Earlier this summer, I wrote a piece informing the community of the Golden State Warriors’ special offer to Dub Nation in the wake of the team painfully leaving Oakland after 47 years for San Francisco. They invited their wounded but loyal fans to join the team in an exclusive cheering section akin to international soccer fan clubs and student cheering sections.
Early Monday morning, my buddy Shawnanthony and I made the trek from the East Bay to the City to join members of that “Splash Zone” cheer team in response to a vaguely worded email announcing a Media Day tour and promotional video shoot. I figured they’d want take a few photos of us in the new building, maybe hand out a couple Dubs shirts, and collect payment for the tix we had signed up for.
The two of us entered through the media entrance on the East facing side of the building and found a few other fan section members waiting to be escorted into the arena. As we made pleasantries, I noted their commitment to their outfits. They were clad head to toe in Warriors themed gear, replete with props. Not to be outdone, Shawn and I had brought our own: he had a few of those giant foam heads of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and I brought a custom made wrestling title belt with a Warriors logo on it. #swag
First look inside Chase for the Splash Zone members
We were escorted down several long corridors through the bowels of the arena until we arrived near the suites. SWANKY STUFF. The interior mood lighting had the soft glow reminiscent of a Federation starship. We were led to barrier-enclosed lower bowl seating that bordered where the court would be. As we ran into other die-hards, we all shared a sheepish chuckle, as the sturdy clear walls around the “wealthy folks” sections of the arena reminded us of the bulletproof glass at banks and chicken joints back in East Oakland. There would be no sneaking from the upper deck to the courtside seats in this arena, unlike the setup back in Oracle.
Did I mention there was no court? The floor had been remade into a soundstage, replete with a monstrous LED screen and multiple cameras hovering about. Several media types briskly whisking about, pointing and conferring.
What the heck was going on?
The director, a bearded fellow with a warm demeanor, informed us that we would be taking the stage along with the Warriors as they completed their media obligations to film the player introductions and promotional hype videos. Whoa. All of a sudden the stakes on the day escalated to Manute Bol heights. I turned to Shawn and muttered, “Yo, we’re gonna be up there with Steph?”. His eyes lit up as he ripped off his Dubs jacket to reveal his Curry jersey. He was born ready for this moment.
For the first three hours, we the fans were instructed to wile out on stage: chanting, stomping, screaming, clapping, dancing. Repeatedly I’d hear random fans shout, “We bouta turn this into Oracle!”. There was a consensus understanding that we felt the responsibility of repping the “real” fanbase, the recklessly faithful who marched across the bridge from Coliseum Bart and into that concrete gym next to the Raiders stadium, regardless of whether or not the team was a contender.
So yeah, after that they call us back to the stage area, and we're just chillin, waiting for the players to roll through. NOTHIN BUT REAL DUB NATION IN THE BUILDING #SQUAD #YAYAREA pic.twitter.com/xc1NrRUpJz— Daniel Hardee (@DHardee_SBN) October 1, 2019
Partying with the players
A little after noon time, the players began trickling in. The film crew pumped in billowing smoke, turned up the trap music, and started ordering confetti bombs. The excitement ratched it up. It was on!
- Kevon Looney sheepishly marched on stage like a giant child, not sure if he should high-five us or ignore the sweaty mob that bellowed his name. Looooooooooon! Halfway through the filming, he began to loosen up, and began hollering with us.
- Eric Paschall was bemused by the thirsty storm troopers as we swarmed around him for the cameras. He turned to my buddy Shawn and told him, “Bro you can’t be mean mugging like that, you’re making me laugh”.
- Jordan Poole had no problems catching the vibe. The rookie showed off his youthful exuberance and danced with us like were in a nightclub.
