Although their quest for absolute perfection in the NBA playoffs was ended on Friday night, the Golden State Warriors didn’t waste any time on Monday proving they are the pre-eminent team in the league. And “Warrior-Mania” has barely ebbed for a team that has won two of the last three league championships.
It is interesting to note several local connections to this phenomena that has exploded across the region, drawing record television audience and packed arenas.
First, the late Bob Piccinini purchased 10 percent of the team in 2010, at a time when the so-called experts said no NBA team could possibly be worth more than $500 million. More on this a bit later.
And second, how refreshing to note the utter absence of L.A. Lakers team apparel on the fans and youth of our community. For many years these fickle fans sported the colors of the dreaded SoCal team, flaunting the contrast between the many-time champion Lakers and the bleak record of our local heroes.
Many of us endured those years in silence and pain. I had season tickets to the Warriors for 15 years, only saw them get into the playoffs once. And that appearance was all-too brief.
For a couple of seasons I actually had four seats, right square on the center court line. Those same seats have been selling this month for about $2,500 each – a total of $10,000 per game if my math is correct. What a far cry from the days when it was hard to even give them away, let alone recapture anything close to the face value I had paid before the season.
(Does the IRS knows about these windfall profits?)
Early on the team played in San Francisco. The first game I attended in person was at the USF gym, a titanic battle between Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. In the next couple of years they bounced around the city, playing at the dilapidated Cow Palace, USF and even at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Eventually they moved to the Oakland Arena, now known as Oracle Arena.
Fans today see a sparkling Oracle Arena on the national TV coverage, but in reality Oracle is a dump. It is 51 years old, and was last refurbished more than 20 years ago. It is the oldest NBA arena in existence, but a brand new arena is under construction on the San Francisco waterfront just south of the Giants AT&T Park.
(Which will make commuting into games from our area much more difficult.)
Arriving at Oracle today you are in for another shock. Parking fees for a game starts at $40 per car, double the charge for an Oakland A’s baseball game. Perhaps not surprisingly, less than half the parking lot fills at these prices.
Back to my good friend Bob Piccinini. He made his fortune selling groceries, but he was the ultimate sports fan and investor. At various times he owned the Fresno Giants and Sacramento Solons AAA baseball teams and owned pieces of the Modesto A’s (now Nuts) and Stockton Ports. He once made a major effort to buy the Oakland A’s and was a minority owner with Modesto native Jeff Moorad in both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres. He also was the longest term sponsor in NASCAR with his backing of the Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, where they dedicated a plaza in his memory last year.
He joined Silicon Valley investor Joe Lacob in buying the Warriors in 2010 for a reported total price of $450 million. Seven years later Forbes Magazine values the Warriors at $2.6 billion. By my math, that is a 600 percent profit. Not a bad investment for a real fan with a team that he loves.
Sadly, we lost Bob two years ago, a few months before his beloved Warriors won their first NBA title in 40 years. His last days were a difficult battle with failing health, but just the week before his death he was courtside, rooting on the team he had helped build into such great success.
Now, we can only wonder what happened to all of those tacky Lakers jackets that used to dominate our local landscape.
Dick Hagerty, an Oakdale real estate developer active in non-profits. Send comments or questions to email@example.com.