Why you should still go to NBA games

I have read several articles over the years that discourage going to live sporting events in favor of just staying home and watching them on a high definition tv. Their arguments seem to revolve around three factors: 1. Price, inconvenience and the surrounding fans. I for one still believe it is worth seeing a game live. This is my story of a delightful Friday night spent with two good friends at a very entertaining game.

Earlier last week, I was able to procure very cheap tickets for myself and my friends Sara and Shawn to Friday’s game between the Indiana Pacers and the Philadelphia 76ers. We loaded up my trusty Taurus, loaded the CD player with Mumford and Sons’ new album, and we were off on the hour and forty-five minute drive from Louisville to Indy!

I knew that I would be cheering for the 76ers because Shawn is a Philly fan, and my policy states that unless my friend’s team is on my Mount Rushmore of hated teams (the Steelers, Heat, Ravens, and that school up North) or playing one of my teams (The Browns, Cavaliers and Buckeyes), then I will cheer for my friend’s team, if I’m with that friend. It helps that my friend’s team has one of my favorite college players of all time (Evan Turner, who played for my beloved Buckeyes), but it is hard to cheer against the Pacers, because I sort of have a state-crush on Indiana. I have some great friends in Indiana, and I’ve always enjoyed my experiences in the state, but particularly in Indianapolis, which is where this game was played. The positive relationship that exists between me and Indy was only strengthened by the cheap tickets, fair parking price one block from the stadium, and cheap Dunkin Donuts INSIDE the stadium.

As we entered Banker’s Life Field house, the first thing we noticed was that the height of the building draws your eyes upward much like catholic architecture is wont to do. But in this case, our hearts are not drawn to worship, but our eyes are drawn to the many, mammoth banners of the Pacers’ starters, who are all trying to look as thug as possible (or ATAP). This was so effective that Shawn thought that the poster of Roy Hibbert was Ron Artest at first glance, which led to this exchange:

Shawn: I thought that poster was Ron Artest at first!

Me: They’re like “don’t mess with us”.

Shawn: “He left quite an impression, we haven’t felt right about taking it down yet.”

Me: “He won’t let us take it down.”

We also noticed the 2012 WNBA championship banner that was given to the Indiana Fever, a team that I know nothing about, but they have one at least one more championship then all of Cleveland, since 1968, so I’m not allowed to make fun of it. Overall, the stadium is super nice, which isn’t surprising since this is Indiana, and Indiana loves me.

But I really like the Sixers too, and we knew going in that tonight’s game has the particularly enticing possibility of Nick Young (who is an entertaining, shameless gunner) starting in place of the injured Jrue Holliday (who happens to be Philly’s best player). This hurts Philly’s chances of winning, but it increases their potential to entertain me. Actually, Philly is missing one other player to injury, as Andrew Bynum has yet to play this season because of a knee injury. The Pacers are also missing a key piece with Danny Granger still recovering from his knee injury. But there was still plenty of talent on the court, as the Pacers have a young backcourt that should be very solid for years to come, and a frontcourt that is very solid right now. Philly has two good players tonight (Evan Turner and Thad Young) and the promise of adding two more stars. More on this a little later.

As we behold the opening tip from our seats in section 225, we find that Christmas has come early! Philadelphia coach Doug Collins has inexplicably decided to start not only Nick Young, but Kwame Brown as well! I couldn’t be more excited to see future competitive eater Kwame Brown battling all-star Roy Hibbert all night!

Nick Young is a combo guard from California (which was enough to make California native Sara anoint him as her favorite player in the game) who has an impressive fro, and always looks high. Later in the game, Shawn informs me that Nick Young has nicknamed himself “Swaggy P”, which is how we referred to him for the rest of the night. We’re not really sure what the nickname means, but it seems to fit.

Swaggy takes, and makes two quick jumpers, and a third a little later in the first quarter, which is actually a very bad thing if you’re a Philly fan, which I was for the evening. This is because every made shot by Swaggy P makes him feel like he’s allowed to take five more. By making his first three, we’re almost guaranteed to see about seven shots from Swaggy that will make us feel very uncomfortable. It was probably a defensive tactic by Indiana to allow Swaggy to make his first three shots so that he would have the irrational confidence to keep shooting all game. Sure enough, Swaggy P only connected on one of his next eleven shots.

We’re trying to join the Indiana fans in the hip thing that they say when they get two free throw shots. We think they say “two-ah”, but we’re not sure. We’re thinking we’ll have it down by the third quarter. They also say “boom-baby” from time to time, but we’re not sure what cues this reaction.

The Pacers have a solid group of starters, including up and coming guard Paul George who finished with 28 points. But it was 7’2 center Roy Hibbert who was the MVP of this game, finishing with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Kwame actually did a good job guarding Hibbert with his immense girth, but Hibbert still controlled the game by owning the boards. Kwame seems as attracted to rebounds as he is to vegetables. He performed the most impressive feat of the game by finishing with only one rebound. Seriously. The 6’11, 290 pound former number one overall draft pick couldn’t manage more than one rebound. To put that in perspective, the only member of the 76ers who had less rebounds than their starting center is a 6’1 point guard named Maalik, who played 11 minutes.

