Regardless of which team wins the NBA Finals, there will be some Wichita State representation for either the Toronto Raptors or Golden State Warriors.
Shocker fans are well aware of Fred VanVleet’s crucial role for the Raptors taking a 3-1 series lead into Monday night’s Game 5 in Toronto. But what is not as well-known is maybe the biggest WSU fan in Oakland actually works for the Warriors in Raymond Ridder, who is Golden State’s vice president of communications.
Ridder, who is in his 18th season with the Warriors, attended elementary school for five years in Wichita and Goddard and returned from California to attend Northwest High as a sophomore and junior. It was during that time he became hooked on Shocker hoops and has followed the program closely ever since.
After Landry Shamet and the Los Angeles Clippers pushed the Warriors in the first round and now VanVleet excelling for the Raptors in the Finals, it’s been a conflicting playoff run for Ridder. So he’s settled on viewing this coming week as a win-win.
“I told Fred before Game 2 that the best thing about the NBA Finals is that a Shocker is getting a ring,” Ridder told the Eagle at the NBA Finals. “Is there a better story than Fred right now? I don’t think so. At the end of the day, either a Shocker fan or a Shocker player will win and that’s a great thing.”
Ridder remembers attending games as a season ticket holder with his family at Levitt Arena in the early 80s and watching Shocker teams that featured Antoine Carr, Xavier McDaniel, Cliff Levingston, Aubrey Sherrod and Greg Dreiling. As a basketball junkie, Ridder was hooked and his fandom has only grown ever since.
With the resurgence of the Shockers’ basketball program under Gregg Marshall, Ridder has delighted in letting everyone who works for the Warriors, most especially the players themselves, know he is a huge Wichita State fan.
“This last year when Wichita State played Davidson, I had a bet with Steph (Curry),” Ridder said. “I obviously lost, so I had to wear a Steph Curry jersey on Halloween and shorts and a headband to one of our games. But dating back to the Final 4 run and 35-0 year and Sweet 16 run, I’ve won my bets almost every time.
“I remember when they went 35-0, I would go around saying we were the best team in the country. I was giving Draymond (Green) some grief about it. Michigan State? Who even is Michigan State?”
Ridder isn’t know as only a Shocker fanatic in the workplace. He’s well-respected in the profession and leads a staff that recently won the Brian McIntyre Media Relations Award, given annually by the Pro Basketball Writers Association for excellence in media relations, for the fourth straight year and for the fifth time in the last six years.
It’s not an easy job — Ridder says he hasn’t had a day off since September 20 — trying to manage media responsibilities for some of the game’s biggest superstars like Curry, Kevin Durant, Green, Klay Thompson and coach Steve Kerr. The Warriors are by far the most requested and heavily-scrutinized NBA team by the media.
But in 18 years, Ridder has seen the Warriors go from the bottom of the league to the top and those experiences along the way have prepared him to handle the daily media frenzy surrounding the Warriors today.
“I’m the only PR guy that has worked for a 17-win team and a 73-win team,” Ridder joked. “It’s been a great ride and I’ve really lucky to have a great group of players to work with. Steph Curry is one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met in my life. Those guys make my job easier. The requests we have can be a little overwhelming, but at the end of the day it’s basketball and I love what I do.
“If you would have told me back at Northwest High School that I would be working PR for the greatest team in the history of the NBA, I would tell you that you’re crazy. This has been an honor and a lifelong dream.”