San Francisco Rumors
After spending a dollar apiece on tickets, Gary Johnson and Erik Kellner got their money’s worth. Through a haze of cigarette smoke at the Cow Palace, the San Ramon High School seniors watched the first NBA game played on the West Coast and made memories that have lasted a lifetime. The Warriors, who were still playing in Philadelphia, had nothing to do with that game on Jan. 11, 1959. Rather, a standing-room-only crowd of 13,652 cheered loudly as the Boston Celtics won an overtime thriller over the Minneapolis Lakers, 109-106, in what was essentially an audition as the Lakers pondered a move to San Francisco.
A confluence of interests made the game happen. The Lakers were losing money in Minneapolis and were eager to sample a West Coast city. San Franciscans wanted to prove that the Cow Palace (technically in Daly City) could attract an NBA-sized crowd, and the powerhouse Celtics were an ideal opponent with two former University of San Francisco stars: Bill Russell and K.C. Jones.
San Francisco looked like an even bigger winner than Boston. The Chronicle’s big postgame headline atop the sports section read, “Lakers lose, may move to S.F.” Lakers owner Robert Short added fuel to that fire, saying, “There is a good possibility that we’ll move to San Francisco next year.” Short then scheduled a second Lakers game in San Francisco for a month later, this time against the last-place Cincinnati Royals, to see if local fans would show up for an unglamorous opponent. As it turned out, they did not – only 2,723 fans arrived for a one-point Lakers win.
Rising star NBA photographer Jordan Jimenez (@__jsquared on Instagram) released pictures of a scrimmage involving Stephen Curry and other Warriors players including Eric Paschall, Kevon Looney, Marquese Chriss, Ky Bowman, and Juan Toscano-Anderson this morning. The post also includes Jeremy Lin in a solo shot and, for good measure, a source confirms to me that Lin was, indeed, at the pickup run last week which was held in San Francisco — it’s actually quite easy to figure out which gym.
Many, many, many were critical of the Warriors’ move before the 2019-20 season, highlighting how many in Oakland and the East Bay are still upset about the team’s departure to San Francisco. For 47 seasons — and parts of others before that — the Warriors played games at the Coliseum Arena. So their recent “Oakland Forever” dedication, a campaign for which the jersey is central, felt oxymoronic. The common retort from many, Oaklanders and not, was that if the Warriors were so allied with Oakland the team should pay the $40 million it owes. The day before they officially revealed the new uniform, it was reported by the San Francisco Chronicle that the Warriors were petitioning the California Supreme Court to appeal a ruling they owe the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority. The $40 million is the remaining debt the municipality took out in 1996 to renovate Oakland Arena, with the Warriors playing the 1997-98 season in San Jose during the construction.
This $40 million is the result of Oakland and Alameda County being a mark. I was at Clark Atlanta University when that deal was signed, so I’m not familiar with the climate of the times outside of what I can research. But I’d be willing to bet this was another example of a city bending over backward for a sports team. It’s a lesson every party involved needs to own. First, to the municipalities who arranged this deal: You got played. I’ve seen the contract. I shared it with lawyers and they saw the same thing. The Oakland and Alameda County officials who crafted this agreement, or hired lawyers to craft this agreement, did this to themselves.