SAN QUENTIN -- Bob Myers has a fabulous job, with a salary that allows him to live anywhere he likes, visit any place he chooses. On this particular day, as soft clouds hover above the Bay Area, the Warriors general manager chooses state prison.
He's not alone. Another member of the 1 percent club, Warriors coach Mark Jackson, a former NBA star, also arrives at the joint.
These two are voluntarily rubbing shoulders -- literally -- with men serving time at this world-famous lockup on the north shore of San Francisco Bay.
Myers and Jackson and Warriors assistant coach Brian Scalabrine, one year removed from playing in the NBA, are joined by other members of the Warriors organization, including assistant general manager Kirk Lacob, the son majority owner Joe Lacob.
They all brave the morning commute to come here and play basketball with the inmates. So, naturally, this visit is about much more than hoops.
"It's basketball, but, for the most part, this is about impacting lives," Jackson says.
All visitors check in by handing their driver's licenses to the guard at the front gate. He reads off the names and returns them, then collects all cell phones. We go through three phases of security before reaching the prison yard.
As the NBA Warriors, dressed in shorts and green jerseys, stroll toward the outdoor court, the San Quentin Warriors, wearing discarded blue practice jerseys donated by the Golden State team, are waiting. They're giddy at the opportunity, their excitement evident in the way they greet the visitors.
"I couldn't sleep last night, and I'm not even playing," says Daniel "Bear" Wright, who coaches the SQ squad.
Once the game begins, the competition is fierce. Everybody is dripping sweat. Jackson has his highs, such as a no-look pass that led to an easy basket, after which he broke into an abbreviated version the shimmy-strut often displayed during his career.
But the coach is laboring. The inmates, most of whom are in appreciably better shape than the 48-year-old former point guard, do not retreat.
The NBA Warriors have a decided height advantage, however. Whereas none of the inmates appears taller than about 6-foot-3, Myers is 6-8 and Scalabrine is 6-9. They are, on this day, towering over the court.
Between the inside dominance of Myers/Scalabrine and the defensive indifference of the opposition, the NBA Warriors hold slight leads for most of the game. It's 95-94 entering the fourth quarter, but the NBA Warriors pull away for a 136-121 victory before a couple hundred fans ringing the court. Myers, a member of UCLA's 1995 national championship team, finishes with a double-double, exceeding 40 points and 20 rebounds.
"The best thing about it for me is to realize you shouldn't judge people until you get to know them," he says. "In playing here a couple times, I can say I've never had a bad interaction. You hear more complaining and griping on the playground than you do over here. These guys are respectful and they play the game the right way. I really enjoy it."
The postgame scene is one of hugs and handshakes and small talk. Autographs are signed and photographs are taken. Despite the differences -- racial, political and socioeconomic -- the sense of brotherhood is palpable.
It is two hours of basketball, yes, but of much greater value is the goodwill within the person-to-person interaction between the free and the incarcerated.
"I can't even begin to tell you how much it means to all of us, especially me because I played pro ball overseas," Wright says. "But I made some bad decisions. I've explained to the young guys that these guys are millionaires with lives we can't even imagine. They're taking time out of their lives, away from their families, to come into prison, into this type of atmosphere and setting, to play ball with us."
These visits began a few years ago when Ben Draa, senior financial analyst for the Warriors, through association with Bill Epling of Prison Sports Ministries, began making the trip. Draa mentioned the trips to Kirk Lacob, who dived into the venture.
"It's competitive, but it stays positive," says Lacob, who has made about 20 visits over two years. "We have a great time. We're able to give a little something to them, a little hope from the outside. They tell us all the time it's their favorite day of the week. Quite honestly, it's our favorite day of the week, too, because we get to come out here and play basketball."
The inmates gain memories that will last a lifetime. The visitors are socially enriched, while generating a positive perception about the Warriors.
"I just want people to know these are regular folks that made a mistake, some greater than others," says Jackson, panting as he leaves the court. "They deserve to have somebody put an arm around 'em, high-five 'em, and remind 'em that life ain't over.
"People say stuff like, 'Be careful in there.' I just want folks to understand that these are our brothers, our cousins, our uncles and our dads."
They're inside secure gates. They dream of being outside. For one day, in some small way, they enjoyed what felt like a few moments of freedom.