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Like the well-practiced veterans they are, Warriors fans began hitting the streets of Oakland just before 6:30 this morning in anticipation of an 11 a.m. parade to celebrate the Golden State Warriors’ third NBA championship in four seasons.
Heeding tips from civic and transportation officials, and mindful of the experience that comes with being a repeat reveler, fans began staking out premier vantage spots along the 1.4-mile parade route at 6:30 a.m. — the earliest allowed by the city.
Getting to Oakland was no fast break. It was estimated 1 million spectators would attend the parade, with half of those taking BART. Four hours before the start of the parade, BART cars were packed but the mood was light. One fan, who identified himself only as Alex, wore a yellow shirt with the words “NOPE” spelled out with a whiny LeBron James face taking the place of the “O”.
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Spectators came gushing out of the 12th Street and 19th Street BART stations in Oakland. The transit agency ran rush-hour service with extra staff in stations and on the platforms. It was a different story for BART riders coming to Oakland from San Francisco. Crowds were sparse on one BART car, with only a couple wearing Warriors apparel.
The parade is expected to last two to three hours and is billed as an interactive event with Warriors players hopping from their vehicles to mingle with fans. What will be missing, organizers said, is a rally stage and long-winded speeches once the parade hits the finish line.
“We are trying to do something different and unique to make it more intimate and less scripted,” Warriors spokesman Raymond Ridder said.
With an hour to go before the parade started, several fans were wondering what Warriors officials meant when they said it would an “interactive” parade.
“I’m hoping for some high-fives,” said Kyle Tabas, of Vallejo, who woke up at 5 a.m. to get to Oakland by 7 a.m.
San Jose resident Oliver Par said he hoped for a selfie with Klay Thompson and an autograph to boot. Identical twins Amelia and Adinah Delegencia, 12, were eager for the players to stop for a quick interview for their YouTube series.
“We don’t have any favorite players,” Amelia Delegencia said, “it’s all about the team.”
One of Tuesday’s many super commuters was Hector Peraza, who left his home in Salida in the Central Valley at 3 a.m.
Peraza and his family arrived in Oakland by 6 a.m. and parked in Jack London Square. It’s the third time in four years that 34-year-old Peraza has been to the parade.
“Since I did it two times already, I kind of got the hang of it,” he said.
But that doesn’t make it any less exciting.
“I don’t know the exact word, but you know when it feels real but not real?” he asked. “It feels good though.”
Peraza set up chairs at Broadway and 12th Street. He was with his daughters, 10-year-old Liliana and 7-year-old Evalyn, who were decked out in Warriors gear. Even Guera, the family’s Chihuahua, was wearing a Warriors bandana.
Shawnaa, Paul and Venus Supnet started lining up for the parade at 4 a.m. after traveling from Visalia and sleeping in their car. This is also their third championship parade.
“Last year it was kind of hectic, Shawnaa Supnet said. “We’re just excited to have another title.”
If the Warriors were to win a title while in San Francisco, they would still attend the parade, “but I wouldn’t like it,” Venus Supnet said.
Once on the festive streets of Oakland, fans were treated to snack, coffee and souvenir vendors. Crowds began gathering early at the corner of 14th and Broadway. Hanging from Oakland City Hall was a Warriors banner that read “Our strength comes from you.”
At 14th and Oak near Lake Merritt, reggae played from a boom box and vendors sold hot dogs wrapped in bacon.
“Ain’t nothing going to bother me today,” Cassandra DeLeon, 23, “I am waiting for Curry and nothing is going to destroy that.”
Mike Fogarty, 31, and his buddy Jack Sanchez, 27, made their way from San Francisco for the parade. And to help guarantee a good viewing spot, they stayed up all night.
“There will be plenty of time to sleep later,” Fogarty said.
Five-year season ticket holder Melissa Mendoza is no stranger to the parade routine: “Get here early and bring hydration and blankets,” she said. She had been camping out on Broadway since 7 a.m., she said, hoping to catch a glimpse of the team she watched grow from a scrappy group of players into national titans of basketball. “And now we get to celebrate.”
Richmond resident Sindy Rojas and her 7-year-old son Elijah Lobos waited in excitement as the crowds surrounding parade route grew. Lobos, who is in third grade, said this is his second parade, and he was excited to see the players in person, since he’s never been to a game.
“I just like being able to see (Stephen) Curry, it’s really cool,” he said. “They play with a lot of heart,” his mother added. “and their demeanor is great for the community,” she said.
Otelima Abraham, 41, an immigrant from Nigeria, also saw a bigger picture in the Warriors’ success. She said throwing herself into Warriors fandom helped her feel more at home in the U.S. after moving to San Francisco five years ago.
“The Bay Area is the best place to be on earth right now,” said Abraham, who sported a massive blue afro wig. “Everyone here is happy — where else are you going to find that in the world?”
The atmosphere closer to the end of the parade route was much calmer than on Broadway, as the throngs of cheering and dancing fans gave way to scattered families sitting along 19th Street, waiting patiently for the action to start.
