The Golden State Warriors invited Ananya Vinay, the now-famous Fresno spelling bee champion, to Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Oakland Monday.
Ananya and her family rode a limo to and from Oakland, where the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers went head-to-head in the Oracle Arena, with Golden State finishing off the series with a 129-120 victory.
The tickets and limo ride offer came after Ananya won the national spelling bee competition and took the time to give a special shout out to her favorite team, the Warriors, when she won.
Anupama Poliyedath, Ananya’s mom, said a representative from the Warriors called her a few days after Ananya won. The team needed to be sure the Warriors would advance to Game 5, she said. And they did.
The Warriors on Monday won their second NBA championship in three years. Ananya, who is now a champion herself, kept a close eye on the team.
“They have to win, they have no choice,” Poliyedath said Monday, before the family left for Oakland.
Ananya did not think it could be true that she would get to watch her favorite team play in person. But she did. And she was excited to ride a limo to get there, too, her mom said. Ananya cheered on her favorite Warriors player, Stephen Curry, when she won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on June 1.
Poliyedath said Ananya had expressed her love for the team in a short bio before the competition and she was asked when she won how she felt that the Warriors had also won that night. “She felt good that her favorite team was winning,” Poliyedath said.
The 12-year-old has been a fan of the Warriors since the family moved to California about five years ago. Poliyedath said a representative for the team said Ananya might get to be featured on the big screen during the game, and there was a possibility that the team itself might give her a personal shout out.
Raymond Ridder, vice president of communications for the Warriors, said the team is extremely proud of Ananya. “When we found out that the National Spelling Bee champion was from the Fresno area — and a Warriors fan — we wanted to make sure she had an opportunity to watch her favorite team play in the NBA Finals,” Ridder said in a statement Monday.
The Warriors provided three tickets for the family. Five more tickets to the basketball game were provided by Lithia Auto Group of Fresno, which also provided the limo ride.