Tuesday was a big day for the Golden State Warriors, as the team declared its intention to relocate to the City by the Bay in the next five years.
Team owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, flanked by a slew of smiling suits representing both the league and city and state municipalities, held a news conference announcing the Warriors’ plan to move to a new arena that will be constructed along the San Francisco waterfront in time for the 2017-18 season.
It was a regal celebration on a picturesque day, with the fanfare actually exceeding the importance of the announcement. After all, considering the franchise has had one playoff appearance in the past 18 years, is it really that big of a deal? The team isn’t migrating to exotic Las Vegas or the abandoned New Jersey. It’s simply skipping across the Bay to its old stomping grounds. Whoop-de-doo, right?
Still, San Francisco is, and always will be, the Bay Area’s marquee, and the anticipation of the Warriors crossing the bridge to a new address strengthens their overall brand.
It really is big news for the Dubs to make such an important decision about their future as a marketing entity, and it’s equally important for San Francisco to house a third major professional sports franchise. All the glad-handing by the politicos and league bigwigs emphasizes how excited everyone is about this venture to bring the NBA back to the City. It’s the dawn of a new era.
Meanwhile, East Bay fans acknowledge the situation as an ominous signal of the passing of a different era; it’s the beginning of the end for pro sports in Oakland.
As bad as Oakland should feel about losing the Dubs, the sports landscape will get uglier and sadder in the years to come. The Warriors are the first domino to fall, ready to topple both the Oakland Raiders and Athletics behind them. It’s no secret that each team has expressed interest in playing elsewhere, meaning Oaktown could ultimately lose all three franchises by the end of the decade.
Which is an incredibly sad prospect given the histories of each team in Oakland.
Combined, the A’s, Raiders and Warriors have won eight league championships, made 45 playoff appearances and had 38 Hall of Famers play or coach for them. Not bad for a blue-collar town that is ranked 47th in the nation in population, as of 2010. Despite being the less popular brother of the cross-Bay San Franciscans, Oakland has housed quite a storied amount of success over the past four-plus decades.
And just like that—poof—it will all be gone.
In making their decision to leave Oakland, the Warriors wasted no time—alarmingly swift, in fact. Guber and Lacob are multimillionaire businessmen for a reason, and they did not hesitate in making it clear they want to construct a highly recognized franchise, known both for its esteemed brand as well as its successful accomplishments on the court.
The order in which these two items will occur remains to be seen. Hopefully for their sake, the two foci will go hand in hand. But the Warriors brass indicated that winning now is vitally important to their relocation efforts.
“Winning remains our No. 1 priority,” stated Lacob during Tuesday’s press conference. If the Warriors are successful on the court, then it will only enhance the level of prestige of moving to San Francisco when that day does arrive. Otherwise, all they’ll have is a fancy playground. What’s the point in having a shiny, sexy new car if the engine is an old piece of junk?
Still, there’s something to be said about aesthetics. Pretty is pretty. State-of-the-art is revered, no matter how superfluous the bells and whistles are. Despite the murkiness of the team’s on-court product, the Warriors must be lauded for having the vision to make this change. After all, with Oakland’s economy flailing and the consistent civic turmoil within, why not escape to a more prominent, popular and profitable location—especially when it’s not that far away? Barry Zito knows.
The City of Oakland simply has too many items on its plate to worry about ahead of professional sports. Moreover, Oakland has lost any cachet that it used to or may have had. This is unfortunate. But it’s a fact.
With all of the community strife over the past several months, including the proposed recall of its mayor, Jean Quan, businesses—particularly sports franchises in the face of media on a near-daily basis—are eager to find new digs in more friendly and reputable confines.
This is a shame.
The coziness of the East Bay is no longer a novelty. Even the pseudo-recession and the sky-high cost and standard of living in San Francisco does not dissuade the Warriors. This proves that even though it could be a bad idea financially to move to the City, it’s still the right overall move.
The Warriors, A’s and Raiders all know that sustainment in Oakland is not a long-term option. The Warriors are simply the first ones out of the pool.
That in and of itself is worth all the hoopla. To gain authorization and circumvent the red tape is the first step. And the Warriors took a big stride—across the Bay—in fulfilling their relocation dream.
This is good news for the remaining Oakland franchises. Both the Raiders and Athletics can take notes on Tuesday's conference, realizing their own possibilities and beaming at the notion that the opportunity to leave is indeed doable.
And the City of Oakland can only sit idly and watch them go. A party of three becoming vacant and echoey in no time. Make no mistake; unless something magical occurs—or unless Magic Johnson himself swoops in—the Warriors’ departure is just the beginning. Very soon, there might not be any professional sports in Oakland.
Follow me on Twitter: @nathanieljue