I was 9 years old the first time I stepped foot into Oracle Arena, the home of the Golden State Warriors. Back then, it was simply called The Arena in Oakland. The date was April 17, 2006, and they were playing the Portland Trail Blazers. I still have the ticket stubs stashed in my room back home. I remember my parents driving me on a school night through rush hour traffic to Oakland so I could experience my first Warriors game. I couldn’t wait to tell my second-grade teacher the next day that I had watched my favorite team play live for the first time.
The Warriors won that game, a meaningless late-season contest in the midst of another meaningless season for what, at the time, was a sad franchise. I, alongside 16,277 other fans, sat through a game in which somebody named Ike Diogu started at power forward for the Warriors and we were applauding Derek Fisher’s high-arching free throws because what else was there to cheer for?
Not that that mattered to me. I have a vivid recollection of being led up to our cheap $10 seats by an usher and seeing an NBA court in person for the first time. And not just any NBA court, but the court where the Warriors play. Imagine believing in Santa Claus as a kid and then seeing him actually come down the chimney. That was how second-grade me felt when the curtains opened to Section 221 that night.
Fast forward to the present day, as the Warriors — now the gold standard of NBA franchises — have already played their final regular season game in Oracle Arena ahead of their move across the bay to the Chase Center in San Francisco next season. They will finish off the postseason and probably win their third straight championship while calling Oracle home.
We knew this was coming for years, but reality didn’t hit me until last Sunday, when I tuned into the final regular season home game and watched the Warriors come out to the court in their throwback “We Believe” jerseys. This was a tribute to the 2006-07 team that snuck into the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade as the final team in the Western Conference and then pulled off what is still the greatest upset in NBA history, shocking the 67-win Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
That playoff series is still my favorite memory as a Warriors fan, even greater than this recent string of ridiculous success. Yes, they were eliminated in the second round, but beating the Mavericks introduced the world to Oracle Arena because that place was so loud that ESPN displayed a decibel tracker on the screen during the game. This was a fanbase thirsting for any semblance of success, and man, they more or less willed Dallas into submission with the noise they made. “We Believe” was the playoff slogan, and yes, we did believe. I watched from my couch in awe as my group of scrappy underdogs upset the favorite to win the championship.
So when Steph Curry ripped off his warm-up shirt last Sunday to reveal a “We Believe” retro jersey underneath, to which the crowd reacted with a thunderous ovation, I was hit with goosebumps … followed by sadness. I’m not one to care too much about jersey designs, but those were more than jerseys with “WARRIORS” in all caps across the front, the dark blue lettering outlined in gold and the blue and orange coloring on the side of the jersey down to the shorts. These jerseys represented the bridge between the never-ending dark days of the franchise and the championship-level dominance of today.
And then there is sadness, because Oracle Arena will soon be desolate, without a tenant, void of the deafening noise and the vibrant atmosphere that is every Warriors home game. Sure, the San Francisco arena will be nice, but it will be … different. It will feel gentrified, forced and corporatized. It will be way too pricey. And it will never recreate “Roaracle.”
There was something authentic about the gameday experience at Oracle, even as more and more O.G. fans became priced out as a result of the team’s recent success, even as we were constantly reminded that it was the league’s oldest arena and that an upgrade was needed. Maybe it was because it was in Oakland, a hard-nosed, blue-collar town that is reflected in its genuine love for its sports teams. Maybe it was the countless times driving up the I-880 North corridor and seeing the arena light up the night adjacent to the Coliseum, home to the Oakland A’s and Raiders. Maybe it was our routine of eating at the In-N-Out or Panda Express a few blocks away before heading in for a game.
I am no longer awestruck at basketball arenas like I was 13 years ago. I have been fortunate to cover a handful of Warriors games, including the NBA Finals in 2017. But I have never covered a game at Oracle Arena, so whenever I attend a game there, it still feels like I was the same fan as my 9-year-old self. Soon, that experience that was such a defining memory of my childhood will be taken away. So rest assured, I will make it out to a playoff game in the coming months, ticket prices be damned. It will be worth it to take in Roaracle one final time.
Eric He is a senior writing about current events in sports. He is also the features editor of the blastZONE. His column, “Grinding Gears,” runs Mondays.