As the preseason comes to a conclusion, many of us are predicting how our favorite teams are going to perform over the season. We are excited for sports channels to no longer be dominated by baseball highlights and football stories about Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel, and Tom Brady. While I share these sentiments, something I started a few years ago always clouds my NBA preseason brain: what NBA Arenas can I attend this year?
I wanted to step aside from the Timberwolves analysis and give readers a look at myself personally, since well, this is a blog. Being a diehard basketball junkie, I decided at some point in college I wanted to experience a game in every NBA arena in the country. I started this thought when I was broke and the only means of travel was by car and throughout the Midwest. I would get a job after college with a technology consulting firm that would toss me on a plane every week to go to client sites. I spent about two years traveling around the country. As you could imagine, I was geeked to visit any city in the US that had an NBA team, in the winter. There was nothing more devastating than visiting a city that has an NBA team just to realize they don’t have a home game during your visit.
Disclaimer: I am not that far along through this bucket list. But I wanted to share the excitement and the stories of the journey thus far. Each have unique settings and each has grown my appreciation for the game in a different way. I will also share my thoughts on where I plan to go this season. Lastly, photos are from my Instagram so please don’t mind them.
Arena 1: Target Center, Timberwolves vs Knicks, circa 2000, Minneapolis, MN
As a Timberwolves fan, you never really forget your first game. I don’t remember exactly what year to be honest, but I remember the Wolves were playing my second favorite team, the New York Knicks. I got to see one of my all time favorite players Latrell Sprewell. I also got to see one of my favorite point guards in Charlie Ward and favorite centers in Marcus Camby. It was one of the most surreal feelings for a 5th grader. The one thing that sticks out the most of this experience was to not hear the TV announcers during the game. It was the most bizarre thing.
I would end up going to many more Timberwolves games over the next 15 years at the Target Center. I got to attend playoff games in the 2003-04 season, watch KG return to the Target Center, have season tickets one year, and then watch many sequences of rebuilding. Nonetheless, the Target Center would be the first arena I would ever attend and always hold a place in my basketball heart.
Arena 2: Madison Square Garden, Knicks vs Pacers, 2012, New York, NY
During a Alumni retreat with my Fraternity, I happened to be in New York in early April. I couldn’t convince anyone to attend the game with me and instead had a one of my Fraternity Brothers to go alone and enjoy the experience. So I downloaded the StubHub app and bought a ticket for $100 in the front row of the second level. I thought that was quite ridiculous, as to why I remember. But I got to speak to a season ticket holder of over 15 years and couldn’t believe how authentic the Knicks fans were. I had to ask the Knicks fans why they were so mean to players and their response was the most important thing they want out of their players is that they try hard. For whatever reason this statement stuck out to me and I am always reminded of it when I see the Knicks play.
Arena 3: The Rose Garden, Blazers vs Suns, 2013, Portland, OR
I scored some tickets for a game from my client at work and could not pass up it up. I went with a co-worker and we had pretty good seats. It was right when the Blazers decided to surprise everyone and become a good team. The stadium was beautiful and the crowd was really loud. The fans also seemed to be very excited to be there, something I am not used to seeing in Minnesota.
Arena 4: Staples Center, Lakers vs Spurs, 2013, Los Angeles, CA
Flew out to LA with some friends as I was switching companies. It was a last minute trip but decided to stop in LA on my way home to Minneapolis from Portland. Kobe was out with some injury but got to see the legendary Spurs. This experience was incredible nonetheless. The banners hanging in the Arena were magical. To know so many championships ran through that city and that team was crazy to think. The crowd felt divided between really rich and really into the lakers, not much in between. When the game was going on, it felt like an act or a movie being filmed.
Arena 5: TD Garden, Celtics vs Timberwolves, 2013, Boston, MA
Probably the best experience I ever had in another stadium thus far. Delta had a deal on flights to Boston and the Wolves were playing there during the time the deal was happening. I booked the tickets, stayed with my Fraternity Brother, and I got us some really nice tickets to the game, row 4 if I remember correctly. I packed up all of my Wolves gear and my friend and I cheered like crazy for the Wolves. I was surprised at home many Wolves fans were there honestly. But I was going crazy and lost my voice. The Celtics were terrible that year but the Garden was still packed and everyone really wanted a win. Avery Bradley as usual, torched the Wolves. I got into a few arguments with some Celtics fans, which was awesome. The game went down to the wire and the Wolves missed a shot at the buzzer to lose. There was definitely a foul that should’ve been called that costed the Wolves the game. But I hadn’t cheered on the Wolves that much since the playoffs. So after this trip, I am more interested in going to games when the Wolves are playing on the road.
Arena 6: Phillips Arena, Hawks vs Cavs, 2013, Atlanta, GA
Another alumni retreat and another game. This time, around 15 Fraternity Brothers came. The Hawks were a playoff team at this point and playing way above expectations. And the place was absolutely empty. The Hawks fans lived up to the hype of not supporting their team. The actual game wasn’t too memorable. The only thing I remember that I liked was the amount of restaurants in the Arena. I was a little bitter because this was actually my second attempt at going to Phillips Arena. The first time I bought tickets and the game was cancelled due to a snow storm. Just my luck. Glad I got this one off the bucket list.
Arena 7: The Amway Center, Magic vs Wizards, 2014, Orlando, Fl
On my last day at a client in Orlando, I bought myself a ticket and headed to downtown Orlando to catch a Magic game alone. The seat was alright and reasonably priced. I am a big fan of potential and there aren’t many more exciting teams potential-wise than the Orlando Magic. I got to watch Elfrid Payton, Oladipo, and Aaron Gordon all play. I had John Wall on my fantasy basketball team at the time and he absolutely dominated, which also was fun to watch. The Amway Center is one of the newer Arenas in the league (Opened in 2010) and it didn’t disappoint. It had minimal amounts of traffic but still seemed packed. It had a really cool rooftop in the stadium that I got to check out and see a nice view of downtown Orlando. I genuinely enjoyed the Amway Center.
Arena 8: The United Center, Bulls vs Pelicans, 2014, Chicago, IL
Ah. Saw the Michael Jordan Statue. Enter the historic United Center. The did an amazing job of preserving its history from its logo to the intro music to the announcers. Its a very nostalgic arena, knowing the greatest of all-time played there. I got to see the Chicago fans cheer on the hometown Anthony Davis as well. The fans were all die-hard and the entire stadium was packed. It was an experience that is pretty difficult to put into words. The tickets were ridiculously overpriced with respect to the other places I’ve been. It was pretty mind-blowing actually.
Future Plans: Personally, I am more of an impromptu kind of guy when it comes to travel. I don’t like setting plans too far out for things. I enjoy spur-of-the-moment trips. I have paid a little more attention to the schedule release so that I can make this bucket list happen. That said, I think the lowest hanging fruit at this point is visiting the Bucks, but they don’t play the Wolves until March. There is the possibility to catch the Wizards this year. Hopefully I can catch a couple more games elsewhere. The bucket list may be slowed a little bit simply because I no longer travel for work and am back in school. I will keep people posted on progress of the bucket list, with posts here. So please follow!
The Timber rebuilder.