SAN FRANCISCO — As Klay Thompson approached the end of the Warriors’ championship parade route on Monday in San Francisco, the Golden State star was surrounded by adoring fans, eager to walk side-by-side with a man who personified the character of a team that won its fourth title in eight years last week.
A crowd of fans had broken through barricades to temporarily halt the bus carrying Thompson. Six months after his return from a 941-day absence that began with a torn ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals and continued with a torn Achilles in November 2020, a raucous celebration was in order.
“Whether it’s taking a picture with an old lady or a young kid, Dub Nation has no bounds and we have fans from all walks of life,” Thompson told fans assembled in front of the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero before the start of the parade.
Ivan Chavarria, 32, of Walnut Creek, wore a No. 11 Thompson jersey on a BART train headed into San Francisco for the parade.
“I never thought I’d see us be this good,” Chavarria said. “It’s mind-boggling.”
Disbelief was a shared feeling Monday for many longtime Warriors fans and even some members of the organization. A crowd estimated to be more than 800,000 jammed Market Street to celebrate a team that few expected to extend its dynasty.
The Warriors-dominated era in the NBA that Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green had created was supposed to be over. But after back-to-back seasons missing the playoffs, Golden State returned to the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight years and defeated the Boston Celtics 4-2 in a best-of-seven series.
“The reason it was a surprise is we kind of stunk the last couple of years,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “I don’t know if you noticed that. To be able to bounce back from where we were is pretty incredible.”
“We were buried,” General Manager Bob Myers said. “We were six feet under.”
Hoping to secure a front-row view to the first championship parade in San Francisco since the Giants held their third in five years back in 2014, some fans arrived as early as 5 a.m. for a celebration that began about six hours later. Around 6:30 a.m., shouts of “Waaaaaarriors” echoed off the sides of the concrete corridor while car horns blasted in celebration.
Francisco Vasquez and Carlos Morales, both of San Jose, made the early-morning trip.
“We got up at 3 this morning,” Vasquez said. “My wife is still mad.”
The Siu family — Roy, Sandra and their daughter Penny– were there too, hoping for a glimpse of Curry.
“I hear all the time about Joe Montana, but I’m 36, so not old enough to remember him real well,” Roy Siu said. “This is our Joe, and we’ve been really lucky to see (Curry) play his whole career under our watch.”
A Warriors team that won championships across the Bay in 2015, 2017 and 2018 brought Golden State to heights fans could have never imagined just a decade before. Curry wore the three championship rings earned in Oakland on a chain around his neck. He’s not taking the fourth ring for granted after two years away from the playoffs.
“It wasn’t just the work we put in last week and the work we put in a month ago,” Curry, a 13th-year veteran and Finals MVP, said of the journey to a fourth title. “It was the work we started once we changed buildings and trying to carry that championship DNA.”
During animated on-stage interviews with Warriors play-by-play broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald, Curry described the challenge of navigating the road to a title, Green delivered an expletive-laden speech that began with a vow to be as controversial as possible, while Thompson expressed admiration for Warriors fans’ devotion to the team.
Green –who was seen sipping from a bottle of Lobos tequila along the parade route– stuck with a consistent message in multiple interviews. Anyone who dared question the Warriors’ greatness should, in his words, “just shut up.” When talking on camera with Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B., Green asked if the interview was live and then said, “F— ’em.”
In describing the challenge of censoring Green, Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and Warriors TV analyst Chris Mullin said: “Illegal defense is 2.9 [seconds]. With Draymond, you needed seven seconds. A seven-second delay.”
Along the #WarriorsParade route, Klay Thompson was full man of the people, working the crowd, and at one point stopping, putting down a championship trophy, and doing a Michael Jackson spin move @mercnews@EastBayTimespic.twitter.com/3UQaZmUWRB
— Robert Salonga (@robertsalonga) June 20, 2022
While BART and MUNI trains were filled with blue and gold-clad passengers headed to San Francisco Monday, Thompson bypassed traffic by commuting from the North Bay via boat.
Thompson lost his “2022 NBA Champions” hat along the water, but took the stage along the Embarcadero donning a white captain’s hat with an “SF” emblem made popular by Giants first baseman Brandon Belt. Thompson said he enjoys the “small victories” that accompany winning a title, such as the reception he received from chefs, waiters and fellow customers when he ate a breakfast out in the Bay Area Saturday morning.
He stacked up plenty more of those victories on Monday, courtesy of Dub Nation.