Sorry Okies, But At Least You Still Have The Sooners

I used to joke as far back as 2012, that if Kevin Durant joined with the Golden State Warriors, I would immediately move back to Oakland. This was a culmination of two things: a desire to see Steph Curry and Durant on the same team (something that went back to the 2009 draft when I hoped the Thunder would draft Curry and put Russell Westbrook at shooting guard–obviously they went with James Harden, who was traded to Houston before the 2012-2013 season), and because for some reason, the Bay Area seemed to fit Durant’s low key temperament.

Interestingly enough, I lived in Austin during the first semester of his freshman season at UT, and part of me felt a pull to stay in town and follow his career as a Longhorn. My better instincts took over halfway through October, and by November I found myself mailing a deposit for an apartment that I’d never even seen, in a city that I’d only visited once. This turned out to be the right decisions for a number of reasons. One of them being that KD left school after that season and was drafted by Seattle. 2 years later, through a series of unrelated events, I found myself on my then girlfriend’s couch, in Tulsa, watching him play for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Having lived in the Bay Area, I know that Mr. Durant will have himself a great time living out there. There is a reason the cost of living is ridiculously high. It is ridiculously chill. The year round temperate weather (east of San Francisco at least) provides consistent sunshine no matter what season it is. It doesn’t take long to find a good dispensary hook-up, and the natural beauty and architecture is breathtaking. Living in the Bay Area, albeit for only 2 years, changed the trajectory of my life, and though it was more sloppy than neat, it was the best decision I could have made as 26 year old.

Moving to Oakland didn’t make a lot of sense to anyone outside of me. My parents wanted me to finish my final math class and get a job as a teacher in Dallas, find a wife, and buy a house near them. I didn’t even know anyone in the Bay, but I’d visited San Francisco twice that summer. It was beautiful. I took the BART to Berkeley to go see Radiohead at the Greek Theatre. I’d gone to a Giants-A’s game in San Francisco. I’d eaten overpriced seafood at tourist traps, and even went hiking. I didn’t know anyone in the area, but it seemed like the kind of place where it was okay to spend a lot of time by yourself.

Finally that fall, I took a chance and begrudgingly answered an ad on Craigslist for an East Oakland apartment to share with an “Ivy league actor needing a flatmate.” I preferred to live in Berkeley, and the Craigslist post seemed a bit pretentious, but after talking on the phone with him, and deciding that I liked the sound of my potential flatmate’s voice (it also helped to know the post was created by his ex-flatmate’s mother), I sent him a deposit and packed up my car.

It turned out to be a huge score. The nearest BART station (Fruitvale–you may have heard of it) was only one stop away from where the A’s and Warriors played.  Though East Oakland was pretty crime ridden, our flat was located above our landlord’s house and on a safer dead end street. We had orange trees in our backyard, and my room caught almost all of the day’s sunlight.

My flatmate and I got along swimmingly. I had access to his vast collection of records and CD’s, and he was hardly home (He was always off recording for the rap album he was working on, or performing in some play around town. These days  Daveed is having a highly successful career as both an actor and musician.). I can honestly say that in our two years of living together, we had a sum total of zero disagreements.

I would soon realize that one of the cooler aspects of living in a city with such rich history (the Beats, the Yippies, the Panthers, Hunter S. Thompson,  late 80’s/early 90’s Hip Hop, the 70’s Raiders and Athletics) was being only a couple of degrees away from someone who participated in a significant cultural event. People like MC Hammer, Bill Russell, Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood had once called Oakland home. We lived next door to a man whose claim to fame was being the voice for Woodstock in the “Peanuts” cartoons. The film, “The Mack” was filmed only a couple of neighborhoods away from ours, back when  Richard Pryor roamed those very city streets. Hell, even one of my landlord’s daughters was at the time, shooting a documentary for ESPN about Fernando Valenzuela.

Being an open mic comic gave me access to a community that people don’t normally have access to. Besides meeting comics like J.B. Smoove, Patrice O’Neal, and Dave Chappelle, all people who I’d regularly seen on TV, I was able to take notes from watching (and sometimes getting bumped for) up-and-coming stars like Ali Wong, W. Kamau Bell, and Marcella Arguello.

The most memorable period from my time there involves the Warriors and their unbelievable late season surge– which began after their trade for Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington. The irony that they were playing my hometown Dallas Mavericks in the 1st round of the playoffs was not lost on me. Much to the disappointment of my Dallas friends, I actively rooted for an upset, as I was caught up in the electricity hanging in the air for that three week run.

WARRIORS VS. TORONTO RAPTORS

That Warriors team had an endearing quality about them. They were a scrappy, and exciting team that prided itself on toughness (a must have quality on that side of the bridge). Though Baron Davis and Monta Ellis provided scoring sparks during the tough stretches, the play of Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes (yes that one) personified the ethos of being an Oaklander.

The vibe of the “We Believe” Warriors took over the whole Bay Area. I hadn’t felt excitement like that from a fan base since the Dallas Cowboys’ first Super Bowl run in the early 90’s. It was easy for me to be happy for Dub Nation in 2015, knowing how that team galvanized the city back in 2007. They are a faithful fan base that has been through more downs than they have ups.

As excited as I am for Warriors fans, I’m equally excited for Kevin Durant to be on the receiving end of that energy and support. Playing in front of that crowd (at least while they are still at the Oracle) is something that most athletes dream about. I would not be surprised if he never leaves.

I moved to Oakland as a regular dude making very little money and had a blast. I imagine living in the Bay with a built in support system, high profile job and boatloads of money, creates a hyper-reality only seen in movies and books. After Durant signed on with the Warriors, there was tons of backlash from people thinking Durant had an obligation to stay in Oklahoma City and fight for a title.

I’ll be the first to admit that landlocked Oklahoma held a strange old world, “red dirt”charm to it when I first visited the state, but the novelty wears thin quickly when you pick it apart with logic. Take away the “chasing rings” aspect of  people’s element, and you have a story about a man (approaching his late 20’s) who took a job in a better place. Having lived in both places, I know that KD leaving was a no brainer. By the simple stroke of a pen, KD improved the quality of his life in a number of immeasurable ways. The next phase of his life hints at something extraordinary–even by his own standards.

Despite my love for Oakland, my chances of moving back to the Bay are slim and none. Though my earning potential is better now, I still wouldn’t make enough to to own property there. The majority of my friends (alongside my unfinished projects) are here in Texas. Plus, there is nothing but Techie bros (with very little single women to court)living there now. As a single man, I would hate it. The middle class (much like every other city) is dwindling and I have no interest in living in cities like El Cerrito and Hayward. I loved that period of time being a starving artist, I have no desire to revisit those days (I weighed as little as 145 lbs). If necessary, I can always capture that magical feeling of ’07 by watching dunks like this. KD though is rich. He would have been fine anywhere he decided to live, but this is a situation that will enhance his career and his lifestyle. Only a hater would say otherwise.

BM

 

Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

 

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