In the fall of 2018, a Nike executive took a seat at Lois the Pie Queen, ordered from the menu and looked around. Framed photographs of influential people from Oakland covered the 50-year-old walls, sunlight beamed in from Adeline St. and the smell of a coffee drip filled the room. As he took in the scene, his gaze paused on a faded navy and orange cardboard sign plastered to the window. It read, “WE BELIEVE.”
“I remember like, ‘Wow, OK,’” said Raul Alejandro, art director at Nike. “It’s that important that it sits next to these other very important people and events that have happened in Oakland.”
It was here where Alejandro and a half dozen of his colleagues dined and got the inspiration for the Warriors’ “Oakland Forever” jerseys. (And, Alejandro said, had “the most amazing chicken and waffles I had in my life.”) The team will wear these new city edition jerseys for the first time Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs. Like Lois the Pie Queen, they celebrate the City of Oakland and an important era in Warriors history, an era the team is trying to maintain a connection with after moving to San Francisco last season.
“The soul of this organization is built in Oakland,” said forward Draymond Green.
For those unfamiliar: “We Believe” became the slogan for the 2006-07 Warriors who went from finishing below .500 for the 12th straight year the season before to an improbable run to the second round of the playoffs that included knocking off the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks. To this day, it is one of the biggest upsets in league history.
As Stephen Jackson dribbled out the final seconds of Golden State’s win in Game 1 against the Mavericks in that series, he was wearing the navy jersey with orange piping and gold numbers the team wore from 2002 to 2010. Though they had just two winning seasons during that period, Warriors fans have positive feelings about that time.
“I associate the ‘We Believe’ jerseys with hope,” said Bram Hillsman, host of the popular Warriors Huddle podcast and a season-ticket holder since 2007.
After winning just 29 games in 2008-09, Golden State selected Stephen Curry with the seventh pick in the ’09 draft. Curry played only one year in navy and orange before the Warriors adopted their current look that jettisoned the orange, swapped navy for royal blue and lightning bolts for the Bay Bridge.
“The look is just so classic,” Curry said. “When you think of this franchise in Oakland or an expression of what we were, those jerseys are front and center. … To have Oakland across the chest now, it’s special. We have a lot of great memories on that side of the bridge and to pay respect to that era of Warriors basketball is obviously special for me because my rookie year — I’m the only one on this team that wore them.”
These new “Oakland Forever” jerseys are not an exact replica, but they take elements from those “We Believe” jerseys.
“We didn’t want to just do a throwback,” Alejandro said. “What this really represented was a fusion between these two eras: looking back at what the era represented but also acknowledging how far they have come.”
The obvious difference is that the front of the jersey says “Oakland” instead of “Warriors,” a direct shout out to the city where the franchise played for 47 years. There were internal discussions about using “The Town” nickname used on previous city edition jerseys, which change every year, but the design team wanted to be more straightforward.
Among other differences: the neckline is curved to mimic the current jerseys, ditto for the lines on the shorts. A “flying W” was added to the belt buckle as a nod to the previous era. (To get into the nitty-gritty of design, the “W” itself uses the current font while the lighting bolt is from the early 2000s.) There’s an “O” on the shorts that does the same thing.
And in case it’s not obvious enough, the words “We Believe” are embossed on the side. In a strange wrinkle, the Warriors franchise does not even own the trademark to “We Believe,” and had to get the OK from sportswear manufacturer ’47 Brand to use it.
Between Nike’s initial visit to Oakland in 2018 and the final call with the Warriors to unveil the jersey was about four months of work. Warriors vice president of brand marketing Amanda Chin recalled it being an easy process.
“They really nailed it,” Chin said. “There weren’t a ton of revisions or rounds of designs on this particular uniform. … It was a pretty easy approval process.”
It’s not a coincidence that the Warriors will wear the uniform for the first time on Inauguration Day, when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as president and vice president. Harris, who was born in Oakland, was sent an “Oakland Forever” jersey signed by Curry. The Warriors haven’t heard if she’s received it yet.
“Obviously,” Chin said, “she’s very busy.”
For the first time, the Warriors will install a new court to accompany the city edition jerseys. It will adopt the color scheme from the 2007 court at Oracle Arena.
Going forward, the Warriors have partnered with Oakland-based fashion company Oaklandish to design “Oakland Forever”-themed apparel. The Warriors Community Foundation has plans to renovate a basketball court in Oakland — for the kids.
Not only is this campaign a nod to nostalgia, but it’s also a gesture of goodwill following the franchise’s decision to leave Oakland for San Francisco in 2019. That decision had its critics and, depending on who you ask, the Warriors’ determination to keep Oakland as part of their branding is either respectful or patronizing.
Fans who supported the Warriors through those losing seasons have a right to be bitter about the franchise’s move to the city, soaring prices for seats and the Big Tech executives who, pre-pandemic, occupied many of them. But the Warriors’ continued work in the community can’t be denied, either.
Perhaps it’s good timing that Nike, which became the NBA’s official outfitter in 2017, offers city edition alternates, acting as a canvas for the Warriors to celebrate where they come from.
The process for “Oakland Forever” started two years ago, which implies the Warriors already have ideas for their next few city edition jerseys. As for what inspired them, the Warriors, for now, are being coy.
“What I can tell you,” Chin said, “is keeping Oakland a part of our on-court identity is a priority.”
Contributed by local news sources