Global Experience USA 2018
Our trip to the USA on 9 December began at Changi Airport Terminal 4 where our enthusiastic bunch of trainees and their family members gathered during mid-morning for breakfast and check-in. After the customary group photo, we proceeded to wait for our plane.
The first leg of our journey brought us to Hong Kong, where we had a brief transit. Most of us took the opportunity to grab a quick bite and drink before we moved on to the next flight all the way to San Francisco.
I guess everyone must have been very excited about the trip (for some their first time to the US) so there were hardly any tired or sleepy faces among the group, or those we could see from our seats. We did have one though, who didn’t fare very well and felt sick along the way (suspected to be the food from the transit earlier).
Some of the boys were catching up on movies on the flight and one of the fan favorites among the group was the Uncle Drew movie that featured NBA superstar Kyrie Irving in his now-famous role as the basketball-playing titular figure.
When we arrived at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in the afternoon on the same date, it gave one the impression that the flight only took 3 hours, but in reality, we spent about 16 hours in total on the two flights combined. Still, it was a small price to pay for an awesome experience on the other side of the world!
The airport shuttle to our hotel was a smooth ride and we enjoyed our first look at the sights of San Francisco along the way, including the famous Oakland Bay Bridge that we went across on our passage to Walnut Creek.
After checking in, we headed out to the downtown area for dinner. As it was a Sunday, most stores closed pretty early so we didn’t have a lot of time to walk through the stores there. We did have an interesting meal at a fusion restaurant, which served Japanese + Korean fusion food. It was a pity that we had to give the Cheesecake Factory a miss as it was a 2-3 hour wait to get in.
Our global adventure began bright and early the next morning as we all geared up in our blue Underarmour sponsored shirts and headed to the Ultimate Fieldhouse for Day 1 of Warriors Camp. When we reached the venue, we were immediately greeted by a giant poster of Stephen Curry on the outer wall, giving us yet another photo opp!
The Ultimate Fieldhouse happens to be the personal training ground of Steph (this is also the place where he holds his own camps), as well as the Warriors players when they needed extra space to train. So the entire place had his likeness all over, even quotes from the hometown hero himself splashed all over the walls.
The Warriors Camp coaching staff arrived early and they had shirts and jerseys given out to all our campers. The kids really loved their Warriors gear, especially the reversible jersey tops that had some of their favorite Warriors superstars’ names and number printed on them.
Camp Director Jeff Addiego gave a rousing opening speech to our campers and introduced the team of coaches who were leading the camp. All of them had great playing profiles, having competed at various elite levels before they became coaches. They were also a very welcoming bunch, mingling playfully with our kids and making them very comfortable with their presence right from the onset.
With the conclusion of Camp Day 1, we headed to Rakuten Performance Center for a tour of the official training facility of the Golden State Warriors. The facility itself mimicked the flooring of the official NBA court and was a sight to behold in its brilliant yellow colors on the light wooden flooring.
On the rafters were the Warriors championship banners along with the photos, names and numbers of their all-time superstars, such as Rick Barry, Chris Mullin and Wilt Chamberlain. Next to the court itself was a well-equipped gym with the individual workout plans of each Warriors player on the whiteboard.
To commemorate this special occasion, the Warriors had generously shipped their three recent NBA championship trophies over for a photo op with our group. The campers and their families all had a blast posing with the championship trophies, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with not 1, not 2 but three authentic NBA championship trophies!
The campers were in for another great treat as they were given a chance to take some shots on the court itself, engaging in a quick shooting game before we headed out for a guided tour of the Warriors front office. We even walked past Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr’s office! It was a pity Coach wasn’t in the office that day. Along the corridors, we saw the Warriors’ Wall of Fame and also many great photos showing the best moments in Warriors history.
After the exciting afternoon, we then boarded the bus to travel to Oracle Arena, homecourt of the Warriors, for the first of our two NBA live games on this Global Experience trip. This would be the final year that the Warriors were playing at Oracle Arena, after which they would move to the highly anticipated Chase Center locate in San Francisco itself. Thus, it was a special year for us to take a last look at the venue where the Warriors won their last three titles.
When we arrived at Oracle, we were thrilled to finally see the famed arena in person. This place that we usually only saw on YouTube and TV was right before our eyes. It was a dream come true for many to be in an NBA arena watching a live NBA game. One of our campers got so excited about being there that he went and got himself a full set top to toe of Warriors merchandise!
The game itself was a treat, as we watched the Golden State Warriors play against the Minnesota Timberwolves. One of my all-time favorite players, Derrick Rose was on court for the Wolves, and it was cool to see him play a good game (having come back from all those painful years of injuries). As we know from our tour of Rakuten earlier, the Warriors have sold out all their games for many seasons (ever since the rise of Steph Curry), so the atmosphere at the game was electrifying!
One of the funny moments in the game was a pop-up advertisement on the big screen that came up every time a Timberwolves player went to the free throw line, which said that if a player missed two free throws in a row, everybody in the arena would get a free burger! Unfortunately, despite the enthusiastic ‘jeering’ from the crowd, none of the visiting team players actually missed two free throws in a row, which is quite amazing. Warriors won the game by a margin and we headed back to the hotel tired but happy.
Camp Day 2 began sunny and cool as temperatures hovered between 5 and 11 degree Celsius in the morning. Fortunately for us, the Ultimate Fieldhouse provided a heater fan, which the campers really enjoyed, surrounding it like a campfire whenever they had the chance. The day went by quickly and the campers had the chance to wash up before we headed out for the next fun program on our trip, which is said to be Singaporeans’ favorite pastime, shopping!
The drive to San Francisco Premium Outlets was a fairly long one by Singapore standards, but in the States it is actually quite common. Everyone was quite excited though, as all of them were looking forward to the shopping experience at the premium outlets, which was a hallmark of attractively priced merchandise. True enough, many campers went back with a variety of basketball kicks, and other clothing and accessories. Coach PK went back with his favorite accessory, a nice cool pair of Oakleys bought at a steal.