This Golden State Warriors in San Francisco thing will never sit right with me.
The young Ninja Turtle pajama-wearing version of myself was introduced to the franchise through the classic ABC TGIF program, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. At that young age, and also with the NBA on national television far less frequently than it is currently, I wasn’t familiar with the Bay Area’s basketball team. But one Friday night Charles Barkley dunked on Mark Curry — and I’ve followed the team to some extent ever since.
That sitcom was set in Oakland, which meant the Warriors were introduced to me as a part of that community. Oakland seemed cool, and the people I met from there as an adult proved the show correct. Now that the franchise is the NBA’s crown jewel, it’s a bit sad that they uprooted and moved to the other side of the Bay. I do, however, understand why it was done.
It’s even more understandable with a recent report from Sportico that lists the Warriors as the highest-valued team in the NBA. To accomplish this feat with a local-television contract that pales in comparison to the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, the only way to make up the difference is with their stadium.
The Warriors are currently on a road trip, and won’t return to San Francisco until Christmas Day. They play at home again, against the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 27. The cheapest ticket in the Chase Center that evening costs $90. That’s in section 211. In the Chase Center, that is the worst season in the house. The upper deck, behind one of the baskets.
According to Sportico’s Kurt Baudenhausen, the Warriors brought in $800 million in revenue last season, the first full-season in which the arena could seat at full capacity. If they advance deep in the playoffs again this season it could balloon to $900 million.
Their revenue in 2021-22 was 50 percent higher than any other NBA franchise. When a stadium can generate that kind of money, by comparison a $250 million per year Spectrum Sportsnet television deal can look like a Corvette next to a Rolls Royce. The Warriors are visiting another sparkling new arena on Tuesday night when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Fiserv Forum and the Deer District aren’t quite the Chase Center and Thrive City on the San Francisco waterfront.
Team owner Joe Lacob comes off just as pompous in the Sportico story, as he did in the New York Times when he said that the Warriors were “light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things.” He also told Sportico that he’s coming for the Dallas Cowboys’ spot as the top valued sports franchise in the world, and alo hit Jerry Jones with a quick jab when he mentioned that franchise hasn’t won a championship since 1996.
The job that Lacob, Peter Guber, and Bob Myers have done with the Warriors has been phenomenal, but what they inherited when they purchased the franchise is the main reason why all this money is pouring in. The combination of Stephen Curry’s paradigm shifting play — a player who Lacob didn’t draft — a loyal and fierce fanbase, and this all taking place in the area with the highest cost of living in the United States is what allowed Lacob to take in freight-train loads of gold from the Golden State.
He has played his winning hand perfectly, but still, he got dealt a royal flush. If that Curry ace doesn’t hit on the river, Lacob wouldn’t be so optimistic about turning the Warriors into a “sports, entertainment, media, and technology company.” In fact, he might have taken his chips and cashed out a while ago.
That being said, what the Warriors have become in the last eight years is remarkable. A franchise with limited national following, and even less recent on-court success, has become the model for the future of professional sports.
While I still believe that the team would be more fun, and likable, if they were still in Oakland, if the front office projected the Chase Center to bring in anywhere near this amount of revenue, of course they were going to make the move across the water.
For those of us that feel that miss that Oakland feeling from the Warriors, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper is streaming on Amazon Prime and HBO Max.