Indiana has two memorable segments during different timeouts. The first is an extremely awkward game called “Danny-oke” in which Indiana’s tone-deaf, injured star Danny Granger sings a song to another teammate who tries to guess which song is being sung to him. It might have been funny, but none of us knew what song he was singing for most of the game, and it went way too long. It was funny hearing Granger squawk for the first 15 seconds, but after 90 seconds had gone by, I was eager for it to be over. The other feature was some trampoline dunking performed by the Pacers’ mascot, and three other so-and-sos, one of whom was a balding white guy. This segment was a blast. We should definitely make this a part of each mascot’s contract.

The Sixers play four big men, and one of those big men, Spencer Hawes, played big for Philly, with 18 points. Hawes has two great skills: his ability to shoot from the outside and his ability to grow a mullet. He hit a couple of deep jumpers, including one at the buzzer to end the first half. But he was only slightly better than Kwame in rebounds. In fact, the Sixers four big men had one less rebound than Hibbert did by himself.

Of course, Philadelphia bet the farm this offseason by trading for oft-injured-tremendously talented center Andrew Bynum. The Sixers are hoping that the core of Holiday, Thad Young, Turner and Bynum will be enough to take them to the next level. If Dorrell Wright and Jason Richardson can add 3-point shooting, that’s a plus. If Hawes can come into the game as a change of pace big man with range, that’s also a plus. But make no mistake; the Sixers are banking on their injured big man being the best center in the East for years to come. If they’re right, they may contend for championships in the future, and they won’t have three of their top four post players combining for six rebounds.

Speaking of rebounds, the Pacers have a guy on their bench who might be willing to kill somebody to get them. Tyler Hansbrough, or “Psycho T”, had six rebounds in fifteen minutes, with each rebound coming as a shock to his opponent who thought he had boxed Psycho T out. If you combined Kwame’s size with Hansbrough’s intensity, the product would probably hurt a lot of people on accident, and might actually be good at basketball.

Hansbrough actually has a brother, Ben, on the team, and much to our delight, they enter the game together in the middle of the first quarter. Later on, Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel brings in Tyler, but leaves Ben on the bench! I remark that it should be a rule that the Pacers have to always play the two Hansbroughs together, or not at all. Shawn suggests that the NBA will probably come down hard on them for breaking that rule tonight.

The Pacers’ backcourt can be hard to keep straight, because Paul George and George Hill both have a “George” in their names. If Hill had a good sense of humor, he would change his name to George Paul, and then we’d all be lost.

The Pacers all play pretty well, with the notable exception of former all star David West. His stats don’t look awful (14 points, 6 boards), but he missed several close shots and seemed to be unable to finish after contact, which is surprising since he looks like someone with a future in body-building.

West’s strange inability to finish down low was only half of the reason that this game was so close (and the final score doesn’t show how close this game was). The other reason Philly was only down four with less than two minutes to go was Evan Turner. Turner might have been aware that his biggest fan (me) was in the stands, because he played a phenomenal game, ending up with 22 points, 5 assists, and 10 rebounds, and he was even better than his stat line indicates, in my objective opinion.

One memorable sequence occurred when Turner was called for a bogus double dribble violation, and a subsequent bogus technical foul when he politely protested with good manners, a calm demeanor and clean language. Again, this is all in my objective opinion. Anyway, Shawn rightly pointed out that you can’t get Turner angry without consequences. Sure enough, Turner promptly scored seven points in the next two minutes, and gave the Sixers their best chance to win the game.

But Turner’s heroics were bested by Paul George’s heroics, as George blocked two shots and hit two clutch three pointers to put the game on ice.

The highlights for me:

-Kwame and Swaggy playing solid minutes and providing lots of laughs.

-Getting an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts (my favorite) at half time for under two dollars.

-Seeing my boy Evan Turner live.

-Making comments with Sara and Shawn throughout the game.

-Feeling like I have a much better understanding of Paul George’s athleticism, Evan Turner’s killer mentality, Roy Hibbert’s height, David West’s muscles, and Kwame Brown’s girth after having seen them live.

-Feeling like I know both teams better.

-Feeling like I know my two friends better.

As I mentioned before, those who speak against going to live games like to dwell on a few negatives, but not only are there positives to live games, but you also avoid some of the negatives of watching a televised game. During game breaks, we get to watch trampoline dunking instead of 78 car commercials. Instead of hearing some announcer telling us his clearly biased opinion after every play while relentlessly praising his favorite player, I get to give my clearly biased opinion after every play while relentlessly praising my favorite player.

And those are just the most obvious examples. One underrated great thing about seeing the game live rather than on TV is the fact that we can forget about the players who are injured and focus on those who are playing. Rookie sensation Robert Griffin III (or RGIII) had to miss Sunday’s Redskins’-Browns’ game with a knee injury, and I never heard the end of it. The announcers constantly talked about the injury, and the cameraman zoomed in on RGIII about a thousand times to see how he felt about everything. Is he excited that his team scored while he was out? See him raise his arms after each touchdown. Does he like his backup QB who is starting in his place? See him laughing with him on the sidelines. Does he talk to his coaches? See him laughing with them too. Riveting stuff. In this game, with three stars out with injuries, how much time would the announcers have spent talking about players who had no bearing on the game?

When you go to a game, you remember it for quite a while, even if nothing terribly memorable happens during the game. You remember the laughs you share with your friends, you remember the crazy fans on the jumbotron, and you definitely remember which players look way better or worse live than they do on TV. You probably can’t go every night, because the cost will add up, and you need to make sure you have some good friends by your side, but if you’re looking for something to do on a Friday night and you’re able to score some tickets for below face value, do yourself a favor and get yourself out to the stadium.