Golden State Warriors

Warriors moving to San Francisco – how will the fans change?

It sounds like Adam Lauridsen’s report that the Warriors have finalized plans to move San Francisco will become official later in the week. In return for the loyal patronage East Bay fans showed this struggling franchise for decades, they’ll get directions to the nearest ferry terminal.

So far we’ve explored in Part 1 of this series how the team will change, as well as how the Bay Area will change in Part 2. But the fans, the people who have represented the best thing the Warriors have had to offer for decades, will also look, act and sound differently. The overall fan dynamic will be altered in a multitude of ways, some that are impossible to predict — but here’s what we know will change in regards to the paying customers after the Warriors move to San Francisco.

1. The fans will be much wealthier.

It’s not like Warriors games are cheap at Oracle Arena — the least expensive lower bowl season ticket will cost about $1,800 for the 2012-13 season. However, Warriors games in San Francisco are going to be far more expensive, and not just in the premium seats. The “real” fans who from the upper bowl have made meaningless games in March feel like playoff games in June will be priced out. Warriors crowds, as diverse as any you’ll see in the Bay Area or the entire NBA, will look a shade different in five years.

2. Fans will show up later and leave earlier.

Due to reason No. 1 from this post and reason No. 2 here, there’s no way we can expect punctuality. Wealthy fans aren’t going to cut their gourmet meals short to make it for opening tip, and even the “best” fans will find it hard to make it on time (especially since many will be forced to count on MUNI to get there).

The leaving-before-the-final-buzzer part won’t be a huge change — many fans already check out with a couple minutes to go at Oracle. However, early departures be even more pervasive in San Francisco, since it’ll take longer for most fans to get home from the Embarcadero than it does from the Coliseum.

3. The fans will be casual…

I live in San Francisco. I love it here. But this is a frontrunning city.

People who go to Warriors games at Oracle go for the basketball more than anything else. With a San Francisco arena, Warriors games will become more scene-oriented. They’ll be part of a package for the young urban professionals (and older urban professionals), part of an evening that includes dinner, cocktails and socializing. As a result, many of the fans in the stands will be more interested in talking with each other and staring at their phones than how the Warriors will attack the Phoenix Suns’ zone defense. Call it the “Lakerization” of the fanbase.

There’s an edge to the Oakland crowds that won’t carry over to San Francisco. The wealthier set would never have booed Lacob as unmercifully as the paying customers attending Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement. Tidal waves of rage won’t surge in response to taunting from Blake Griffin … that happened this season at Oracle. Oakland fans chant nasty things at officials in response to any perceived slight — can you imagine C-level execs for social media companies screaming at Bennett Salvatore?

The true reason why the Warriors are called “the best fans in the NBA” by so many doesn’t lie in attendance figures, it’s because the fans create a vicious homecourt advantage whenever the Dubs show a semblance of basketball competence. Regardless of date or opponent, the fans at Oracle create palpable energy that affects play during the fourth quarter of every close game. The Warriors won’t be able to count on that kind of support in San Francisco unless the team is winning and relevant.

Plus, San Francisco fans love to make their favorite athletes as cute and cuddly as possible. Klay Thompson (if he’s still with the team) will become “The Kangaroo” or something, and fans will wear jerseys with his name on the back and a pouch in the front.

4. …yet they will also be less forgiving.

More expensive tickets, different fans and a new arena will bring new expectations. “Let’s go Warriors” chants with 30 seconds remaining and the Warriors trailing by 15? Gone. East Bay fans won’t boycott the team (if the Warriors’ winning percentage over the past few decades didn’t push them away, a move to a brand new arena across the Bay won’t do it either), but the bitterness will be more evident when the Warriors’ record doesn’t match the cost of attending games.

Lacob will be front and center on this move, taking as much credit as humanly possible. Fans will see that and make the obvious translation: he’s taking as much money as possible, too. I really doubt the Warriors will lose many fans (if any) over this move, but instead of the former perspective (we’re happy to be a part of this NBA thing), a new city will cause fans to have this perspective: okay big shots, we’re done standing and screaming. We’re going to sit back and let you show us something.

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