- D’Angelo Russell was the early MVP. The second he appeared, we broke into a monstrous “D-Lo” chant that absolutely thrilled him. Where some of the other players hesitated when they felt the crush of our thirst, D-Lo plunged into it like with the vigor of the beloved cool cousin arriving late at the family reunion with Hennessy. We circled him and started imitating his “ice in the veins” taunt and he couldn’t stop beaming with joy. “I like this! I need this!”, he shouted.
The rest of the new guys were pleasant to interact with when their name was called. Alen Smailagic looked surprised and glad that we were there. Jacob Evans III hung out in our vicinity before he was called to the stage, and picked up my belt while he waited.
SO IMAGINE MY SURPRISE WHEN.....Jacob Evans III grabs the gold like it belongs to him pic.twitter.com/dw7LPQUlIO— Daniel Hardee (@DHardee_SBN) October 1, 2019
Klay and Dray make an impact
As the hours wore on, so did exhaustion. How many hours can they expect us to behave like unhinged maniacs before our vocal cords and foot bones gave out? Speaking of foot bones, we saw Willie Cauley-Stein forlornly limping around on crutches with a massive boot. Poor guy! He wouldn’t be getting on stage with us.
Klay Thompson nonchalantly walked into the area as if he was looking for the bathroom. On stage a couple of us gave him the Game of Thrones one-knee bow, and he shook his head at us like we were straight weirdos. When the music kicked in, we were warned not to bump him since he’s still rehabbing, so we kinda crowded around his space like overactive phantoms. After about half a song of bouncing around with us, he turned to the director, put up the peace sign, and said, “Yo, I’m done”. He turned to us and calmly shrugged and said, “Thanks”.
Klay rolled through after, looking like a boss per usual. Me and one of the other fans did a Game of Thrones one-knee bow when we got on stage with him. Klay looked at us like "yall really trippin rn" lmao. pic.twitter.com/EfCP5XWdPG— Daniel Hardee (@DHardee_SBN) October 1, 2019
And he was gone! Just like that! It was the funniest, most Klay-thing ever.
The guys from “Warriors Outsiders” came over and hung out with us during the lull in the action, and I asked them who was the better hooper. As they laughed and fired off some of their trademark witty responses, Draymond Green made his entrance.
And right as they are answering that question (which I will withold the answer to in order to protect the innocent), GUESS WHO STARTS SLIDIN THRU? pic.twitter.com/0zpopwHLd0— Daniel Hardee (@DHardee_SBN) October 1, 2019
Not gonna lie, Dray looked pretty zapped from answering a full day’s worth of questions. He was initially lowkey but very polite, making sure to shake our hands and make some small talk. When we hit the stage, we weren’t having any part of “chill mode Dray”. We surrounded him in front of the camera, barking and jumping and screaming exhorting expletives like we were summoning a mythical titan from the bottom of the ocean.
Sure enough, Dray absorbed that swirling energy, flexed like a pro wrestler, and unleashed a monstrous roar that reverberated off of the roof of the arena and shook the stage. It was unbelievable. Even the film crew was stunned by the 0-100 shift. For a second, I was caught in the same howling vortex that so many poor opponents have been trapped in. Except instead of resigned dread, I was thrilled by the surging adrenaline of a true warrior coming to the fore in the name of his people. It was electric.
Dray took a pic with him and signed his flag! Man, Dray's a real solid brotha. pic.twitter.com/zBa9yuqoL7— Daniel Hardee (@DHardee_SBN) October 1, 2019
Steph Curry + Dub Nation = Magic (even in Chase)
After he exited, that left only one man: Steph. It also left us with barely any energy. Heads were beginning to droop, sweat was pooling up. I thought folks were going to pass out from the six hours of exertion!
Finally, Steph appeared, sauntering in with a bag of popcorn and weariness etched in his face. This dude was even more tired than we were. I could sense that the group was a bit nervous as they noticed his low energy demeanor. He was the face of the franchise, the man who made the Warriors, The Warriors. In that moment when he took the stage, he appeared more like a tired dad of three finishing out his workshift...which he was, I suppose.
