For the first time this season, and the first time since soaking in the horror and glory of Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, yours truly traveled to Staples Center to view last night's tilt between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. As has been well documented, behind strong play from the home team and a Wolves squad that is exactly as bad as you think they are without All-NBA power forward Kevin Love, the Lakers built a double digit 1st half lead, lost most of the lead in predictable fashion prior to halftime, then repeated the process in the 2nd half without giving back the lead. It was a game free from any kind of drama, and a game basically free of excitement. The crowd was bored and boring, spoiled with years and years of exactly these kind of performances. I had a good time, and I'm certainly not sad or angry that I went, but the bottom line is that it was not a particularly special experience.
At least, not for me. But I was not alone. I was joined by my better half, and it was the wife's first time at an NBA game. The experience was plenty special for her, and living vicariously through her, much more enjoyable for me. Seeing her eyes light up at the smallest of details, trivialities that I wouldn't even think about, made the night much better than it would have been otherwise. Below the jump, I provide some quick hit moments that made my lady's first NBA experience awesome for the both of us.
- Explaining to my wife why Kobe probably won't be playing, only to find out that Kobe is playing and Kevin Love is not, my wife turns to me and says "He's playing for me!". Knowing that she's absolutely right. The reason Kobe plays every second that he can is for her, and all the other hers out there.
- There's a little art gallery just inside the Figueroa Street entrance with a variety of sports artwork, most notably some huge renditions of Kobe Bryant. Walking through the gallery, I was explaining to my wife what some of the less current portraits were and memorabilia were
- Walking out of the tunnel into our seats, the look of fear in her eyes as she realizes how high we are, and that we'll be watching the game by looking just about straight down. The pretend joking manner in which she turns to me and says "It's pretty scary up here" when she's really not joking at all.
- Explaining to my wife why there is a Canadian flag at a sporting event involving to American teams.
- Hearing my wife exclaim "Whoaaaaa!" as the sheets on which the Lakers project their opening montage tumbled down from the Staples Center scoreboard. After the montage: "That was awesome!"
- #KobeMask on the JumboTron
- As Andrew Bynum collects a lob pass and throws down a dunk over the entire Timberwolves roster, she says to me "This is so much better in person"
- The stunned look on my face as Kobe Bryant passes to a driving Derek Fisher, who completes the play by making a layup in traffic
- Santa on the Kiss Cam. Twice.
- Pointing out where Jack Nicholsen sits. Too bad he wasn't there.
- Enjoying the halftime show that I would normally skip or find stupid. Especially the part where the tight rope walking guy nearly takes a head first tumble off his wire.
- Buying a bag of candy popcorn so my wife can enjoy the full "game experience" only to find out she doesn't care and doesn't want any. Getting sick because I ate all the popcorn.
- Watching a guy almost make a half court shot worth $100K ... and then draining a three point shot to win two nights in a Bellagio suite.
- The look of shock on my wife's face as the couple next to us get up at the end of the third quarter (and the Lakers up 20 points). "Are they leaving?" she mutters to me under her breath. "Probably, yeah" I respond. "But ... what's the point of even coming?" "I don't know, baby. I don't know."
- Trying to explain to my wife why I'm excited to see Devin Ebanks get some burn in garbage time
- Trying to explain my exasperation when I see Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol check in with the Lakers still up huge, and her responding "They're just making sure I get my money's worth"
- As the minutes tick down, my wife asks me when we get to chant for tacos
- And finally, her squeal of glee when the rafters burst with streamers in celebration of the Lakers victory.
Having been to enough games in my lifetime that I no longer keep count, every single one of these moments might have passed me by. We take it for granted ... our love of the game, our enjoyment of our team. I might not normally care for the Kiss Cam or the halftime show or the streamers at game's end. But now I understand. These things aren't in place for the die hards, for the people who show up every night. They are there for the first timers, for the folks who are so excited to be there that they soak in every moment. I'm sure I was like that for my first game, too.
Now, thanks to her, I got to experience that moment all over again.