‘We Believe,’ Vinsanity and Steph from the tunnel

0
174


The Warriors franchise has won four NBA titles since moving to the Bay Area, but only three — 2015, 2017 and 2018 — have been played inside the walls of Oracle Arena. And for that, we can thank Big Bird.

Back in 1975, the booking of the Ice Follies, a skating show starring Sesame Street characters, forced the championship series between Golden State and the Washington Bullets to shift Games 2 and 3 to the Cow Palace in nearby Daly City. It didn’t stop Finals MVP and Hall of Famer Rick Barry from sweeping for the title.

But during its 47-year run as home of the Golden State Warriors, Oracle has still played host to more than its fair share of history.

As the current-day Warriors get ready to embark on their final postseason quest before moving across the bay to San Francisco’s Chase Center, we’re paying tribute to the oldest — and arguably the loudest — arena in the league. From NBA Finals battles to historic upsets and the crowning of a dunk icon, Oracle has been the site of some of the league’s most unforgettable moments.

The upset — and the chair — heard ’round the world

Dirk Nowitzki thinks he did the damage with a chair, but maybe it was a trash can. It’s understandable that the details are hazy, considering it happened during a fit of rage at perhaps the lowest point of his career, ranking right down there with the Dallas Mavericks‘ NBA Finals collapse the previous season.

Whatever he threw, it was a heck of a heave in the wake of the “We Believe” Warriors eliminating the 67-win Mavs in Game 6 of the first-round Western Conference playoff series in 2007. But it probably didn’t hit the intended target, considering how bad Nowitzki’s aim was that night, when he went 2-of-13 from the floor to wrap up the worst playoff series of his career. It was the first 8-over-1, best-of-seven upset in NBA history.

The memory is immortalized, for now, high on the wall across from the Oracle Arena visitors’ locker room. The Warriors plan to cut out that section of the wall and showcase it in Chase Center.

That hole, in part due to the big German’s good nature, has become part of the Oracle legacy. Years later, Nowitzki signed a piece of plexiglass that covers the hole, and the Warriors tacked a bright yellow “WE BELIEVE” T-shirt above it.

“There’s nothing I can do about it now but embrace it,” said Nowitzki, who was named the NBA’s MVP days after that series ended. “It was part of my career, part of my history. I always say without these [playoff] losses in ’06 and ’07 back-to-back, I wouldn’t have been the player I was in ’11 to close the whole deal.

“This is part of my journey. It was brutal and tough to go through, but I grew from it a lot.”

The Warriors wisely waited until Nowitzki had earned a championship ring before asking for his autograph.

The Mavs’ title run ensured that the misery of the Mavs’ abbreviated 2007 postseason was a footnote in Nowitzki’s career, not the defining moment.

“That’s why I signed it with a smile in my face,” Nowitzki said. “If I hadn’t won [a title], I probably would have said, ‘Get the hell outta here with that.'”

— Tim MacMahon


Steph Curry from deep … in the tunnel

Stephen Curry‘s tunnel shots have become a unique part of the Oracle experience through the Warriors’ journey to three titles in four years. So much so that when Warriors coach Steve Kerr gives tickets to his friends, many of them have a similar question.

“I have friends who — I get them tickets to the game — they go, ‘What time can I get in and what time does Steph do his shooting drills?’ I’ve never heard of that before. Nobody’s ever asked me, ‘What time is somebody warming up?’ But people now, my guests, my visitors, are coming an hour early to see Steph warm up.”

Curry’s pregame shooting prowess has become one of the game’s highlights in any arena he performs in, but it’s the tunnel shots, on his way back to the Warriors’ locker room, that fans seem to take particular joy in. The shot, which Curry shoots from the tunnel that takes Warriors players from the locker room to the floor, is set up by a pass from longtime Oracle security guard Curtis Jones. Curry isn’t sure exactly when the tradition started, but he takes pride in the way it has grown.

“I think it was around 2013-14,” Curry said recently, while adding that it was actually a former teammate, Monta Ellis, who came up with the original idea.

“Monta started it,” Curry said. “We used to have shootarounds there and he’d do it before he left shootaround. After that, we didn’t have shootarounds anymore at Oracle, so we went there for games. I think I had a bet with a front-office guy, just messing around one day and it kind of became an every game thing and then it evolved to Curtis being involved. The rest is history.”

Kerr can think of only one comparison for what Curry has perfected in the art of the tunnel shot.

Kevin Love, when he was at UCLA, used to make shots from right here,” Kerr said, pointing to the far corner of the court. “From the corner of one side of the court, all the way — 94 feet. He would do it every game, before every NCAA game or practice. And he’d usually make one. What he did back then, I’ve never seen anybody do it. How strong do you have to be?”

Sadly, the days of the tunnel shot appear to be numbered. With a different setup in Chase Center, Curry knows the shot will likely fade away with the Oracle building itself — but he is confident he will come up with something new for fans in his new basketball home.

“I think geometrically speaking it’s not likely,” Curry said of continuing the tunnel shots at Chase Center. “Because of where the entrance to the new arena is, but I’ll probably get creative with something.”

— Nick Friedell


When Vinsanity saved the dunk contest

Vince Carter has enjoyed a wealth of accolades during his 20-year NBA career: eight All-Star appearances, more than 1,400 games played and more than 25,000 points scored — and don’t forget that he began his career as 1998-99 Rookie of the Year.

But when the 42-year-old finally unlaces his sneakers, he might reflect most fondly on arguably the greatest dunk contest performance in NBA history at Oracle Arena in 2000.





Source : ESPN