long before fans from across the Bay Area filled both sides of Market Street, waiting for a glimpse of their champion Golden State Warriors, Amir Shabaz set out to find the perfect spot to set up his folding table.

Shabaz, known as “Keez” to his Oakland street artist brothers, was looking for the perfect spot to display his freshly printed set of Warriors championship T-shirts in variations of gold, blue and black. He arrived nearly four hours before the start of the parade, as city workers set up the last barricades to seal off the stampede of fans. The goal was simple: find a perfect location and sell the shirts before the show even started.

“The problem with sportswear is that it spoils,” the East Bay native said. “There’s a strong potential that I’ll get stuck with the product if I don’t get rid of it early.”

Shabaz was first inspired when the Giants went to the World Series in 2010 (the same year he opened his design studio in Oakland) and began selling his shirts on the street during that championship run. But his favorite parade memory is still of the 2018 Warriors celebration.

“Crazy,” he recalls.

His folding table was set up near the boathouse on Lake Merritt as the Warriors celebrated the 2018 title, marching through the heart of downtown Oakland. But this year is another milestone for the legendary franchise as it celebrates its first championship in a new city, and Shabaz has noticed the difference.

“I couldn’t really fit Oakland into the design,” Shabaz said. “I had to take that into account when a lot of people [at the parade] are from Oakland, it’s not an Oakland team anymore. I couldn’t relate the city to it.

But the franchise has deep roots in the Bay Area, predating his time in Oakland. The San Francisco Warriors, as they were known at the time, played many of their games at the Cow Palace just south of the city from 1962 to 1971.

NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry played for the Warriors at the Palace and then for the Oakland Oaks in the ABA for two years before returning to the Warriors when they moved to East Bay. It won a title in 1975, and then 40 years passed before the first of that core in 2015. In other words, that fan base endured worse than a move across the bay.

“Forty years is a long time to sustain a team without having great successes,” Barry said. “The fans are very patient, very loyal. I think they’ve come to terms with the fact that they’re back in San Francisco.

Warriors star Jordan Poole crosses Market Street to shake hands with spectators as the parade route begins to teem with fans who have broken through the barricades.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

While the team may have settled into their new home at the Chase Center, the hole left by the ownership group when they departed still resonates in the now-empty Oakland Arena for basketball. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority had to fight a long court battle to force the team to pay the $45 million it owed for arena upgrades in 1996 before leaving town .

Despite celebrating their last three championships with parades in Oakland, the team had planned to hold their celebration in San Francisco only this year, according to Warriors spokesman Raymond Ridder.

There were other minor acknowledgments from the team’s recent history instead. Steph Curry, among other players, wore shorts that had “Oakland” written on the front. And Paul Wong, the super fan whose handmade “WE BELIEVE” signs defined the 2007 playoff run, was invited to walk with the team inside the barricades on behalf of his We Believe Foundation. . (Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also participated in the parade, in her signature snail car.)

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in his snail car during the Warriors Parade.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in his snail car during the Warriors Parade.

Charles Russo

As Wong reflected on the crowds that attend games at Chase Center now, there is a clear distinction with the “Roaracle” arena.

“We were part of the show,” he says of Oracle fans. “We weren’t there to watch the show. It’s a big difference.

“[Now] it is a very expensive place to attend. It’s not something for ordinary people.

Wong noted that he sees a lot of the same staff when they visit the new Chase Center for games. The familiar faces of the ushers and security personnel at the old Oracle Arena are a reminder that the foundation of this off-field team still lies across the bay.

But before the parade started, Wong knew East Bay fans were still loyal, even though many Warriors fans were kicked out of games. “This bridge won’t stop them from coming,” Wong said. “And it’s going to be a great sight to see.”

He was right: Monday was BART’s highest ridership total since the pandemic began. More than 190,000 people took the train on Monday, according to BART.

Steph Curry was among several warriors representing Oakland in the parade.

Steph Curry was among several warriors representing Oakland in the parade.

Charles Russo

Kelvin Ho grew up watching the Baron Davis-era Warriors play in Oracle Arena in front of a passionate Oakland crowd. He was one of thousands of fans who crowded into BART from Hayward for the chance to be sprayed by a water gun-wielding Jordan Poole during Monday’s parade.

Poole paid homage to the team’s former home by donning a retro Warriors jersey with “Oakland” printed on the front.

“They now represent the entire Bay Area — not just Oakland,” Ho acknowledged.

He and his friends ducked into the crowd near the Montgomery Street intersection to relive the highlights of another magical title run.

This year’s parade might have had a new zip code, but the hue of Oakland green was unmistakable through the blanket’s blue and gold confetti in the crowd. And that’s probably why Shabaz felt so at home. Long before Warriors players started hitting Market Street, his t-shirts sold out.

Atreya Verma is an Oakland-based writer who focuses on reporting on the intersection of sports and culture. You can follow his work and share your thoughts with him on Twitter @atreya_verma.