California Forum

What makes the Golden State Warriors champions? Let me tell you about my friend

The Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry greets Sadie McKee, an 83-year-old fan from Willows, after a game at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Feb. 2, 2018.
The Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry greets Sadie McKee, an 83-year-old fan from Willows, after a game at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Feb. 2, 2018. Photo courtesy of Susan Walker

My friend’s 83-year-old mother Sadie McKee has been a Golden State Warriors fan since their move to San Francisco in 1962. She watches every game on television at her home in Willows, but had never seen one live. So in February, I invited her to the Warriors-Kings game in Sacramento.

We arrived a half-hour early, Sadie in her Warriors sweatshirt. When we realized she might not be able stand until the doors opened, a Kings employee graciously brought a wheelchair. After a short wait and a lively conversation, we took our seats at midcourt, six rows up.

The Kings employee, a man named Lee, had a mischievous sparkle in his eye. ‘Where would you like to go?’ he asked, waving his arms as if anything were possible. ‘To the Warriors locker room,’ I blurted spontaneously, expecting him to laugh. ‘All right then,’ he said. And he rolled Sadie down to the stadium hallway.

Sadie knew the players, the plays, and the suspect calls. With the Warriors down early, she remarked, “The boys haven’t clicked in yet, but they will.”

She was right. The Warriors kept it close, and then Kevin Durant seized control and they glided to a decisive win.

“I never thought I’d live to see the boys in person.” Sadie was glowing. As the crowd thinned, another Kings employee brought the wheelchair again.

But this one, a man named Lee, had a mischievous sparkle in his eye. “Where would you like to go?” he asked, waving his arms as if anything were possible.

“To the Warriors locker room,” I blurted spontaneously, expecting him to laugh.

“All right then,” he said. And he rolled Sadie down to the stadium hallway.

Wait. Really?

We continued around the arena to a set of closed double doors. A man with a Warriors ID nodded. Two guards swung open the doors.

Then Raymond Ridder, the Warriors PR guru, waved us past a scrum of reporters. And there we were, to our astonishment, directly in front of the Warriors locker room.

Kevin Durant strode towards the locker room, then glanced up and pivoted toward Sadie.

“Did you enjoy the game?” he asked, taking her hand.

“Yes,” she gushed, “I enjoy every game.”

Durant radiated vitality as he smiled at Sadie.

“Great game,” I said.

“Thank you,” he said warmly, almost shyly.

Steph Curry ambled over and shook Sadie’s hand. As the face of the Warriors, he carries the weight of a team, a multi-million-dollar franchise, and an entire community. But the fierce competitor set it all aside.

“Steph, I love watching you play,” Sadie enthused. “You bring so much joy to so many people.”

“I appreciate hearing that.” The full measure of his presence focused on Sadie.

The former NBA player and police officer who is now Curry’s bodyguard, Ralph Walker, stood outside the locker room, asking players if they might say hello to Sadie. Draymond Green burst through the door in a white shirt and torn black jeans. Flashing a smile, he shook Sadie’s hand on his way to the media area. “I’ll be right back. I just need to do this interview, and then we’ll chat.”

After a short time, Green returned.

“Draymond,” she said with warm concern, “You have to behave yourself.”

He smiled. “I know.”

“Listen, I’m serious.” Her voice full of care. “You’re too good to be thrown out of games. We need you.”

“I’m working on it.”

Draymond posed with Sadie for a photo, holding out his other arm for me.

Ralph called from across the hallway, “Sadie, how are you feeling?”

“I’m so happy I could die right now and go straight to heaven.”

“Wonderful.” He laughed. “But not tonight, okay?”

Patrick McCaw stepped out of the locker room, both hands full. He transferred everything to one hand and took Sadie’s hand in his. She shifted to stand, his muscles tightened to assist her.

Steph emerged again carrying a paper plate of Mexican food and walked to Sadie for another picture. I recalled a headline announcing his wife was pregnant with their third child. “Congratulations on your new baby,” I called out. He turned and looked in my eyes. “Thank you,” the happy, expectant father said.

As Sadie and I slowly left the arena, I understood her devotion. The team is one of the best in NBA history. But thanks to both the Warriors and the Kings, we glimpsed behind the players’ might to experience something even greater than the dedication and professionalism the Warriors are known for – generosity of spirit, and grace.

Susan Walker lives in Sacramento. She’s a Kings fan, and now she’s also a Warriors fan for life; susanwalker11@gmail.com.

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