One of the first things basketball fans notice about the Golden State Warriors is the team’s name. According to USA Today, it is one of four professional sports teams to not be named after a city, state or region.
Golden State is officially located in Oakland, California (for now), but decided to use the state’s nickname instead of identifying with one particular city. However, the name is more complicated than that. According to CBS Sports, the Warriors will begin playing at the newly constructed Chase Center in San Francisco at the start of the 2019-20 season.
As the USA Today pointed out, the non-committal Golden State name points to the team’s conflicted relationship with the city of Oakland. The Mercury News’ Marcus Thompson II notes this move is a slap in the face to many people in Oakland who have supported the team long before they evolved into one of the most popular NBA franchises.
Translation: Oakland is too violent, too ghetto and too ugly and we don’t want to share in that brand. Even where the stadium is located – deep East Oakland, where the undesired grime and ruggedness is the décor – is deemed unfit for such a glamorous team.
For 50 years, Oakland has embraced the Warriors. This city was the refuge back when San Francisco didn’t support the Warriors and then-owner Franklin Mieuli was ready to bounce to San Diego. This region, with its rough edges and bent on loyalty, made the Warriors relevant when the franchise wasn’t shiny enough to attract San Francisco’s wealth. Oakland made the Warriors. The East Bay made the Warriors.
The name also has a lot to do with the team’s somewhat transient history. According to the NBA, the Warriors are part of only three remaining charter franchises. The team was originally located in Philadelphia where the franchise won the inaugural NBA championship as the Philadelphia Warriors during the 1946-47 season.
The team moved to San Francisco in 1962, and changed the team name to the San Francisco Warriors. This was the team’s name for the better part of a decade, before changing to its current name of the Golden State Warriors prior to the 1971-72 season.
According to the SF Gate, the name change coincided with the team’s decision to move from San Francisco. The team had announced their plan to split their 1971-72 home games between San Diego and Oakland. For those familiar with California geography, you realize San Diego and Oakland are separated by a 7-8 hour drive.
Two weeks later, the team agreed to play all their games in Oakland avoiding a messy split home base. Close to fifty years later, the team will leave Oracle Arena in Oakland and begin playing again in San Francisco. This is just the latest chapter in a complicated history of moves for the Warriors.