The love for Dub Nation was the only thing pushing Unanimous through the doldrums of his 11th straight year doing Media Day, but we would have his back pic.twitter.com/jGY3fPqlXt— Daniel Hardee (@DHardee_SBN) October 1, 2019
As we waited for our cue to join him, we began muttering amongst ourselves, “We got Steph’s back. When we get up there, we’re gonna give him life. Everybody dig deep, come on, we came too far to be tired now!”. It was like we were giving each other the pep talk worthy of a Game 7’s fourth quarter.
When we finally took he stage alongside him, he politely nodded to us in the stoic way that a worn out Uber driver would acknowledge drunk college kids clambering into his vehicle in the wee hours of a Friday night. The director quietly told us that Steph only had time for one shot, so we had to nail it. Aiite, cool.
As we took our places, Steph stood shoulder to shoulder with me. One part of me was like, “Bro, be cool. Be professional.” The other part of me was like, “THIS IS STEPH CURRY CHILLIN RIGHT HERE! YOU GOTTA SAY SOMETHIN REAL QUICK!”
I settled on turning to face his direction briefly and flashing an appreciative grin. He calmly gave the slightest of nods, while keeping his thousand yard gaze at the director. No problem for me; I locked in and stared at the director right alongside him. #Professionals
When the music hit, and the action cue started, Steph strode through us toward the camera, and one by one we started heaping praise on him. “There goes Unanimous!”, I bellowed. “That’s the GOAT!”, another shouted. “That’s the MF’in man right there!” yelled another. Soon our voices rose together in an MVP chant as we swarmed in a tight bunch around him. Then it changed to a fiery chant of his name. The whole time he stoically stared into the camera.
That’s when the realest Warriors chant I’ve ever been a part of emerged from the bowels of our stomachs, a throaty song that consumed our bodies as we locked arms and began rocking in unison around him. His ears perked up, and he slowly began nodding his head side to side to the chant. The call grew more increasingly rhythmic, and we swayed as if we were bloodthirsty pirates being moved on the open seas.
Steph was moved, and began hunkering down and swaying with us. He reached his arms out and intertwined with the sweaty, ragged, hungry mob, becoming one of us. I don’t even remember seeing the camera anymore, I could barely even see him, as his jersey disappeared under the entanglement of frothing fanatics.
It seemed like it was never going to end. But it did, when he the director shouted for us to cut. We unlocked arms and stared at each other as if even we couldn’t belief the moment that had just happened. Steph turned around and looked us in the eyes with a new face, his gaze piercing and a wry smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“I really like how y’all are bringing this energy,” he praised us. “This is really cool, I’m having fun”.
The acknowledgment of the Unanimous MVP sent us into another wave of delirium, and Steph was ready to join us immediately. He kept his back to the camera as he sneered to our faces impishly, flexed, and let out a primal howl. He was activated; lit aflame by the energy we poured out on that stage.
And that’s when I was reminded of why the Warriors are The Warriors and why Oracle was such a unique place. During the team’s peak, the fans were obsessed with feeding energy to their players, and the players rode an energy wave that crashed them great fury upon our opponents.
Steph couldn’t be Steph, Dray couldn’t be Dray, without the fans being completely engaged. This was Steph’s eleventh media day; the doldrums of routine seemed to already be boring him out of his skull. For those brief few moments on stage, we were able to remind him of Dub Nation’s true love for the team, and he reminded us that he was worthy and willing to carry it.
So yeah, count me in as someone who is ready to go to Chase and get rowdy for the squad...even if the traffic is gonna be hell to get there.
so yeah, after that he dipped, and we did too. My homey Shawn was front row and center for all the videos haha so you will definitely see us on the jumbotron during player introductions and on TV. Damn I didn't expect this thread to go so long, but whoomp there it is. #dubnation pic.twitter.com/Ftf0FRZReN— Daniel Hardee (@DHardee_SBN) October 2, 2019