The Golden State Warriors have been Oakland’s team for decades. In everything but name.
Even though the team has played almost all of its games in the East Bay since the 1970s, they’re known as the Golden State Warriors. This doesn’t sit right with Oakland resident and lifelong Warriors fan Alan Chazaro.
“I’ve always kind of taken it as an insult that they were never known as the Oakland Warriors,” Alan said.
The name is unique. The Warriors are the only team in the NBA — and one of the few in all of U.S. professional sports — not to be named after a city or state.
“That would be like if there was the Sunshine State Marlins,” Alan said, referring to one of Florida’s professional baseball teams.
Alan said he’s done some of his own research but could never find a satisfying answer as to why the Warriors have such a different moniker.
Originally the Philadelphia Warriors, the team moved to the Bay Area in 1962 and played as the San Francisco Warriors for almost a decade.
During this period, the team played home games all over the region: San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium, the University of San Francisco’s War Memorial Gym, Daly City’s Cow Palace, the Oakland Coliseum and San Jose Civic Auditorium (now City National Civic).
“The Warriors in those days did not draw real well,” said Art Spander, who has covered sports in California for more than 50 years for the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner.
Spander said that before the 1971 season, Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli decided he was going to split the team’s home games between the Bay Area and San Diego, which had just lost its own NBA franchise. Mieuli was trying to keep the franchise afloat, and some at the time saw the San Diego move as a ploy to get a better deal on a Bay Area arena for the team.
There was just one problem.
“Well, he didn’t know what to call the Warriors,” Spander said of Mieuli. “You can’t call them the San Francisco Warriors and play games in San Diego, he decided.”
Mieuli also thought calling the team the California Warriors would sound too much like the Cal Bears of UC Berkeley, so he went with something totally different: Golden State.
“And they’ve been Golden State ever since,” Spander said.
Golden State wasn’t exactly a new term. It became the state’s official nickname in 1968 and had been associated with the state since the Gold Rush. But it had never been applied to a sports franchise before.
After all that, the Warriors played only a few games in San Diego that season. Most were played at the Oakland Coliseum, which would soon become the team’s permanent home. Some efforts were made in the ’70s to change the name to the Oakland Warriors, but by then, Golden State was here to stay.
“I think it’s kind of fun,” Spander said of the name. “There is no Golden State. That’s how we describe California. But they certainly have a unique identification.”
Our question asker Alan is a little less enthused.
“I understand it a little bit more,” he said, “but I do have to say it still stings a little bit, especially since they’re moving back to San Francisco.”
According to a Warriors spokesman, there are no plans as of now to change the name back to San Francisco when the team moves back across the bay in 2019.
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