Winning the Last Oakland Game Means Everything for Warriors Fans
As if everything wasn’t already on the line Thursday night, Game 6 of the NBA Finals will be the very last time the Golden State Warriors play at the Oracle Arena.
The Dubs have been an enormous source of pride, putting Oakland on the map for being home to what some would argue is the best franchise to ever grace the league, with some of the best players to ever play the game. To outsiders, the logo might signal San Francisco, but make no mistake, the heart of the Warriors is rooted in the Town.Golden State Warriors fans at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. Photo courtesy of LA Times
Alas, that shiny, new building beckons from across the bridge.
With next season starting at the Chase Center in San Francisco, the Warriors have just one last dance in Oakland and in appropriate fashion, it may be the most important game they ever play. No joke.
The series against the Toronto Raptors has been…well, tough is a good way to put it. Regular basketball season is already tiring – playoffs and finals just extend that grind. This is the fifth consecutive finals season the Warriors have played, meaning these guys have been on competition court more than any other team out there. They’re exhausted, and that’s without the added misfortune of all-star injuries that have mounted ridiculous pressure on the rest of the lineup. Kevin Durant’s tragic Achilles rupture in Game 5 is just salt in the wound, no pun intended. It was practically a miracle the Warriors eeked out the one-point win in that situation, faced with an opposing team that puts up 3s and came ready to try and claim some ground.
It’s hard not to appreciate how hard the Raptors have come at this. They’ve exhibited a level of play and sportsmanship worthy of praise. If you isolate out just the players, it’s been an exciting and respectful series so far. But Thursday is not just about the players, is it?
Oakland fans already had an emotional stake in this season and in the last home game to be played at the Oracle, and being down 2-3 only intensifies that. Who wants to lose the Finals? Who wants to lose the Finals the very last time the Warriors play on the Oakland court? None of that feels good, which is just partially why the Dubs need to make sure it doesn’t go down that way.
Another looming aspect of Thursday’s game isn’t what happens on the court, but what could be happening in stands and outside the arena. Toronto fans really just went too damn far during and after Game 5. If we had the notion that Canadians are the nice bunch up north, that image was ruined Monday when Raptors fans cheered as KD was guided off the court in obvious pain. But they didn’t stop there. An incident caught on video after the game depicts Raptors fans beating the holy hell out of some basketball lovers brave enough to wear the blue and gold across the border. Done yet? Nope. Another group of fans rolled up on the hotel the Warriors and their families were staying at and cursed out Stephen Curry’s parents, which Steph thought was kind of “stupid.”
Oakland fans, some of the most raucous and loyal, are already tense about the move – some are downright bitter about it, and understandably. It’s really not so much the team locals are upset with – the legendary players and coach are as close as you come to living gods around here and not much can be done to dampen those feels. The point is, there’s a lot of love between Oakland each one of those players, but there is no love lost between fans right about now.
I’m not sure why Canada chose now to be the asshole, at this moment when Oakland is already reeling with emotion, but that is exactly what they’ve done. Their behavior has been insulting and that kind of disrespect isn’t well tolerated. We can all hope for the best and urge fans to be the better people, but a win Thursday would definitely do a lot to help on that front.
The series matters as a whole, but Thursday will be the apex. We can’t lose the last game at the Oracle and we sure as shit can’t give those fans the satisfaction of a win after all that mess. The crowds will be out in full force and we can only hope they’ll be in the mood for celebrating.
We want the win here in Oakland, but we wish everyone on both teams a great and healthy game Thursday…and hopefully again on Sunday.