Guest post: Experiencing an NBA game for the first time

Lifestyle, Sports

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This is a guest post from Jason Gotuato, an engineer by profession and a traveler by heart. He’s traveled to about 30 countries and has done a lot of crazy stuff like jumping out of a plane and diving between the North American and Eurasian plates. Jason is on a quest is to conquer the world and bring out the adventurer in everyone of us. Follow him on Instagram (@wheresjason_ig) and Facebook. For travel information and tips, check out his blog at wheresjason.com.

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What’s up? I’m Jason, an avid fan of the NBA. I’ve been a fan since MJ’s 97-98 Bulls, just when I started dribbling a basketball. It had always been a dream to watch a live NBA game. But people keep saying it’s too expensive. But how much is it really?

Everyone wants to know the price so might as well start with it. I paid $295 for a seat to make that dream a reality.

Was it worth it? Oh hell yeah!

I’d spend more just to get closer seats the next time. I’m already planning on watching games next season to tell you honestly. The baller inside me just can’t wait.

Two months prior to my planned vacation in Toronto, I was surfing the net for some NBA tickets. Ahh… the love for travel and sports combined – this is the life.

After googling and comparing prices at the time, I went with http://www.vividseats.com, a site where fans can buy and sell tickets for sports, concerts, and theater events by just typing in the team, artist or the venue in the search bar. In my case, I keyed in “Raptors.” The site listed all of the Raptors’ games. Initially, I was planning to watch a regular season game because in my mind the playoffs would cost me an arm, a leg, and a liver. However, I had no choice but to buy a playoff ticket since the season would have ended just before my arrival date.

Browsing through the games, they were already selling tickets for the opening round – the Eastern Conference first round — Date: TBD, Game 1: Raptors vs TBD, Venue: TBD 

Raptors was the fourth seed at that time, just a few games away were the fifth seeded Hawks. I was confident enough to buy a ticket even though the details were incomplete. Adding Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker to the team boosted my confidence that the Raptors would end the season ranking fourth or even higher. Being one of the top four teams would mean that they would have home court advantage for the first round. Luckily for me, they eventually earned the third spot and competed against the Bucks.

Jason’s hot tip: The ticket is transferable to anyone so make sure to keep your electronic and hard copies. Vivid Seats also states that it has a 100% pay back guarantee if the game doesn’t materialize. If there’s an issue with the tickets, just call them directly to sort it out.

Fast forward to the much awaited game, I exited the subway station feeling out of place. Almost everyone was sporting their NBA/NHL/MLB jerseys – the Raptors, the Maple Leafs, and the Blue Jays. It was a great time of the year!!! The atmosphere was to die for. I immediately felt the burning passion of the fans.

Jason’s hot tip: How to go to Air Canada Centre? Ride the subway to Union station and just follow or ask people wearing Raptors jerseys.

You could enter the stadium an hour before the game. I lined up with all the fans and showed the printed copy of my ticket for scanning. I passed by security and went inside. There were a lot of stores and booths for food, beers and the team’s apparels, which is equivalent to heaven for a sports fan. You could also take pictures with the gorgeous cheerleaders!

When I finally entered the arena, I was in awe! It was like love at first sight. I was finally sitting in one of the seats I’ve only seen on TV. There were even playoff shirts resting on top of the seats! The crowd was booing the Bucks as they entered the court first for the warm-ups. The booing was actually fun! I could smell the competitive spirit from the audience. Of course, they loudly cheered when the Raptors came in.

After the warm-ups, they sang the national anthem of the U.S. and Canada. Then they made the introductions of the starters. It was all booing again for the Bucks. The Raptors, of course, were introduced enthusiastically with fireworks and audio-visuals on the big screen. It was epic!!!

When the game started, you could feel and see the intensity of the players. The playoff vibe was real. Watching live was way different than watching at home. It was very much exciting. Like big o’ boys playing and fighting on a little playground. You could tell Giannis Antetokounmpo was playing at a different level as compared to the rest. He was a freight train ready to run down opponents. His transition game and dunking ability were exceptional. DeMar DeRozan, on the other hand, played a great game as well. He was constantly driving in the paint with ease.

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You could never get bored watching the game. There’s a DJ who every now and then would play loud music, mostly hiphop and R&B songs to hype up the crowd. During halftime and timeouts, there were mini shows — cheerleaders dancing (my personal favorite), kids and mini mascots performing, and an artist rapping. They were throwing giveaways to the crowd and dropping shirts from the ceiling. There was a lot to see. Now, that’s entertainment.

Even though I’m not a devoted Raptors fan, it was fun cheering with the home crowd. It was funny and kinda cool when they screamed out: “Refs, you suck!!!” or “Come on, JV!!!”, or “Do something, Joseph!!!” I also did the “clap clap defense” cheer with the beat, it was my hidden desire to shout that live. The heckles and hurrahs from the crowd made it extra awesome.

The game was a neck-to-neck battle until the third quarter. Too bad the Raptors got thrashed in the fourth. It was still a great game despite that. I got a little disappointed from the other fans who left early. I stayed until the end, no matter what. Win or lose.

My takesaways from the game are as follows:

• Antetokounmpo ,who was once a street vendor, is now the future of the NBA. Watch out for this kid. He has a knack for dunking on defenders.

• Malcom Brogdon got game. He’s very confident as a rookie.

• Thon Maker has lot of potential and will mark his name on the court someday.

• DeRozan is a mad man. He doesn’t care if you’re taller or bigger. He will take that ball and shoot it, whatever it takes.

• Serge Ibaka is a huge factor – a big guy who does the dirty work on both ends of the floor.

• Kyle Lowry didn’t make his presence felt in that game. If they want to go deeper in the playoffs, he has to be consistent with his game.

Jason’s hot tip: I think the ticket price depends on the date and the location. I checked the price in Milwaukee for the same seat. It was less than $200.

Overall, it was an unforgettable and an amazing experience! Watching an NBA playoff game is a must-do!!! Even someone who isn’t a true fan would definitely enjoy a game live!

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Editor’s note: The Raptors eventually beat the Bucks in six games but got swept by the defending champions Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

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