John Dunn, who was selling Warriors merchandise from a cart at 19th and Madison streets, said it was quieter than he expected. Dunn, a 26-year-old mechanic from Southern California, said the route was more crowded this time last year.
Dunn’s best sellers are his “Back 2 Back Champions” flags, which are $15 each or two for $20. The horns aren’t as popular, because everyone is selling them, he said. Dunn travels the state selling different merchandise at parades and other events as a side job. His boss, who owns the cart and merchandise, operates several dozen other carts along the Warriors parade route.
Dunn, who gets a commission for every item sold, hoped to sell out of everything in his cart by the end of the day. That’s what happened last year.
Willie Jones, 65, of Oakland, found a shady grassy area near the corner of Oak and 13th Street to lay out his Warriors blanket where he and his dog Samantha could watch the very end of the parade. He attended one of the playoff games versus the Rockets this year and is just “enjoying the third championship” in four years.
“I’m a sports fanatic,” Jones said.
He said he used to live in Chicago and would watch Steve Kerr play on the Bulls. He said it’s great to see him winning championships and getting recognition. “He deserves it all.”
Lake Merritt had turned into a giant fan party with less than an hour to go until the parade, as people packed the lawn at 14th Street and Lakeside Drive. A few entrepreneurial fans set up tables along the sidewalk where they sold grilled food, drinks and Warriors swag. Families sprawled on picnic blankets laid out in the grass, or perched atop their coolers, sipping drinks out of red plastic cups.
Trolling the LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers was on the menu:
— Robert Salonga (@robertsalonga) June 12, 2018
Then there was Janet Barnes, of Fairfield, who hoisted a blue broom that was decked out in blue and gold over her head: “I gotta show them how we sweep,” she said, a creative nod to the Warriors’ series sweep of the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
A fan since the late 1960s, Barnes never misses a game or a parade, she said. “We were always shut out,” of the championships, she said. “Not anymore.”
Barnes got up at 4:30 am to snag a spot along the parade route. Standing 5-feet tall, she brought her own five-gallon bucket to use as a stepping stool, giving her a clear vantage of the parade.
“Oakland sure knows how to throw a party for their team,” she said.
With two hours to go before the parade, Michelle Douglas and her mom, Leticia, waited patiently against a railing near 19th Street to see their favorite players. “I’m most looking forward to actually seeing them,” the 26-year-old schoolteacher from Concord said. “I’m excited to see Klay Thompson. And Curry, of course.”
Formerly a fan of the Lakers, Douglas was not shy about admitting she switched allegiances only three years ago when Kobe Bryant left the Lakers and the Warriors won their first championship against the Cavs. “We jumped on, I guess, the bandwagon,” she said.
The bandwagon revved up at 10:40 Tuesday morning, as Warriors’ owner Joe Lacob, the team’s coaches and the players were introduced coaches and players were introduced to a small but vociferous audience.
Longtime Warriors fans are probably still pinching themselves even after three championships in four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. The franchise yielded a solitary NBA title — during the 1974-75 season — in its first 52 years after relocating from Philadelphia to the Bay Area. Oakland and San Francisco shared the glory in a pair of civic celebrations for the first NBA championship, in the Oakland Coliseum and at Union Square.
It took four decades before another banner was hung in what is now known as Oracle Arena. The current cluster of championships have been separated by mere months.
It would seem that nothing could detract from the current victory buzz. But there are a couple of sticking points that could harsh Dub nation’s mellow.
For one thing, Oakland believes the Warriors owe them for the first two parades — $244,000 for 2015, and $29,000 for last year’s festivities at which team owner Joe Lacob said, “We’d just like to say that this parade, this whole day, all the cost, every dollar is on us! It’s our gift to the city of Oakland.”
Oakland estimated the cost to be $816,000. The Warriors finally sent them a check in mid-October — for $786,988.61.
And some fans might feel pangs of nostalgia when it hits them that the team will making its swan song in comfortable, noisy Oracle Arena during the 2018-19 season. Come October 2019, the Warriors will play in the Chase Center in San Francisco.
While conceding the Warriors’ recent run of success has “been great, man,” Oakland native Jenison Soriano is sad the Warriors are leaving for San Francisco. He thinks the current players will be past their prime by the time they start playing at the Chase Center and might “end up like the 49ers.”
Oakland resident Germaine Williams plans to follow the team across the bay, he said, though he isn’t happy about it. Williams has been a fan since the “dark days.” “I mean the really dark, dark days,” he said.
His friend, Jeremy Allen, put it this way: “Every time an Oakland sports team gets good, they take it away. So, it’s just apparent that’s what’s happening.”
— David DeBolt (@daviddebolt) June 12, 2018
Staff writers Rick Hurd, Erin Baldassari, Casey Tolan, Ali Tadayon, Marisa Kendall, Peter Hegarty, Khalida Sarwari and Joseph Geha contributed to this report.