SAN FRANCISCO – Jordan Poole closed one ear and leaned toward the bus to encourage the crowd to roar. Then he jumped to the other side and did the same.
The second group, far louder than the first, won.
Prize? A bottle of champagne was sprayed in his direction. He poured the remaining bubbly water into a water gun before spraying Dubs Nation as he celebrated his greatest achievement yet, an NBA championship.
Hundreds of thousands of fans flocked to San Francisco and marched a 1.5-mile parade to celebrate yet another title of the Warriors. Some supporters climbed onto scaffolding, road signs and bus stops to catch a glimpse of the Warriors’ buses as they rolled.
“It feels like a dream,” said Andrew Wiggins.
Sure did it.
The parade has become a semi-annual ritual for fans and some of the warriors – Stephen Curry, Drummond Greene, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Steve Kerr – have played a role in four of the eight years; and Kevon Looney three. But for first-timers like Poole, Wiggins and this reporter, it was an exhilarating and at times overwhelming experience in all the best ways.
Wiggins and Poole, who shared a double-decker bus with their friends and family, had seen clips of past victory processions on TV and social media over the years, though nothing prepared them for the cheering spectacle of fans. Saka, who stood in line for more than a dozen. Waving deep, hand-drawn signs and chanting their names.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Poole said as he sat inside his bus, seeking respite from the scorching sun. “It’s great to come into it without any expectations because you get to experience it all. It’s everything I thought would be cool.”
“Everything I imagined and more, this is crazy,” Wiggins said back on the ride to Chase Center. “To be a part of it, it’s different.”
This reporter, who is experiencing a championship parade on a float for the first time, can agree. The proud parents of the players also described the day as nothing less than the thrill of a lifetime.
“Someone asked me, ‘Are you still pinching yourself?’ I need to cut my hand because it’s just crazy,” said Poole’s mother, Monet, who shouted “It’s my son!” For some fans wearing swimming costumes in honor of the pool party. “It’s definitely surreal and couldn’t have happened to a better group of people and the organization is phenomenal.”
Everyone aboard the buses took pleasure in getting the gold cup, red Solo cup, or in some cases straight out of the bottle. They danced in the aisles as Wiggins served as a DJ.
Perhaps none was more active during the three-hour procession than Poole, who spent more time on the road than the bus.
Poole signed myriad autographs on a variety of items—from hats, shirts and basketballs to some man’s random brown rain jacket—and possibly photographed more. He took a reporter’s microphone to interview Wiggins and then grabbed another person’s camera to record his first-person account of the celebration.
Poole, who turned 23 on Sunday, said it was the perfect way to make another trip around the Sun. His mother agreed.
“I have nothing to buy him [for a gift],” said Monet Poole. “You would never compare it to a birthday present.”
Wiggins burst into joy the whole day as the smile rarely left his face. Far behind are the days of Timberwolves being a scapegoat for distress. He has found a new home in the Bay Area, where he hopes to live.
“He’s very fit here,” said his father, Michelle Wiggins, who played six seasons in the NBA. “He’s going to be here for a while and I think he’s very happy.”
Andrew Wiggins waved into the crowd as he chanted his name several times. The Toronto native especially woke up when he found someone wearing his old jersey or waving the Canadian flag. At one point, he had his 3-year-old daughter seated on his hip as he walked down the line from high-fiving fans.
Wiggins said, “I’m just living in the moment, soaking up everything in it and enjoying it, but the journey, the grind, it feels so much better.” “I knew today was going to be crazy. I knew the fans would be excited, energized, I prepared myself for it. I was up for it. I enjoyed it.”
The metal barricades only kept the fans at bay for so long. Wiggins actually caught a fan falling over.
Slowly but surely, however, people approached Wiggins and Poole and called off their rides throughout March. By the end, however, so many fans had taken him and the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy into Wiggins’ possession that the players needed to be carried back to safety – but not before the pool had filled the crowd with champagne for the last time. Sprinkled on
Poole and Wiggins are hoping this is the first of several championship events they can be a part of. But for now, the two are going to taste this year’s title for a few more days before getting back to work.
“Wherever the party goes, I go,” Wiggins said.