Meet Fresno’s best basketball fans, in bar they’ve watched each NBA Finals given ’89

June 5, 2018 - Basketballs

The best place in Fresno to watch a NBA Finals, in a association of Fresno’s dual biggest NBA fans, is a dimly illuminated bar tucked behind a dilemma of Shaw and Maple.

Step inside and let your eyes adjust to a dim of a Red Wave Inn. There you’ll find best friends and basketball lifers Rick Clarke and Sam Hairston. If you’re lucky, one of them will buy we a beer.

“I got this,” Hairston insists.

Clarke and Hairston both mount 6-foot-3, yet a similarities finish there.

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Clarke, 59, is white, thickly built and wears a particular hairdo that seems to be desirous by Genghis Khan. His conduct is totally shaved save for a fuzzy gray goatee and a scraggly gray ponytail. He’s a Fresno native, a Bullard High story clergyman and lifelong Golden State Warriors fan.

Hairston, who customarily incited 61, is black and rail thin. He speaks in a abounding voice deeper than many cave shafts. The northeast Ohio local and post-secondary preparation advisor is a lifelong Cleveland Cavaliers fan.

For years – no, decades – Clarke and Hairston dreamt of their two favorite teams confronting off for a NBA title. Except that was a inconceivable fantasy. For a Warriors and Cavs, customarily creation a playoffs meant a good season.

Everything altered in 2015, when a Warriors bested a Cavs 4-2 for their initial NBA championship given 1975. Then came 2016, when a Cavs overcame a 3-1 necessity to a Warriors to win their initial pretension in authorization history. The Warriors returned a preference in 2017, that brings us to a fourth true Finals assembly between Golden State and Cleveland.

Talk about wishing for a taste of food and removing a five-course meal.

Bullard High clergyman Rick Clarke (a Warriors fan) and SOUL School advisor Sam Hairston (a Cavaliers fan) are best friends from anomalous backgrounds who connected in 1988 over their adore of basketball and jazz music. Since that time they’ve always John

“We never suspicion anything like this would happen,” Hairston says as Game 2 is about to tip off.

“It’s crazy, man,” Clarke replies. “But we know Donald Trump is president, so anything’s possible.”

That’s a customarily time anyone mentions politics – appreciate goodness. Otherwise, basketball speak dominates. Of all a noted Finals moments Clarke and Hairston have witnessed together, Michael Jordan’s acrobatic mid-air, switch-handed layup in 1991 is one that stands out. The play sent them using into a parking lot squealing like “excited kids.”

The Red Wave Inn is customarily sealed on Sunday. But for a NBA Finals, a owners make an exception. Clarke is a customarily one there when we walked in. Hairston arrives next, and shortly other regulars start to tide in.

It’s one of those places where everybody knows everyone. The vibe is friendly, gentle and familiar.

Even yet Clarke roots for a Warriors and Hairston for a Cavs, there’s a mutual indebtedness and begrudging respect. These guys are fans of high-level basketball initial and washing second.

So when Klay Thompson, who contingency have rubber ankles, launches a 3-pointer off a leap that most scrapes a roof of Oracle Arena before swishing by a net, Hairston can customarily grin and shake his head.

“It should be bootleg to have (Kevin Durant), (Stephen) Curry and Thompson on a same team,” Hairston says with a chuckle. “They should get fined for that!”


Later, after LeBron James pirouettes around dual defenders for a layup and afterwards swishes a 3 from a tip of a arc with Durant in his face and an nauseous red smear in his left eye, it’s Clarke’s spin to marvel.

“He’s personification improved now than he has in his whole career,” Clarke says. “Who does that in his 15th year?”

The doubt is mostly rhetorical, given no one does. At slightest not until James came along.

On this night a Warriors are during their free-flowing, sweet-shooting best. Has basketball ever been played with this most skill? Nonetheless, a Cavs stubbornly stay tighten and even conduct to disband Golden State’s standard third-quarter deluge.


Not until Curry starts doing what customarily Curry can do, creation all demeanour of unreal shots from absurd spots, does a dam finally break. Only afterwards does Hairston concur better – in this game, not a series.

The Cavs competence be going behind to Cleveland down 2-0, competence demeanour totally overmatched, yet Hairston keeps a faith. He’s watched too many Finals, witnessed too many movement swings (including a noted one in 2016) to consider otherwise.

The approach Hairston sees it, Cleveland will come behind to win this array and even a Finals record opposite Golden State during 2-2. Which means subsequent year, a fifth true Warriors-Cavs meeting, will be a rubber compare in a vast best-of-five. Clarke ponders his best friend’s supposition for a impulse and grins.

“There’s a dim partial of me that’s anticipating that happens,” he says, “and I’m a Golden State fan.”

Warriors-Cavs Part V? You listened it here first.

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