It all started innocently enough. Geoffrey Arnold, a sports reporter at the Oregonian newspaper, was milling around the tunnel inside Moda Center ahead of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors when none other than Stephen Curry approached.
“Can I borrow you?” Curry asked.
Arnold, 60, has worked at the Oregonian for 27 years. He started out on high school sports and was once a Blazers beat writer during the heyday of Rasheed Wallace. Today, he covers the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL for the paper, but with the Blazers making a deep playoff run it was all hands on deck for the sports department.
Arnold had never met Curry before, but now he was about to go viral.
The Warriors have a pregame ritual during which they gather around star Kevin Durant before they take the court. They pump each other up and do a hands-in routine and a chant. The ritual has become a tried and true part of the Golden State dynasty.
But with Durant out with a calf injury suffered during the team’s second-round series against the Houston Rockets, Curry has been forced to improvise. Instead of Durant, he has used a mop in the middle of the huddle and then a ball. On Monday night, he used Arnold.
Curry walked Arnold over to the Warriors’ huddle, the team gathered around him and put their arms over him. “I honestly don’t even remember what they said,” Arnold recalled in a phone interview. “They did their chant, and then he says, ‘Just us!’ and they were done with me.”
(One reporter referred to Arnold as “a random stadium employee,” which Arnold said his wife got a kick out of.)
The Warriors then went out and ended the Blazers’ season with a 119-117 overtime victory, advancing to their fifth consecutive NBA Finals. But Arnold’s star turn wasn’t finished.
After the game, Green took to the podium for his news conference, and as Arnold began to ask him a question, Green interrupted.
“You was good luck today,” Green told Arnold.
“Are you going to fly me down to the Finals?” Arnold asked.
“Absolutely,” Green said. “I’ll pay for the ticket myself.”
He added, “I ain’t paying for your hotel, though.”
It all sounded great to Arnold, who said the offer was kosher because he is not an NBA writer and would not otherwise be attending the Finals. “It was nice because players see so many faces, you don’t really expect them to remember you,” he said. “It’s certainly one of the more — if not the most — unusual things that’s happened in my professional career."
He continued, “Of course I want to go, so long as I clear it with my office here.”
By Tuesday, brands were angling for a piece of the story, and Arnold was exchanging texts with Warriors PR staffer Raymond Ridder about the potential plane tickets.
“I just said if Draymond is serious about the tickets, I’m here,” Arnold said. “I’m happy to pay for the tickets to the games."
Arnold took Tuesday off, but his phone’s been blowing up. “Everyone I’m talking to has the same question,” he said. “Is Draymond going to come through?”