OAKLAND, Calif. - As the Golden State Warriors wind down their half-century run at Oracle Arena starting with Wednesday's Finals game, the memories run deep for Darrell Parrish, who has been selling jerseys and souvenirs there since the mid-1990s.

The meteoric rise and fall of the improbable "We Believe" playoff run. Stephen Curry's transcendental rise and how he made near-half court shots a staple of the modern NBA. Klay Thompson's lightning scoring barrages, epitomized by his record 37-point quarter in 2015, the season the Warriors began their yearly appearances in the championship round.

Parrish also vividly remembers darker times for the team, like Dec. 3, 1997, another weeknight game in another moribund season, when the team had won just one of its first 14 games.

He prepped his kiosk with team-emblazoned apparel and other knick-knacks, including plenty of replica No. 15 jerseys for Latrell Sprewell, the Warriors' All-Star shooting guard. Then his boss approached.

"Take every Sprewell jersey down," Parrish recalled him saying. "Put it in the box, and figure out what you're going to do to fill that space."

It was a big ask: the jersey was by far the team's top seller. But Parrish quickly realized why: Two days earlier, Sprewell had shocked the basketball world by choking head coach P.J. Carlesimo at a team practice, marking one of the darkest days in the franchise's history, and deeply denting his popularity.

Twenty-two years later, Parrish, 55, is happily selling a lot of Curry jerseys, confident that the NBA superstar has no aims to get his hands on Steve Kerr's jugular. And he gets to watch the team make its fifth straight NBA Finals appearance, vying for its fourth championship in the same timespan.

"Anything that has Steph on it, it's like gold," he said. "It's been a good run."

Robert Vitriano, who goes by "Bobby V," is another long-time worker at Oracle Arena, which bids farewell to the Warriors this summer, when the team moves to its new San Francisco venue, the Chase Center, in the fall.

Vitriano, 70, goes far back with the team: As a teenager, he was hawking popcorn when the Warriors arrived from at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium from Philadelphia in the mid-1960s. He followed them to the city's Cow Palace - where he witnessed the team's first Bay Area championship - and then scaled the arena steps in Oakland starting in the 1970s.

"I've seen it all," Vitriano said. "When you're a vendor, we're the first ones here and the last ones to leave. We get here when the players get here."

For all four championships, he said, "I was right on the court when they won it."

Parrish and Vitriano have stored up so many memories from the decades at Oracle, that the Warriors' recent success has started to supplant, in their minds, the middling years that preceded it. But as the team's arena swan song approaches this month, their futures at Warriors games are uncertain.

Parrish is grappling with the idea of having to navigate San Francisco, particularly after a late-night game. Vitriano sees a dwindling need for old-school snack slingers like he is, as modern arenas gravitate toward more concierge-style and smartphone-centric food sales.

But the pull of working Warriors games is still hard to resist.

"I'd be all in to go there, but it's a little bit of a gray area right now," Parrish said. "I have to wait it out and see."

The same goes for Curtis Jones, 67, who has spent the last quarter century working security at Warriors games and, through a bit of serendipity during the Warriors' 2014-15 season, became "The Assist Man," who passed the basketball to Curry for his legendary, 52-foot pregame tunnel shots that have become a darling of the viral video era.

"One day he was shooting from the tunnel, and I inquired about it," Jones said. "He sort of just passed me the ball." At that point, he said, "it became like a ritual."

Jones has been seen in enough tunnel-shot videos that he's even been able to use his modest peripheral fame to inspire others.

"What's really important about the tunnel shot also is it gives me the opportunity to go to the school where my grandson goes," Jones said, "and talk to the kids and let them know that you can be and do whatever you want to do in this life, because Stephen Curry is an excellent role model."

He's keeping an open mind about remaining "The Assist Man" in San Francisco.

"I'd like to go over there and be part of that experience," Jones said.

But he's making a point to savor the end of the Warriors' run in Oakland, no matter what comes next.

"I thought that one day we'll turn it around, and that day is here now," he said. "It's kind of a once in a lifetime thing. You have to kind of appreciate and enjoy the moment."

All three men were in the house for the milestones of the modern era of Warriors basketball. Parrish says that even with all of the championship success of the last five years, the fanbase never approximated the raucous volume of the 2007, "We Believe" run, signified by the team's first-round playoff upset of the No. 1-seeded Dallas Mavericks. During the television broadcast of that series, TNT's sound meters showed the crowd noise surpassed the decibel levels of a jet engine.

"It was like an earthquake in there," said Parrish, who noted that rising ticket prices and a more monied crowd have sapped some of that energy. "It's never lived up to that after that year. The whole persona of fan has changed dramatically."

Some of those earlier-era fans still come through, though in smaller numbers, Parrish said. He added that they make a point to say hello and have the same conversations about whether they'll be able to attend games in San Francisco.

"They still see me before they go and sit, and we talk about the game," he said.

Like a lot of other vendors in the arena, Vitriano has seen the game, and his trade, evolve around him: At a recent game this spring, he realized he was the only one pacing the stands slinging ice cream or churros, as most of his other colleagues were now carrying beer, a far heavier payload.

"I'm a little too old for beer," he said.

Still, even as he knows the end of his time with the Warriors is coming, Vitriano hopes that he can continue for a few more years and hold on to the magic a little while longer.

"Nothing is certain at this point," he said.

Visit The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com

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