Sports

The Warriors are back in San Francisco. Did you know Sacramento was once ‘home’ turf?

NBA legend Wilt Chamberlin (13), wearing a protective mask, scored 46 points for the then-San Francisco Warriors against the New York Knicks on Dec. 22, 1964, in a game played at Sacramento High School. The Warriors lost 124-118. It was the second of three home games the Warriors played at Sac High in the 1960s.
NBA legend Wilt Chamberlin (13), wearing a protective mask, scored 46 points for the then-San Francisco Warriors against the New York Knicks on Dec. 22, 1964, in a game played at Sacramento High School. The Warriors lost 124-118. It was the second of three home games the Warriors played at Sac High in the 1960s. Sacramento Bee file

When the Golden State Warriors play their regular-season home opener Oct. 24 at the new Chase Arena, it will be the first time San Francisco is home to the NBA since 1971.

Eight years before the Warriors took on a moniker to represent all of California, the then-San Francisco Warriors were already playing to a statewide audience.

During the 1960s, the Warriors would play regular-season “home” games in eight California cities – a list which includes the capital more than two decades before the Kings moved to Sacramento. The Warriors’ contests about 90 miles northeast of the Bay Area city, part of a Christmastime series, took place at Sacramento High School. Two of them featured one of the most prolific scorers in league history.

At least 12 Hall of Fame players came through town during that three-year stretch, including Rick Barry, Willis Reed, Lenny Wilkens and, of course, the man whose career scoring average is edged only by Michael Jordan.

Wilt Chamberlain played the first two games of the series. He finished with a triple-double (27 points, 27 rebounds, 11 assists) in a 104-96 victory over the St. Louis Hawks on Dec. 18, 1963, but his 46-point, 18-rebound game a year later wasn’t enough in a 124-118 loss to the New York Knicks, who scored 45 points in the second quarter.

Long before he became a successful area high school coach, Monte White attended one of the games as a wide-eyed teenager.

“Wilt was large,” White told The Sacramento Bee’s Joe Davidson on Wednesday. “Not just tall, but I remember how thick he was through the shoulders. It was a night of basketball I have never forgotten and I’m still in awe of seeing Wilt play. Who else played? No idea!”

Bob Davis attended one of the games at the Sac High gym, now known as Dave Hotell Pavilion. The Folsom resident recalled several years ago in a chat with The Bee the appetite of Chamberlain, whom Davis said scarfed down a large cake before the game – with water, not milk – and a large pie at the half.

“That’s apparently how Wilt built up the energy to play every minute, and I remember watching him just put all that stuff into his mouth,” Davis said in 2016. “Can you imagine teams allowing that now?”

Chamberlain didn’t play the final game of the series in 1965 — he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers during the All-Star break of the previous season, about a month after the second Sacramento game. However, the Warriors didn’t need him to beat the Detroit Pistons. Nate Thurmond had 21 points and 27 rebounds in a 114-104 victory Dec. 22, 1965. More than 3,000 people were in attendance.

Truly a team for the Golden State

Sacramento was one of several cities to host regular-season Warriors games. Before moving to Oakland and subbing “San Francisco” for “Golden State” in 1971, the city across the Bay Bridge hosted games. Other California destinations were San Diego, Bakersfield, Daly City, San Jose, Fresno and Richmond, where Chamberlain scored 43 points in a 112-97 victory, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Warriors even took their act out of state in the 1960s, playing home games in Eugene, Ore., and Seattle, which later welcomed its own NBA team in the SuperSonics. Unfortunately for the Emerald City, that franchise relocated after 41 years to become the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Back to the present, the Warriors, who have been to the NBA Finals each of the last five seasons and won three titles, will play at the NBA’s newest arena, which opens one year after the Milwaukee Bucks’ Fiserv Forum, two after the Detroit Pistons’ Little Caesars Arena and three seasons after Golden 1 Center.

The Kings will play in the new San Francisco venue for the first time Dec. 15.

The Bee’s Joe Davidson contributed to this report.

Bee sports page, Dec. 18, 1963

Bee sports page 1963

Bee sports page, Dec. 22, 1964

Bee sports page 1964

Bee sports page, Dec. 22, 1965

Bee sports page 1965
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