The Bay Area is the soil from which hella legends have been born and/or nurtured, and Oakland a.k.a. “The Town” in particular is connected with more heroes than Marvel Comics. This weekend’s 2021 NBA Hall-of-Fame ceremony keeps that tradition going strong with several inductees with legit Oakland ties. Can you guess ‘em?
Chris Webber started his career with the Warriors!
I’ve emphatically reiterated what a big deal it is that the Warriors smoothly resigned Stephen Curry, greatest point guard alive, to a massive extension that helps to ensure his commitment with the team. Chris Webber, the freshly minted Hall-of-Famer, is a cautionary tale for Dub Nation as to why Curry’s career long relationship with the Dubs is something to be cherished.
Curry’s first NBA coach Don Nelson was also Webber’s first NBA coach. C-Webb was drafted by the Orlando Magic as the 1993 #1 pick overall pick but was traded to Golden State for the rights to Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway and three future 1st round picks. Per USA Today:
Webber was named the 1993-94 NBA Rookie of the Year after averaging 17.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.2 steals in 76 games with the Warriors. He became the first rookie in history to total at least 1,000 points (1,333), 500 rebounds (694), 250 assists (272), 150 blocks (164) and 75 steals (93) in a season.
Webber came as an instant celebrity from his historic days with the Michigan Wolverines’ “Fab 5”. His ability to dribble, pass, and shoot as a 6-foot-10 power forward gave a glimpse to the coming evolution of the NBA game, and he looked like a franchise pillar alongside Chris Mullin and Latrell Sprewell.
C-Webb’s swagger was off the charts. That dunk on the legend Charles Barkley so hard that it became a COMMERCIAL.
But young Webber’s reign of terror would only last one season with the Warriors as an acrimonious relationship with the aforementioned Coach Nelson drove Webber off the team. Check out the gory details out here at SB Nation’s Beef series:
The Warriors made the playoffs in Webber’s rookie season but didn’t get back to the postseason for THIRTEEN YEARS after he left. Those thirteen years spanned from my childhood in Oakland to my college years! #trauma
Webber would go on to forge his Hall-of-Fame career with other teams, including a magical stint with the Sacramento Kings battling against the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant dynasty. Eventually, an aged Webber returned to play for Nelson and the Warriors the season after We Believe and buried any bad vibes:
“It is with great pride and humility that I announce my return to the Golden State Warriors, the place where it all started,” Webber said in a statement. “This organization and city has always had a special place in my heart because it is where my dream of being an NBA player first came true.”
Even though he was a worn down 34-year old and could only play nine games with the Dubs before retiring, it was heartwarming to see that chapter of Warriors/Oakland basketball history end on a peaceful note. Here are highlights from his farewell tour to the Town:
Rick Adelman tried his best in Oakland
Two years after Webber bounced from the Town, Nelson was gone too, replaced by Coach Rick Adelman. In two campaigns with Golden State, Adelman coached the team to a combined 66-98 record as the franchise aimlessly floundered into irrelevance. These were the Donyell Marshall and Rony Seikaly days; tough times for die-hard Warriors fans.
But he coached two Portland teams to the Finals before that, and was Webber’s coach on those awesome Kings teams of the early 2000s. So yeah, maybe his time in Oakland wasn’t memorable for great reasons but he’s still a Hall-of-Famer folks! Congrats to Coach Adelman.
Paul Pierce was born in Oakland?
So, anyone who knows me in real life away from the clout chasing blog world knows that Paul Pierce is my favorite basketball player. (Note: I’m still the only dude from the Town I know whose favorite player is “The Truth”). Back in my high school days when arrogant Kobe Bryant fanatics would scoff at me for riding with Pierce, they’d derisively ask, “Why you bang so hard for that fat dude from Boston?”.
Look, for all intents and purposes a young Jason Richardson had my heart locally (and theirs as well if we’re being forreal), but the downtrodden Warriors couldn’t buy a playoff trip after C-Webb’s departure and were pretty much irrelevant. We all chose somebody to root for once April hit and the postseason tournament began.
As a result, those damned Shaq-Kobe Laker fans were running wild like Hulkamania. With basketball politics in full swing every day in the lunchroom on campus, I had to make a decision on which player to ally with.
I knew for damn sure I didn’t wanna be yet another Kobe/A.I./T-Mac fanboy. That led me to some late-night-avoiding-homework scrolling through NBA Live 2002 depth charts studying players.
I randomly selected Boston’s roster and saw “Paul Pierce #34. Birthplace: Oakland, California”. WHAT? This young All-Star was from the Town??
Paul Pierce repping Oakland pretty hard today on The Jump, saying: “I’m from The Town.” pic.twitter.com/dfOQir0ZTB— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) August 10, 2020
It was clearly destiny for me to root for the chunky swingman with the sweet shooting touch and raging competitive spirit. He rewarded me for my support when he crushed the dreams of all those annoying Laker fans in the 2008 Finals, winning Finals MVP, and silencing (temporarily) all my high school friends who mocked me for supporting him.
Gosh it was tough to be a Warriors fan back then; everybody I knew had to live vicariously through some non-Golden State hooper once the postseason hit.
Bill Russell is the OG from Oakland
SPEAKING of Celtics with Oakland ties...how can we forget about Bill freakin’ Russell?! Russell is already in the Hall as a player with Boston, but now he’s being inducted as a coach. Gilbert McGregor wrote a fantastic piece on Russell’s transition from elite player to player-coach celebrating Russell becoming the first black head coach in NBA history. Here’s an excerpt:
(Between 1968 and 1969) Russell compiled a 102-62 regular season record while leading Boston to back-to-back NBA titles. After defeating the Lakers in seven games in the 1969 Finals, Russell would step away from the game, both as a player and a coach, but his mark had been made.
With the first Black coach in league history winning two titles in three years - while serving as his team’s defensive anchor, no less - the barrier had been broken for others to follow suit.
But before Russell was trailblazing as an 11-time NBA champion, he was playing ball in Oakland as a teen, leading the McClymonds Warriors to back-to-back state championships in 1951 and 1952 before playing at the University of San Francisco. Bay Area legend Monte Poole wrote an insightful piece about Oakland recognizing their hometown hero Russell, with a great quote from Dr. Harry Edwards:
“I know there are those who will wonder about his connection to Oakland,” Edwards said. “He played in college in San Francisco, played his professional career in Boston, later moved on to Sacramento and then to Seattle. Where’s Oakland?
“Well, he was raised here. His family stayed here. His brother, Charlie, was here and he still has family here.”
And if you come to a Hardee family reunion, it’s inevitable that some OG on my dad’s side of the family will casually recount spending time hanging out with Russell back in the day. #TownBiz
If there’s any other Oakland ties you spot from this star studded HOF class, comment below!