I'm not a lakers fan. I'm still sore at the fact that my Kings were robbed in game 6 of the 2002 Western Conf Finals by the refs. But a couple $338 playoff tickets for free? (Via an office raffle - yeah I'm pretty lucky, I won Michael Buble tix for the wife a month ago too. Each time there was probably a 3 in 50 chance - 6%. Funny thing is I got more monetary offers for those Buble tix than these Lakers playoff tix). Even if its the lakers, how can I not go experience an NBA playoff game?
Now I've been in Staples for playoff games before, most memorably when the Shaq, Malone and Payton lakers were slogging their way through that epic postseason failure. But back then, I mostly spent my time in the Foxsports studio, lakers locker room or the bowels of the arena. The 2 most memorable moments from then are 1) when Shaq sauntered into the locker room and slowly looked me up and down as if I was fresh meat - he is the biggest man I have ever seen - and 2) when KG's T-Wolves were eliminated and I walked passed a visibly crushed Garnett in the narrow hallway, with his head bowed, eyes closed, silently smoldering, waiting his turn in the press room.
Anyway back to this game, I took my friend whom I would describe as a fledging lakers fan and an all-around semi-casual sports fan at best, so I didn't want to ruin his night with my laker hate. Plus, the way I saw it, there was zero chance that the lakers would not advance especially vs that midget Utah frontline so I didn't want to waste my energy outwardly rooting against them now. Also, there's this ridiculous stat that I just can't get over: of the last 30 years, the lakers have been in the NBA Finals 15 times. FIFTEEN TIMES. Half the time. Get it? How do my Kings compete with that? Sacramento has never been and the one time we were close, we were ludicrously held back by the refs so that the preferred golden child of the NBA could go instead. So, I decided to just enjoy the experience of NBA playoffs and inwardly hope that Deron Williams would steal one. So I did wear a Kings shirt as an inward protest under a US Soccer jersey which is all I really care about for the next 2 months anyway.
Shockingly, there was little traffic on our commute to Staples and our parking pass was literally across the street. The night was off to a good start. Our seats were in section 110, which is basically courtside opposite the visitors bench. I even liked that we were in the last row (backs to the PR section) so that I could lean back or stand without fear of infringing on anyone's view or space.
Laker playoff games really are quite a production, aren't they? I found it interesting that the arena lights dim above the fans and only the court is lit so that it feels like we're at the theater, taking in a show. I guess that's really is what it is. The biggest show in LA. Millions of people would love to trade places with me at that moment, I realized. And for half a grand, I would've done just that. The giant curtain they unfurled pregame was awesome. The purple and gold streamers released at the end of the victory even said Lakers.com on it. Some of the celebs that we spotted include soon to be free agent Chris Bosh, who sat baseline courtside with his significant other who is half his height in heels, Kevin Frazier (former sports and current entertainment broadcaster) who was sporting a brand new US Soccer track jacket, Pat O'Brien, George Lopez, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Kiedis and Flea, and of course Jack.
Game analysis? Kobe can get any shot off at any time. Bynum and Gasol are so much taller and longer than both Boozer and whatever white stiff the Jazz rotated in in lieu of Okur. The lakers scored at will in the paint (32 of 40 field goals) and blocked the Jazz 13 times, mostly in the paint as well. Rebound margin? 58-40. Jordan Farmar hit a couple 3s to top it off. lakers win, ho hum. If they play like this, they won't be challenged until the Finals.
So it was a good experience. Even the freeway entrance was right by the parking structure. In LA, that's a big deal, okay? Might've saved 45 minutes for that reason alone. I know I'm going to hate myself for even enjoying it a little bit if the lakers win it all this year. Go Lebrons.
But who cares, this night will forever be remembered as the night I met Jozy Altidore, one month before the World Cup!