When couples imagine their fantasy honeymoon, many picture an exotic island with cabanas and miniature umbrellas, or a romantic getaway in Rome or Paris.
But some, like Melissa Sponberg and Joshua Brown, of Sydney, Australia, dream of celebrating their marriage by going to Oakland. Yes, Oakland.
Sponberg, 25, and Brown, 24 — “Mel” and “Josh” — are a young newlywed couple who happen to be huge Warriors fans. The two had mapped out a United States honeymoon including a stint in the Bay Area — and tickets to two Golden State home games.
As luck would have it, their honeymoon would include much more.
One might think the two Aussies became Warriors fans because of big man and fellow Australian Andrew Bogut, but Josh said it was the sharp shooting of Stephen Curry that first turned him onto the Warriors:
“It all started because I was watching a Warriors game and Steph Curry just mesmerized me with the way he played and shot the ball and I said ‘Mel you’ve got to watch this’ and we both just went crazy.”
A few days before their March 28 wedding, Mel saw a post on Harrison Barnes’ Instagram account announcing a contest that allowed fans to enter for a chance to attend a private viewing of HBO’s Game of Thrones season premiere, hosted by Barnes in Pearson Theater at Meyer Sound Labratories in Berkeley.
As Warriors fans and fans of the HBO hit, Mel jumped at the opportunity, hoping to surprise her soon-to-be husband with last-minute wedding gift.
The contest allowed for 10 winners and their guests to attend the screening — eight locals and two out-of-town winners. In Mel’s contest entry, answering why they should be chosen as winners, she explained the two newlyweds would be in the Bay Area at two Warriors games, and also were huge fans of the show.
When she received a reply from the Barnes’ camp, they were in disbelief that Mel and Josh were from Australia, would happen to be in town on the day of the screening and were Golden State faithful.
The day before their wedding they received an email saying they had won seats at the screening, and their luck didn’t stop there.
Josh said everything since then has somehow worked out perfectly, including a choreographed dance the couple performed at their wedding after rehearsing for nine months:
“Everything has been so perfect and amazing. Even the speeches. Mel’s dad gave the best speech in the world. He was so stressed out for weeks, just practicing day after day and then we come to the day and all the brides maids and Mel were crying their eyes out and I was like, ‘nailed it’.”
At Saturday’s game against the Timberwolves, the night before the Game of Thrones viewing party, the couple were given the VIP treatment at Oracle Arena including courtside time during pre-game warmups, a front row view from the tunnel as the team ran onto the court from the locker room, and after the game, a meet-and-greet between Barnes and Mel and Josh.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 14, 2015
Mel told SFBay she couldn’t have imagined things going any better:
“It’s been the best two weeks of our lives, you have no idea.”
Barnes cooked up the idea for the screening when he was visiting the renowned audio facilities of Meyer Sound, who provide audio equipment in Oracle Arena.
While playing video games, Barnes said he came up with the idea and it snowballed from there:
“I was over there just checking things out and was playing (NBA) 2K in there and I said ‘man these acoustics are great’ and asked them if they ever thought about watching TV in there. Game of Thrones was coming up so I asked if I could bring some people in and it just kind of came together.”
Barnes became a fan of the show his rookie season with Golden State. Not familiar with the constant travel of an NBA team he said he was binge watching shows on flights to pass the time and after one episode of the TV adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s novels, he was hooked.
As for Sunday’s episode, Barnes said it was a little slow, but he expected as much for the first episode of the season:
“It was kind of one of those slow episodes. Not a bore you to sleep one but they needed to revisit story lines and and prep you for what I’m sure is going to be a wild season.”
Before the screening Sunday night, Barnes addressed the small theater of guests saying that interacting with fans allows him to get to know the people that are investing in his success and that he doesn’t take them for granted:
“Being a basketball player has allowed me to do a ton of different things…fulfill my childhood dreams. But being able to connect with fans and engage and get to know people is something I definitely enjoy, and its kind of what I’ve become addicted to.”
Mel said that in Australia the relationship between fans and famous athletes is completely different, and she is more than impressed with what Barnes is doing:
“Back home the athletes our age, they just have no respect for the authority that they hold. They just don’t treat people the way they should and take it all for granted. So its wonderful to see someone so willing to give back to people, and get to know them and hang out with fans.”