OAKLAND, Calif. — The early arriving fans at Oracle Arena crowd the railing above the tunnel, waiting for it. Media members, staffers and VIPs line the walls at floor level, simultaneously doing their jobs and playing the role of interested onlooker. Everyone cranes their smartphone cameras, contorting above and around the masses, hoping to get the best angle before security guard Norm Davis bellows out the three words that will drive them into a frenzy.
“Warrior coming out.”
Deep inside the tunnel, outside of the view of the fans, Stephen Curry says the words softly to himself. It’s the cue for him to take the floor for the NBA’s most-viewed warm-up routine. Curry has been greeted the same way for each home game during one of the most successful runs in NBA history.
Now, no matter where Curry finds himself on the NBA circuit, he repeats the mantra to himself as he makes his way to the floor.
Davis’ voice and cadence have become as recognizable to Golden State Warriors players and coaches inside Oracle as Curry’s shooting routine. When a Warriors player walks out of the locker room and down the tunnel onto the floor, Davis, who spent three of his years in the military serving as a drill sergeant, hollers out his familiar call — “Warrior coming out!” as the player jogs out to the court.
“That’s Norm,” Curry said.
“I try to beat him to it now,” Warriors center Andrew Bogut said. “I try to say it before he says it.”
The call is pragmatic as it is familiar. Davis is simply trying to clear a path in the tunnel so no one — be it a Warriors player or an attendee lingering in the wrong spot — gets hurt.
But the reason that call has become so synonymous inside Oracle is because Curry grew to like it so much.
“I started it [in 2014-15],” Davis said. “[Before then] we would say, ‘Hold them up!’ It was me, David Lee and Steph. I would yell it out and then they would repeat what I said and then they would just blast through the tunnel. And then they won the first championship and then I started saying, ‘Warriors coming out.’ Steph picked it up and Steph would yell it out, jump in the air, and then take off again.”
Said Curry: “That’s the most consistent thing that happens at Oracle.”
That’s why Curry has implemented it into his own routine wherever he goes. No matter what building the Warriors find themselves in on the road, Curry repeats Davis’ line to himself as he makes his way onto the floor, jumps up in the air, and then dashes out to entertain the masses.
Curry’s warm-up routine has grown from something only a handful of staffers at Oracle witnessed to something that at times has drawn its own dedicated television coverage. As the crowds have grown, Curry has grown to appreciate Davis’ consistency.
A creature of habit in his own right, Curry decided to implement Davis’ words when he noticed Davis wasn’t at Oracle for a small stretch during the 2014-15 season because of an illness.
“Anytime a Warrior’s coming down that hallway, he yells it and he’s a drill sergeant so his voice carries,” Curry said. “I think he got sick one time, he wasn’t at a couple games so I started yelling it. And carried that over to honor him on the road, but it’s just something I do now.”
When told that Curry has maintained the tradition on the road this season, a big smile crosses Davis’ face.
“Is that right?” he says with a laugh. “That’s good! He says it energizes him. So yeah, I just keep it going. It was cool … it elevates him.”
“I’m glad to see him do that because I remember when he came in as a rookie we got here at the same time,” he continues. “So to see him come in as a rookie all energetic and now to see him slow walk his way into the locker room, it’s all different, but it’s good.”
Davis has had a front-row seat, literally, to Curry’s evolution from rail-thin rookie on a moribund franchise to the two-time MVP for an NBA dynasty. Just like so many others inside the organization, Davis beams about the transformation Curry has made during his decade in the Bay Area.
“The guy’s been working hard since he’s been here,” Davis said. “He’s just a joy. He’s born and raised in North Carolina. I’m born and raised in South Carolina so I kind of like to take him on as a little brother To see the guys do well — it’s all good.”
Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser, who has become another integral part of Curry’s shooting daily routine over the Warriors’ run of dominance, says that Davis’ call is one of several things Curry has picked up over the years at Oracle.
“He’s got other sayings where he’ll just imitate people,” Fraser said of Curry. “That’s one of them where he’s like dead-on the voice at times. That’s part of Steph’s brilliance is that humor he has to take stuff that some may think is serious or routine and he’ll spin it into — not making fun of the person, but into humor where he uses it on the road. Steph’s funny. He’s actually a very funny guy.”
Bogut arrived in Oakland after that transformation was well underway, joining the Warriors as part of an offseason trade before the 2012-13 season. His arrival coincided with the Warriors’ rise in the Western Conference, and he was a key piece for both the 2015 title team and the team that won 73 games in 2015-16. However, he was traded away that summer and played most of this season in Australia before returning to the NBA and rejoining the Warriors late in the season.
Having been away from Oakland for a few years, Bogut was happy to see Davis in his familiar position upon his return.
“There are people that have been around when this place was a basket case,” Bogut said. “A 30-win season was a celebration 10 years ago. So they deserve everything they get, they’ve been a part of. They’re all good people that work very, very hard. … It was just cool to see the same people there every year.”
Fraser says he knows that it means something to Curry to be able to take little pieces about his Oracle experience on the road with him wherever he goes.
“He loves it,” Fraser said. “There’s a lot of things about the arena, the people here. Our whole existence, and his in particular in Oakland, are special. So he’ll pull those out, sometimes in a serious place, but more often he uses it as humor. But it keeps him grounded.”
The question remains, though, as to whether that will continue when the Warriors move across the Bay and open the Chase Center in San Francisco next season. After almost a decade and a half inside Oracle, Davis, like many of his colleagues, says he isn’t sure what the future holds for his position in the new building, as the Warriors prepare to play what could be the final game at Oracle on Friday night (9 p.m. ET on ABC/WatchESPN).
“It’d be nice,” Davis said of maintaining the same role. “They’re telling us it’s going to be a job fair so it’s like whatever they give you once you get over there. I’ll just take whatever they give me — if I go. I don’t know if I’m going to go or not.”
One of the reasons Curry and his teammates have been so outspoken about wanting to win one more championship in Oakland is because they know that there are many fans and workers, like Davis, who might not be able to keep enjoying the ride once they move across the Bay Bridge. It’s why Curry is trying to enjoy the last moments — and calls — inside Oracle as the games come to a close.
“We’re kind of bridging the gap between the history of the organization, the rawness of Oakland and how die-hard our fans are,” Curry said. “So I’ll miss everything to be honest.”