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Beyond belief

The Warriors' upset over the Mavericks, maybe the biggest shocker in NBA history, has the Bay Area in an uproar

May 05, 2007|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND — Only a few pools of water from overnight showers occupied the deserted parking lot Friday morning at Oracle Arena, home of the suddenly chic Golden State Warriors.

The night before, the place was jammed. And most of the home crowd stood the entire second half, in a foot-aching but heartwarming expression of affection.

Warriors, Warriors, how do we love thee? Snoop Dogg, Carlos Santana, Kate Hudson, Owen Wilson, Ronnie Lott, Woody Harrelson, Penny Marshall, they know how. All of them were on hand to watch the Warriors defeat the heavily favored Dallas Mavericks, along with a standing-room-only crowd of 20,667, most wearing yellow "We Believe" T-shirts.

The fun is just starting.

"In your face, nonbelievers." That was the lead headline on the front page of Friday's Oakland Tribune.

The headline for the top sports story in the San Francisco Chronicle screamed "UNBELIEVABLE." The front page had this message: "BELIEVE IT!"

Local print and electronic media may be risking a muscle pull fawning over the Warriors, but the national media have caught on too. The Warriors were the No. 1 topic on ESPN's "Around the Horn," "Pardon the Interruption" and "SportsCenter" and on "FSN Final Score." Presumably, "The View" had already taped.

The avalanche of interest is probably all a matter of perspective and timing. For instance, the Lakers have missed the playoffs only twice since they did it consecutively, in 1975 and 1976. Of course, you could say they're missing them this year too, after the Phoenix debacle.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area is working off a victory hangover, where Warriors fans who have spent the last 13 years in playoff hibernation are clambering out and taking a look around.

It's something they're not used to seeing.

Jesse Rogers, who has held six Warriors season tickets since 1988, didn't wear his yellow shirt at the clinching game but waved it like a flag instead.

And for the first time since 1994, the last time the Warriors made the playoffs, it wasn't a white flag, either.

"They've been so bad, it's been hard to support them," Rogers said. "You know, 13 years and a lot of misery in between, it's not Red Sox standards, but let's just say there's been a lot of hardships."

Bill Conway, program director at San Francisco's top-rated radio station, KOIT, said the Warriors' 111-86 victory Thursday night dominated the conversation at every meeting he attended at the station Friday.

Conway, from Dallas, said he wasn't wasting any time jumping on the Warriors' bandwagon. "This is enough to turn me into a Warriors fan," he said.

Across the Bay in San Francisco, it wasn't hard to spot Warriors fans wearing the colors. Warriors caps and T-shirts were in evidence around the touristy Union Square and also in the financial district.

Deliveryman Michael Moore wore a Baron Davis No. 5 road jersey as he walked down Front Street.

"I may not ever take it off," he said.

The Warriors, who won their only NBA title in 1975, seem to have no problem walking a fine line of allegiances. The team plays in Oakland, but most of the fans come from other areas. And while the team's most popular jersey is the retro version with "The City" on the front, that city is San Francisco, which is also where most of the NBA teams stay when they play the Warriors.

Oakland doesn't seem to care at all, so why should anybody? The Warriors are not only the first eighth-seeded team to beat a first-seeded team in a seven-game NBA playoff format, they also succeeded despite a 25-game disparity in their regular-season victory total compared to with Dallas.

Maybe all those "We Believe" shirts work.

Or maybe Warriors Coach Don Nelson has it right.

"I believe in nothing."

Nelson is known as a mental game-player and it's an approach that has worked so far. Beginning Monday in Salt Lake City or Houston, the Warriors start the second round of the playoffs, and soon after, we'll find out if there's more to those shirts than just a cute phrase that's perfect to repeat. Just remain standing after you say it.

*

thomas.bonk@latimes.com

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