OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Golden State Warriors formally presented Red Panda with a replacement unicycle prior to her performance at Oracle Arena on Monday night after the popular halftime performer had her custom-made unicycle stolen in January at San Francisco International Airport.
The Warriors decided to purchase a new unicycle for Rong Niu, who uses the Red Panda stage name, after hearing about the story last season.
"This is better than Ring Night," Golden State president Rick Welts said with a big smile prior to Monday night's 123-103 Warriors win over the Phoenix Suns. "This is awesome. This is great. Red Panda's here tonight."
Welts, who presented the new unicycle to Niu, is happy the team was able to help the popular Red Panda act keep rolling.
"We all felt just sick that this happened to her when she was here in the Bay Area," Welts said. "So it was kind of a no-brainer for us to say, 'How can we help?' and to get her a new cycle that's as good as the one that she lost. I think she missed an appearance and I think she was using an inferior bike for a few of her appearances and the act wasn't as good, so this [ceremony] is great. This is awesome. She's been coming here I think for 20 years. And to be able to welcome her back tonight and hopefully for another 20 years is pretty cool."
Warriors coach Steve Kerr echoed those sentiments and has seen first-hand just how beloved the Red Panda act has become. The act involves Niu riding her unicycle around the floor while trying to flip bowls on the top of her head.
"I'm proud of the organization for doing that," Kerr said before the game. "She's been amazing. She's one of the great halftime acts in sports. So I think that's great that she'll be here tonight and I will ask for a report from you guys afterwards because I'll be busy at halftime, but I'm happy that she's got her bike back."
Welts, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this year after years working in the league office prior to his time with both the Suns and Warriors, knows how important Red Panda's act has become to NBA fans who have watched her over the past few decades.
"She's one of the standbys," Welts said. "There's half a dozen halftime acts that have stood the test of time. We always get great response from fans and great notes after she's here. So it will be fun to have her here tonight on her brand-new cycle."