Give It Up for the Golden State Valkyries

Give It Up for the Golden State Valkyries


Jess Smith stood in the empty stands of the Chase Center in San Francisco, the home arena of the Golden State Warriors of the N.B.A., and surreptitiously surveyed her surroundings to ensure that nobody else could see or hear her.

Confident that we were alone, Smith, the president of the newest W.N.B.A. franchise, pulled off her black and gold Warriors hoodie to make a big reveal.

“It’s just me in a T-shirt,” she acknowledged. “But it’s pretty incredible.”

The merch was her way of announcing her team’s name, colors and logo all at once. So give it up for the Golden State Valkyries, named for the powerful female warriors from Norse mythology.

They will play in violet and black uniforms with a V-shaped logo — for Valkyries — that shows a Bay Bridge tower head-on, forming the shape of a sword. Bridge cables flaring from the tower create five triangles on either side, representing teams of five women squaring off on the basketball court.

Debating what the new team should be called has been a San Francisco pastime since Oct. 5, when Joe Lacob, the majority owner of the Warriors, announced that he was bringing the W.N.B.A. to San Francisco. The Valkyries are the league’s 13th team and the first new franchise to join since 2008; they will play at Chase Center starting next year.

Amanda Chin, senior vice president of marketing for the Warriors, said the team chose a name from about 200 contenders grouped in four categories: Warriors-related terms like Valkyries, local cultural references, nature, and “energy and vibe.” That last category would include names like Mystics or Sparks, which are already taken, Chin said.

“We put everything through a filter,” she said. “Is it authentic? Can it stand the test of time? Are fans and players going to be excited to represent this team?”

The team sent a survey to fans asking for name ideas, and Valkyries was suggested the most often. Other ideas from fans included San Francisco-themed names like the Sea Lions and the Fog. According to a Reddit thread on the topic, some even suggested the Golden Girls. But none of those ideas came with the forcefulness of the Valkyries, a clear tie-in to their male counterparts, the Warriors.

“Valkyries are this bad-ass group of women making change happen, making the impossible possible,” Smith explained. “These are legends to be made.”

The excitement about the team is palpable. On the day we talked, Smith had just learned that the Valkyries had received season ticket deposit No. 7,500. (“We haven’t done anything yet!” she exclaimed. “We don’t have players!”)

Chase Center holds just over 18,000 people in all, and Smith noted that the arena’s lower bowl and suites total about 11,500 seats.

Smith, who lives in Danville and has two daughters, believes that if ever a women’s team could sell out the arena, it would be now. Women’s sports in general, and the W.N.B.A. in particular, seem to be at a tipping point, drawing more fans, more endorsement deals and more excitement.

“It’s a pivotal moment,” she said, noting that the famous men of the Warriors, including Steph Curry, Draymond Green and the team’s coach, Steve Kerr, have expressed excitement about the new women’s team.

As president of a Bay Area professional sports franchise, Smith sits on the board of the Bay Area Host Committee, which is helping to coordinate a number of major sporting events taking place in the region over the next few years.

The N.B.A. All-Star Game and the Laver Cup tennis tournament will be played at Chase Center in 2025. The Super Bowl and several World Cup soccer matches will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara in 2026. The P.G.A. Championship will be played at the Olympic Golf Club in San Francisco in 2028. And Bay F.C., a new women’s professional soccer team, has just started playing in San Jose.

Smith said these events would help restore the civic pride of the region, which was heavily battered by the pandemic, and she’s hoping that the Valkyries will add to that renewed energy. The team will kick off the effort with a block party this Saturday at Chase Center.

Clearly, the Valkyries need a pair of women known for making three-pointers to be dubbed the “Splash Sisters,” akin to the Warriors’ “Splash Brothers,” Curry and Klay Thompson.

Chin didn’t disagree.

“We’ll see which players we get, coming out of the expansion draft and free agency,” she said. “This is a step in that direction.”

Janine Michele James and Nasaria Elaine Valadez matched on the dating app Feeld in early 2022 and began planning their wedding later that year, about six months before either had proposed.

The two clicked right away on their first date, which started at an art show and continued at a bar in Oakland. “It was very unlike any feeling I’d had during a date,” said James, who grew up in the Bay Area and works as a psychic. “Our conversation didn’t stop,” she said.

In September 2022, James and Valadez agreed to marry. They soon decided that the date would have to involve James’s lucky number, 11, but they also knew that Valadez’s job as a lieutenant commander in the Coast Guard could require them to leave Alameda soon. So they started planning the wedding right away.

The two were married on Nov. 11, 2023.


Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Halina Bennet and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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