SAN FRANCISCO – The Warriors are playing postseason games in San Francisco for the first time in 58 years, but it’s no surprise the new memories rekindle those from their old home across the bay.
After all, if it weren’t for the frenzied Oracle Arena crowds in Oakland that helped fuel the Warriors to five straight NBA Finals appearances, the team might not be playing at its state-of-the-art downtown digs at Chase Center.
“I think of them both very fondly, and I have great memories of the other and I hope to create good memories here,” team owner Joe Lacob said recently. “But I really appreciate all the great new things this has and I think this is going to be one of the great arenas.”
When the Warriors moved three seasons ago to their new venue across the bay, many lamented the decision, questioning how the fancy new $1.6 billion super-stadium would compare to the exuberant environment of its old home. For years, the Oakland arena was considered one of the biggest home-court advantages in the NBA because of the rollicking atmosphere and energetic fan base.
After two seasons in which the Warriors failed to qualify for the playoffs, Chase Center finally is getting its shot as a postseason stage.
Warriors superstar Steph Curry commemorated the occasion by wearing special shoes for Game 1 of the team’s first-round series against the Denver Nuggets. Black sneakers, bearing the Oakland name, were a nod to Oracle.
“We hadn’t been in a playoff series since Oracle so it was kind of a passing of the torch,” Curry said.
The Warriors won the series in five games, chants of MVP ringing throughout Chase as Curry stepped to the foul line in the final moments, yellow-and-blue streamers falling from the rafters at the final horn.
“There were some great moments,” Curry said, assessing the atmosphere for the first series. “It’s still a young building and environment and trying to find its identity, but it was loud at times… It’s only going to continue to get better as the stakes get higher and higher.”
To compare Chase and Oracle at this early stage is like “comparing apples and oranges,” said Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, an Oakland native.
“It’s two totally different venues, two totally different demographics,” he said. “All good things come to an end, and so I mean Oracle came and gone, it was what it was and so now onto bigger and better things.”
Bigger and better, at least in terms of atmosphere, is about to happen. The Warriors host the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night in Game 3 of what has been a raucous series.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr is anticipating Chase Center to be “the loudest it’s ever been” these next two games. Game 4 is Monday night.
At Oracle, the crowd could generate an extraordinary level of noise, helped in part by a concave ceiling that reverberated the arena’s sound. It would get so loud that spectators couldn’t hear their own thoughts and some would bring ear protection to games even during the regular season. Thus, it came to be known as “Roaracle.”
Longtime Warriors broadcaster Jim Barnett loved the way that calling the game from courtside allowed him to “feel the vibrations” when Oracle roared, and the connection he was able to make with fans from there.
“You got to know people,” Barnett said. “You could look around and get eye contact, even during the game while it’s going on. And that kind of feeds you. You feel a part of it and they feel a part of it. There’s a connection there and it’s kind of magical.”
Still, Barnett said, “If I were a player I’d rather play at Chase Center. If I were a fan, I’d rather go to Chase Center. It’s a marvelous place.”