Why Michael Jordan may not be only NBA legend who hated Oracle Arena

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One of the striking revelations coming from ESPN’s “The Last Dance” series is Michael Jordan despised Oracle Arena just about as much as he did Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons.

Longtime Jordan chronicler Michael Wilbon of ESPN, appearing on 95.7 The Game (KGMZ-FM) recently, said yearly trips to Oracle always put Jordan in a mood.

“By the way, do you guys ever talk about the fact that the one building Michael hated playing in was Oracle?” Wilbon said on the “Damon, Ratto and Kolsky” show. “It’s where he got hurt and he just hated playing there.”

It may not be discussed much, but there have been other NBA superstars who’ve had reasons to want to be like Mike in their views of the Warriors’ home for 47 years.

But let’s not act surprised. Yes, Oracle was where the Warriors built a team for the ages during their magical five-year run. But lost amid the rampant romanticism of the Warriors’ final season at Oracle last year is the sobering reality that the place housed a lot more heartache than many care to remember.

(Maybe you’ve forgotten the 19-year stretch from 1994-2013 when the Warriors made the playoffs just once?)

Jordan is just one of seven legendary NBA players you’ll find in basketball’s Hall of Fame who can tell their own ghostly stories about the old lady sitting just off the 66th Ave. exit in Oakland.

Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, Elgin Baylor and Nate Thurmond, like Jordan, all had their reasons to cringe when thinking about early encounters with the place.

Though championship banners may have hung from her rafters, the gray lady’s past also bore broken bones, tattered tendons and frayed ligaments that led to shattered postseason dreams for stars like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving in recent years. Oh, let’s not forget Oracle was where LeBron James suffered … ahem, “a serious bone contusion” in the locker room during the 2018 Finals.

Jordan’s first impressions of the building were tainted because he suffered the worst injury of his career on the Coliseum hardwood in 1985. Then just a 22-year-old in his second season, Jordan landed awkwardly in the second quarter against the Warriors during the third game of the season.

He had broken his foot and would wind up missing nearly five months — which caused Jordan even more angst because he felt the Bulls were unnecessarily holding him out in order to tank for a better draft position. Bulls officials maintained they were being cautious because doctors said there was “a 10 percent chance” re-injuring his foot would be career-threatening.

In reality, all the injury did was help forever shape his feelings toward the Coliseum.

Incredibly, the arena was also where Bird — a three-time NBA MVP and 12-time All-Star — went scoreless in a game for the only time in his high school, college or pro career.

On Jan. 4, 1981, Larry Legend shot more like Larry from “The Three Stooges” while going 0 for 9 in 37 minutes. Bird’s horrific airball on a 3-point shot from the corner during the loss to the Warriors epitomized the night for he and the Celtics.

Bird, who had shot just 4 for 17 in San Diego the night before, was at a loss for what happened in Oakland.

“It was just the two worst nights back-to-back of my career,” Bird said in the Coliseum locker room after that game. “I got a lot of rest on Friday because I was really drained following the San Diego game. I thought I had a better release against Golden State, but I just didn’t have the touch I usually have.”

Bird’s shooting miseries in Oakland added to the list of NBA luminaries such as Wilt, Russell, West, Shaq, Baylor and Thurmond, whose first games in the arena were ones to forget.

Shaq’s first game at Oracle also produced a career-worst shooting night as he went 5 for 18 in Orlando’s 15-point loss to the Warriors on Dec. 5, 1992. Only a 4-for-15 effort in Atlanta nine years later prevented O’Neal’s Oakland debut from being the worst shooting night during his 19-year career, when attempting more than 11 shots.

The trend of rough debuts for big-time players started as soon as the doors were first opened at the Coliseum Arena in 1966.

Thurmond, the late Warriors great, was a three-time All-Star in his first four seasons with San Francisco when the team played its first game at the Coliseum, three weeks after it opened in November of 1966. Nate wound up with the worst shooting night of his young career, going just 3 for 17 (18 percent) against the Bulls.

Two months later, it was time for Lakers superstars West and Baylor to get a rude introduction to the new arena. With Baylor shooting 6 for 23 (26%) and West making just 33% on 7-of-21 shooting, the Lakers were trounced by 31 points in their first game there.

Next, it was Chamberlain’s turn to get the star mistreatment from the Coliseum. While in the middle of one of his greatest seasons ever — when he shot .683 from the field — Wilt had one of his three worst shooting games of the season. He made just 7 of his 17 shots (41%) in the 76ers’ stunning 17-point loss.

Wilt and the 76ers, who many felt had one of the greatest teams in NBA history that year, would return to the Coliseum later that year to win an NBA Finals game in Oakland on their way to beating the Warriors for the title.

But here’s more proof the building just wasn’t a welcoming place for superstars. Russell and the Celtics were seemingly impervious to any jinxes back then. After all, they came into Oakland having won the last eight NBA championships.

With Russell, the McClymonds High and San Francisco star, coming home as the conquering hero while making his first appearance as a pro in Oakland, he and Boston didn’t get any love on Valentine’s Day in ’67.

Though Russell scored 20 points and had 21 rebounds, the dynastic Celtics suffered a humbling 128-122 loss at the Coliseum.

Maybe now you see why while many were saying their heartfelt goodbyes to Oracle, others were offering up a dismissive “Good riddance.”


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