Barry: Fans have loud say in Warriors’ success 

click to enlarge While Stephen Curry and the Warriors might have lost Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Tuesday, they still had boisterous support from their fans. - BEN MARGOT/AP
  • Ben Margot/AP
  • While Stephen Curry and the Warriors might have lost Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Tuesday, they still had boisterous support from their fans.
We all know Dorothy clicked the heels of her ruby-red slippers together in the “Wizard of Oz” and chanted the iconic phrase, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” I’ve seen Stephen Curry do just about everything except click his sneakers, but that sentiment rings true more than ever at Oracle Arena this season.

Oracle Arena has become the greatest home-court advantage in the league, which is no small reason in the Warriors’ domination this season. The Dubs have a 42-3 record in their building, and they had won their last 22 games in a row there before Tuesday’s 97-90 loss in Game 2 to the Memphis Grizzlies. The fans have made it a special place in which to play.

In 1971, the Warriors made the permanent switch to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena for their home games. The change in venue also came with the change in name to the Golden State Warriors. The team had played at the Coliseum intermittently over the years, but its home court had been split between the Civic Auditorium and the Cow Palace. The Warriors even played an occasional home game in Sacramento and San Jose over the years. Needless to say, the NBA was a different league back then.

Believe me when I say that what fans experience now at the remodeled Oracle Arena is a far cry from what we encountered back in the 1970s. At that time, there were no luxury boxes, no locker and training rooms, no Courtside Club and other eateries and no jumbo digital scoreboard. Yes, it was a far different environment than what the 1975 NBA championship team experienced even a few years later, but there was one distinct similarity — the remarkably loyal, enthusiastic and knowledgeable fans.

As a former NBA player and commentator, I have been in almost every arena in the league. I can attest to the fact that there isn’t a more vocal fan base than in the Bay Area. I can assure you having that type of fan support is a factor in winning. Hearing the crowd and feeling their excitement really does get the adrenaline flowing. As a player, you feed off that energy many times. It provides an incentive to play harder and better.

Take Game 7 of the 1975 Western Conference finals, one that stands out for me years later. We were trailing the Chicago Bulls late in the third quarter 61-51 and I was shooting poorly. Our coach Al Attles wisely took me out of the game. I vividly remember sitting on the bench, praying that my teammates would somehow get us back in the game.

Thanks in part to the incredible support of our boisterous sixth man, we held the Bulls to just one field goal in the next 14 minutes. When Al put me back into the game with about six minutes left in the quarter, we were down only four points. With the crowd going wild and supporting us on every possession, we were able to win the game and the series. In some ways, the fans had willed us to the NBA Finals. We all know what happened next.

My expectation is that the Warriors’ faithful will continue to turn up the noise in this series when it returns to Oracle for Game 5 and, hopefully, the Western Conference finals and the NBA Finals. They deserve another chance to celebrate a league championship.

At the same time, I’m very much looking forward to enjoying more success when the team returns to its roots in San Francisco and plays in a new, state-of-the-art arena. Because when it comes to Warriors basketball, there’s no place like home regardless of where it’s played.

Rick Barry played eight season for the Warriors and was the captain of their only Bay Area NBA championship team. In 1987, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His commentary will appear exclusively in The San Francisco Examiner throughout the playoffs.

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