Around the Association: Sabrina Ellison, Clarice and Jackie

Around the Association: Sabrina Ellison, Clarice and Jackie
Photos c/o the Golden State Warriors Dance Team

For quite some time, the shared dream of Filipino hoops fans has been to see a local get drafted and make it to the NBA. Many think that time is coming soon, what with players like Bobby Ray Parks Jr. and Kiefer Ravena making it to the D-League, and Kobe Paras beginning his NCAA Div. I career. 

And yet, there are already Pinoys in the NBA. They may not be playing on the court, but in the front offices, practice facilities, and NBA HQ are many men and women representing three stars and a sun. 

In “Around the Association,” we’ll introduce you to some of them, as we celebrate the first-ever Filipino Heritage Week:

Name and position? Sabrina Ellison, Warriors Dance Team Director (6th season). This is my 10th season as an NBA Dance Team Director, as I spent my first two seasons with the Seattle Sonics and two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

What does the job entail? My primary job is to oversee all dance performers for the Golden State Warriors, including the Warriors Dance Team, Golden State Breakers and the Jr. Jam Squad. I attend at least three dance team practices a week and every home game. I am responsible for ensuring each performer is well-trained and prepared to be ambassadors for the Warriors organization both on and off the court. I also handle our dance team’s Twitter and Instagram accounts (@GSWDanceTeam) to share our team’s performances and off-court style with our fans.

Filipino roots? My mother, Ofelia, and her entire family is from Manila. I was two-years-old when I made my first visits to Manila, Cebu, Baguio and Boracay.

First memory of watching the NBA? I remember watching the Showtime Lakers with my family as a little girl.

Favorite team/player growing up? Growing up, my family were huge Laker fans. My favorite person in the world was Paula Abdul, so seeing her on the sidelines at Laker games stuck with me! It was the Showtime Lakers era, so I loved watching Magic Johnson, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and James Worthy.

Describe your path to working for the NBA: I began as a San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush cheerleader for six seasons, and two seasons on the Seattle Seahawks with the Sea Gals. Even when I was a dancer, I always knew I wanted to be a coach. During my second season with the Sea Gals, they established a new Arena Football Team in Spokane. I applied to the Spokane Shock and pitched them about starting their dance team. After my first season as coach, one of my dancers with the Shock tried out and made the Seattle Supersonics. Shortly after her audition, their dance team coach left the team, and she encouraged me to apply for the position. I became an NBA dance coach and haven’t looked back!

Have you ever been star-struck when meeting a player/former player? It was amazing to meet Jerry West for the first time; he is a Lakers legend and the NBA logo! When I see him in the crowd at Warriors home games, I still get excited.

How do Filipino friends/acquaintances react upon knowing you work for the NBA? New friends love to hear that I have a career in the NBA. Filipinos in the Bay Area absolutely love anything related to sports and entertainment.

An in-game NBA moment that really sticks out in your memory? Winning the 2015 NBA Championship! While the team was celebrating in Cleveland, we had 15,000 screaming fans at Oracle Arena for a watch party. I had my entire dance team with me as we danced on the court to celebrate the first Warriors championship in 40 years. It was a moment I will never forget. 

Best part of the job? The most treasured aspect of my job is seeing my dance team members grow both as people and as teammates. It’s exhilarating to see them get their “a-ha” moment and exceed the expectations they place on themselves. 

Another unforgettable moment was visiting the Philippines in 2015 for the NBA 3X Tournament in Manila. It was terrific to see a culture that is a part of my heritage passionately supporting my team and the league that I love.

Name and position? My name is Clarice and I am a fourth year member of the Warriors Dance Team.

What does the job entail? In my eyes, my job as a Warriors Dance Team member does not mean I just perform on the court. My career as a pro sports dancer also means being an ambassador to the organization, an extension of your teammates, coworkers and fans both on and off the court. My job requires a huge time commitment and a big responsibility to my community, but I enjoy every moment of it.

Filipino roots? My mother and father are born, raised and went to school in Manila. After college, they moved to California’s East Bay. I was born in San Francisco and raised in San Ramon in the East Bay. When I was nine-years-old, my family moved to Manila for two years, where I attended O.B. Montessori in Greenhills. 

First memory of watching the NBA? After returning to California from the Philippines when I was 12-years-old, my cousins and I took up two whole rows at Oracle Arena to enjoy a Warriors game. The excitement off the court and the fun that I had that night, it really cemented my love for the Warriors and the NBA. 

