The NBA in the 21st Century

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, once said in a monologue–”Last night I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.”    Last month I went to watch my first NBA game since the mid eighties.  With apologies to Rodney Dangerfield, it was as if I had gone to a Chuckie Cheese, and finding out that a basketball game had broken out.

The arena I visited was the Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. I had made the easy 4.5 hour drive to see the OKC team play my beloved Boston Celtics.   From the moment I walked through the ticket gate, until the final buzzer there was something going on.  A blend of rock, hip hop, and rap music played constantly.  There was a staggering array of give-aways, contests, and games.  Not to mention a break dancing Buffalo, parachutes falling from the ceiling and a character dressed up like a slice of pizza throwing frisbees into the crowd.

I’m pretty old school, I don’t even like Slugger at the Royals games.  I fully expected all this commotion would take away my enjoyment of the game.  But I had a blast.

On to the game itself.  I have been a Celtic fan for nearly 50 years and this was the 1st time I had ever seen them play  So what if the players I really wanted to see play were long since retired.   But the lure of the green uniforms caused me to put on a hat and look all over town for a green Celtics T-Shirt.  I stood and cheered for the current Celtics like I was a 12 yr old.  The current team is either too old witness the decline of future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, too young, or not good enough.  Without their All Star Rajon Rondo, who sat out the game, the Thunder with their young stars would lead by over 30 at half time.

It was enough to salvage a little pride when the Big 3 as they are called, mustered up enough energy to mount a come back that brought them to with in 6 points. Though their efforts fell short I left happy just to have been able to see just a glimpse of what they used to be.

Reflecting on what I saw there, I realized the people who run Thunder are marketing a whole package of entertainment.  They have managed to introduce professional sports to a whole new group of fans.    Sure the giveaways and music are fun.  But too their credit they kept the game as the centerpiece.  They understand that what they are selling  is a beautiful game played at its highest level.  I’m very happy I saw my first NBA game in 25 years.  I want to go back if I have the chance. After all I still need to go to boo Kobe Bryant before he retires.

Now I reliaze that the NBA is pretty far down on most Topekans list.  But I’m going to go to watch the game.   But much to my suprise I won’t mind the entertainment going on around me.