I went to my first Warriors game, back when they were called the San Francisco Warriors, back in 1965. They played in the old Civic Auditorium in downtown San Francisco. The big star was none other than Wilt Chamberlain. The previous year, the Warriors drafted Nate Thurmond, to form a rather tall and formidable front line. Eventual coach Al Attles was a guard on that team.
Buying a ticket back then was no problem. Just show up, buy a ticket, and sit down close to the court. They were playing the famed Boston Celtics with the great Bill Russell. Never did I realize that today, I would pay well over a $100 for a ticket, and have to buy them before the season started!
Somewhere in that period of time, the Warriors traded Wilt to Philadelphia, then drafted Rick Barry the following season. Word was the owner could not afford to pay Wilt. Somehow, in the 1974-75 season, the Warriors, led by Barry and rookie Jamal Wilkes, swept the Washington Bullets in the NBA Championship. The other three starters were Clifford Ray, Jeff Mullins, and Butch Beard, hardly household names or stars. The Bullets big stars were Elvin Hayes, and Berkeley High and UC Berkeley’s Phil Chenier.
Courtesy of a vendor, I was able to attend a game in each of the playoff series, including the finals. And can you believe we had to watch the Championship series in the old Cow Palace in Daly City, since the circus or ice capades had pre-empted the Warriors in the Oakland Coliseum? The format was also unusual, a 1-2-2-1-1 schedule. I went to the game on May 23, 1975 in Daly City while I was going to grad school at Berkeley.
Then for many years, the Warriors became an afterthought in Bay Area sports. Colorful owner, Franklin Meuli sold the team to Chris Cohan, and the team went through many up and down, mostly down, periods. They had some great players and coaches during this time, like Don Nelson, Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond, and Tim Hardaway. But they could never reach the top.
Along comes a new ownership to the almost dead franchise, in the name of wealthy investors, Joe Lacob and Peter Guber of Mandalay Entertainment for $450 million. Change came quickly.
But the real change came when several future stars were drafted, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Harrison Barnes. That coincided with a new, unproven coach, Steve Kerr, who was a role player on the famous Michael Jordan teams. This combination proved to be a winner.
Going to games now is totally different than 1965, or the 1974-75 championship years. The Arena is sold-out all the time, tickets are well over $100, all the games are televised, and it is impossible to get playoff tickets. Parking alone is $25!!!Going from old Civic Auditorium, to the Cow Palace, now to the remodeled Oakland (Oracle Arena) Coliseum, and soon to the ultra fabulous Chase Arena being built in San Francisco, it has been a journey. From mediocrity to contending and often winning the ultimate prize, I have enjoyed every step along the way. I just wish the tickets were not so expensive!
Tonight, I will see the World Champs take on the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are led by the current MVP, Russell Westbrook, and Fresno State’s own Paul George. Go Dubs!