Favorite team/player growing up? I’ve been a Warriors fan all of my life! I loved watching Baron Davis dominate on the court and I vividly remember the “We Believe” postseason run in 2007.

Describe your path to working for the NBA: Being a lover of dance, I would watch the Warriors Dance Team perform on court during games and knew at a young age that I wanted to try out for the Warriors. The summer before I graduated college at the University of Oregon, I took Warriors Dance Team Prep Clinics with Sabrina Ellison, and prepared to audition for the team the following year. I successfully made the team in 2013 and have enjoyed every minute of the ride!

Have you ever been star-struck when meeting a player/former player? I don’t think I ever stood close to any NBA player before I became a member of the Warriors Dance Team. My first season sitting on the sidelines, I was absolutely in awe of seeing the incredible athletes in the NBA, and relished every dunk and amazing performance every night.  

How do Filipino friends/acquaintances react upon knowing you work for the NBA? The Filipino community absolutely loves the NBA and the Warriors in particular. All of my family in California and in the Philippines follow us at @GSWDanceTeam and absolutely love to see me perform and share my passion for dance at every Warriors home game.

An in-game NBA moment that really sticks out in your memory? In my first season in November 2013, I remember watching Andre Iguodala hit a fallaway jumper at the buzzer to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder. I vividly remember every detail of that moment when I was sitting on the sideline, from the sweat dripping down their faces to the way they were waiting for the referee to take the ball out of bounds. That memory cemented in my mind that I was now a part of the Warriors game experience.

Best part of the job? The best part of my job is the friendships I have formed with the women on the Warriors Dance Team. Every season, I have made a special connection with new members of the team and enjoyed unforgettable moments with my teammates. It’s special to perform alongside these 19 ladies every home game and share our passion to dance with fans who love the Warriors as much as we do. 

Name and position? My name is Jackie, and this is my second year with the Warriors Dance Team.

What does the job entail? I attend dance rehearsals three days a week to learn 70-80 new routines over the course of a season. I perform two routines a night at every home game and participate in at least three community events a month. Over the last month, I’ve participated in the team’s Learning Without Limits program to provide Bay Area students with engaging STEM education experiences, joined the team’s annual Poker Tournament to raise funds for the Warriors Community Foundation for underserved Bay Area youth, and attended season ticket events to connect with fellow Warriors fans.

Filipino roots? Both of my parents lived in Manila, and moved to Whittier, California 25 years ago. Now my large extended family all live in Southern California.

First memory of watching the NBA? Growing up in Los Angeles, I was a huge fan of the 2000 Lakers. I used to love watching Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Derek Fisher and remember them winning three consecutive titles!

Describe your path to working for the NBA: While I was enrolled at USC, I followed several NBA dance teams on social media. The Warriors Dance Team stood out to me because of their style, their dynamic performances and aura. After following their @GSW Dance Team Twitter and Instagram accounts for months, I couldn’t see myself on any other dance team besides the Warriors. When I graduated, I knew that the Warriors were my first and only choice to audition for.

Have you ever been star-struck when meeting a player/former player? I was completely star struck when I saw Kobe Bryant last season for his final game at Oracle Arena. I was right behind him on court during the National Anthem, and I was completely star struck!

How do Filipino friends/acquaintances react upon knowing you work for the NBA? My friends are always curious to learn more about my experiences with the Warriors. They’re interested in the rigors of being a Dance Team member and my experiences on court, but they also love to ask about the Warriors organization and our team’s philosophies. I’m always happy to share my experiences because fans don’t know the hard work that goes on behind the scenes with the team and in the company.

An in-game NBA moment that really sticks out in your memory? This year, when Klay scored 60 points in only three quarters. I’ll never forget that! 

I also remember winning the Western Conference Championship last season in Game 7 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Coming back to win that series and see the whole Bay Area completely unite around our team and their excitement that night when we made the NBA Finals was something I’ll never forget!

Best part of the job? My favorite part of the job is sharing my passion for dance with the best fans in the NBA. I’m lucky to share these on court and off court moments with my teammates who have become like sisters to me. I never thought I would have this opportunity to do what I love for an NBA organization in front of my family and community.

Catch the last Filipino Heritage Week game - MIL @ GSW on Sunday at 10:30am. Check out this week's viewing guide for channel options. 

You can also pick up the NBA Filipino Heritage Week shirt at all NBA Stores, Titan shops, and the Titan webstore.

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