Colin Kaepernick WarriorsAll it took was a quick shot of him in a luxury suite, wearing a blue tank top and a yellow hat turned sideways, for Oracle Arena to explode. Fans shown on the four high definition video boards above center court were booed before Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals for not wearing their gold t-shirts, but not Colin Kaepernick. The only other person who received more cheers that night for something other than a basketball play was Stephen Curry during pregame introductions.

Get used to this. Kaepernick may not be the biggest star in the Bay Area yet, but he will be. And if there was a way to quantify “star power,” we might find that he’s already earned that lofty distinction. With Tim Lincecum headed toward the second chapter of his career (as a reliever someplace else), the other candidates are Buster Posey and Stephen Curry. Patrick Willis barely misses the cut — he’s getting a lot of commercials lately, but middle linebackers don’t cause crowds to swoon and scream like Kaepernick, Posey or Curry.

Kaepernick spent his first offseason after becoming the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback about as publicly as possible. His offseason workouts in Atlanta drew a lot of attention. He collected a few endorsements, headlined by Jaguar. He hung out with Michelle Obama. All this after just 10 NFL starts, which makes one wonder how long it’ll be until Kaepernick rules the Bay Area sports landscape … and for how long.

With all respect to Alex Smith, Kaepernick’s dizzying rise in popularity is an indication of how starved this area was for the 49ers to have a true franchise quarterback. Even when Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Rickey Henderson were doing amazing things for winning teams, Joe Montana was the king and it wasn’t even close. Maybe that’s why this photo resonated with so many.

Any dynamic quarterback who gets the 49ers to the Super Bowl would be popular, but Kaepernick has a lot more than that going for him.

  • His athleticism jumps off the screen, both as a passer and runner.
  • He’s multiracial.
  • He has a lot of tattoos and isn’t afraid to show them off.
  • He already has a trademarked gesture: “Kaepernicking.”
  • He’s the region’s first quarterback who gets social media.

Kaepernick is already a huge star, even though he isn’t forthcoming with the media. Actually, that’s a drastic understatement. This is a pretty good representation of one of his press conferences:

How does it feel to be getting the start again this week?

“It feels good.”

What did you learn, going back to film, what did you take from the St. Louis game?

“Can’t make mistakes. That’s the biggest thing.”

How hard is it when the snap isn’t right, where it should be, and you have to look down and look back up? Does that throw you off your rhythm?

“If I catch the snap, it’s fine.”

He’ll probably never be as expansive with his answers as Smith was when he was the 49ers’ starting quarterback, but Kaepernick could very well open up over the next few years. But he doesn’t need to — although he had 15 pizzas delivered to the media trailer during the playoffs, which shows he knows at least one way to make the scribes happy. As long as Kaepernick keeps doing what he’s doing, and the 49ers keep winning, he’ll continue to get loud cheers in every Bay Area venue … except maybe the Oakland Coliseum if his 49ers are facing the Oakland Raiders.