SAN FRANCISCO — Jordan Poole cupped one ear and leaned over the side of the bus encouraging the crowd to roar. He then hopped to the other side and did the same thing.
The second group, far louder than the first, won.
The prize? A bottle of champagne sprayed in their direction. He poured the leftover bubbly into a water gun before spraying Dubs Nation as he celebrated his greatest accomplishment yet, an NBA championship.
Hundreds of thousands of fans flocked to San Francisco and packed the 1.5-mile parade route to commemorate another Warriors title. Some supporters climbed scaffoldings, street signs and bus stops just to catch a glimpse at the Warriors buses as they rolled by.
“It feels like a dream,” Andrew Wiggins said.
It sure did.
The parade has become a semi-annual ritual for fans and some of the Warriors — Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Steve Kerr have played a part now in four in eight years; and Kevon Looney three. But for first timers like Poole, Wiggins and this reporter, it was a euphoric 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 previous victory processions on TV and social media in past years, though nothing could prepare them for the exhilarating scene of fans lined up more than a dozen deep, waving handmade signs and chanting their names.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Poole said sitting inside his bus for a moment of relief from the scorching sun. “Coming into it with no expectations is pretty awesome because you get to experience all of it. It is everything I thought it would be, it’s cool.”
“Everything I imagined and more, this is crazy,” Wiggins said on the ride back to Chase Center. “To be a part of it, it’s different.”
This reporter, also experiencing a championship parade on a float for the first time, can concur. The players’ proud parents also described the day as nothing short of a thrill of a lifetime.
“Somebody asked me, ‘Are you still pinching yourself?’ I need to bite my arm because it’s just crazy,” said Poole’s mother, Monet, who yelled “That’s my son!” to some fans dressed in swimming garb in honor of the Poole party. “It is surreal for sure and couldn’t be with a better group of guys and the organization is phenomenal.”
Everyone on the buses thoroughly enjoyed themselves as they sipped from gold chalices, red solo cups or in some cases straight out of the bottle. They danced in the aisles as Wiggins served as a DJ.
Perhaps no one was more active during the three-hour procession than Poole, who spent more time on the street than the bus.
Poole signed innumerable autographs on a variety of items — from hats, shirts and basketballs to some man’s random brown rain jacket — and possibly snapped even more photos. He took a reporter’s microphone to interview Wiggins and then grabbed another person’s camera to record his first-person account of the festivities.
Poole, who turned 23 Sunday, said this was the perfect way to ring another trip around the sun. His mother agreed.
“There’s nothing I need to buy him [for a gift],” Monet Poole said. “You will never compare to this as a birthday gift.”
Wiggins was overcome with joy throughout the day as a smile rarely left his face. Long behind him are the days of being a scapegoat for the Timberwolves woes. He’s found a new home in the Bay Area, where he hopes to stay.
“He’s been a great fit here,” said his father, Mitchell 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 at the crowd as they chanted his name numerous times. The Toronto native especially lit up when he found someone wearing an old jersey of his or waving a Canadian flag. At one point, he had his 3-year-old daughter perched on his hip as he went down the line high-fiving fans.
“I’m living in the moment right now, soaking it all in and enjoying it, but the journey, the grind, makes this feel so much better,” Wiggins said. “I knew today was going to be crazy. I knew the fans were going to be pumped, energetic, I prepared myself for this. I was ready for it. I enjoyed myself.”
The metal barricade only kept fans at bay for so long. Wiggins actually caught a fan from falling over.
Slowly but surely, however, people pressed through and approached Wiggins and Poole as they hopped on and off their ride throughout the march. By the end, however, so many fans swarmed them and the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in Wiggins’ possession that the players needed to be escorted back to safety — but not before Poole sprayed the crowd with champagne one last time.
Poole and Wiggins are hoping this is the first of many championship celebrations that they can be part of. But for now, the two are going to savor this year’s title for a few more days before getting back to work.
“Wherever the party goes, I go,” Wiggins said.