After years of watching NBA games, staying up late (while being in Europe) during the playoffs to watch the greatest of the greatest fight against each other in conquest of the Larry O’Brien Trophy, the time had arrived. 7.30 p.m. Kings at Clippers. That was the game that was about to start on a fine Saturday afternoon in LA. That was about to become my first live experience in the courts of the NBA.
My friends and I arrived a little over an hour before the start of the game and I insisted in going straight into the legendary Staples Center, aiming to make the most out of my first, exciting visit and of course having the time to buy some official Clippers clothing from the team boutique.
We parked in a parking space close by the Staples Center and started walking the Staples Center. Here comes the first shock.
This building, in which some of the best players to ever pass from the NBA had played was standing in front of me. Beautiful with the nice purple colored windows and the red “Staples Center” sign above, it was becoming bigger and bigger and more marvelous as we approached.
We quickly passed the security control, grabbed a bunch of Clippers schedule mouse pad giveaways and headed straight inside the arena. The feeling was just unbelievable. Haven only seen some European basketball arenas, the difference was obviously chaotic from the first second. Some pictures and a few looks around the arena later, we headed towards the alleys, where we had hot dogs and cola (huge hot dogs, really). The Clippers boutique was right outside our gate so I stopped by to buy some Clippers T-Shirts and an amazing white Clips hat. I also grabbed a Paul Pierce jersey for my friend, who has been a fan of him all the way back from his Boston days. Prices in general were very reasonable for LA and US standards and I wouldn’t mind paying even more to get the official and amazing gear I purchased from the team boutique.
That’s because I didn’t know when and if I’d have the chance to visit the arena in the future.
We entered the arena about 30 minutes before the game and there was yet another shock. Our seats were one of the best and really comfortable by the way, a bit above court-side and slightly towards Clippers bench. It was Halloween so lots of fans were dressed up with cute costumes and the director made sure the central giant screens showed the best appearances (the team handed gifts to the top ones, too).
The two teams entered the court. And there came yet another shock. Some of the stars I’ve been watching playing the game for so many years were right in front of me, ready to start the game. DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce and Lance Stephenson from LA, Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay from Sacramento’s side. And of course, the man in the middle for the Clips, the maestro Doc Rivers. My eye couldn’t have missed the huge rafters on our left, which Rivers had ordered getting changed to Clippers ones (instead of the default-Lakers ones) when the Clips were playing at home.
The pre-game show is a show. An amazing one. It’s how you imagine it plus more. The atmosphere is just amazing, urging you to cheer and rejoice. And I can’t image how better it becomes during playoffs.
Tipoff time. DeAndre got the first tip and the Clippers were headed towards their first offense. It was just amazing seeing the action live, watch the moves in real-time, have the full vision of the court and feeling the reactions from the crowd (yes, not having TV-commentary helps, too). It’s just totally different when you see the live action, it’s as great as it gets !
The action in the court was really fun. Dunks (the drive of the game came from Lance Stephenson), alley-oops from DJ and Blake Griffin, some amazing shots and in-traffic shots from both sides. Gay and Rondo really got it going, from Sacramento’s side. The experience was just as perfect as I imagined it. The more you love the game, the more you understand it and what it takes for those 10 players on the court to stand where they stand, the more lurid it becomes. And for me it was. Having Steve Ballmer a few feet away from us added something extra to the entire experience, too. What more can you ask for?
Half-time arrived before I knew it and we headed out of the arena for a catch up with friends. And as you may see sometimes on TV, we, too, were late returning for the third quarter. The security guard at the gate didn’t allow us to grab our seats until a whistle, which I found very clever as the distractions for other fans get minimized that way.
During some timeouts, the amazing cheerleaders, who had previously given a fantastic show, were throwing Clippers T-Shirts and guess what, I managed to grab one after it bounced-off some other people in front of me. Had to fight for it. I was so happy! And then, in the next timeout the Clippers Gatling Gun made its appearance. Of course, instead of bullets it was firing Clips T-Shirts again. Amazing, simply amazing.
During another timeout, instead of cheerleaders some kids-dancers gave a show and I couldn’t tell if they were real pros or just little kids from school. They were so good. As mentioned above, it’s not just a game. It’s both a show, one of the best you can see and a game, the best you can see.
Come late fourth quarter, the game was very close and the Kings tried to hack-a-Jordan only to receive a T. That shifted the game and a few JJ Redick made free throws later, the Clips received a victory. Happy end for my first NBA game experience.
After the final whistle, my friends started heading towards the exit, although I didn’t want to leave the arena that quickly. I was so amazed that despite the about 15,000 fans present, there were zero queue lines, no overcrowding and it even took us a few meetings to get out of the building. As a matter of fact, one positive experience came after the other before, during and after the game.
We ended our evening with drinks and fun in a local bar in the LA Live area, just behind the Staples Center. And guess what, it was, again, stunning !
Special Thank You to all the guys at Barry’s Tickets for making my dream come true and helping me see my first Los Angeles Clippers game ever! I am looking forward to going to a Clippers December Game and will 100% get my Clippers Tickets from you guys!
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