Last night, the Wizards and the Knicks played the first NBA game — albeit a scrimmage — in Baltimore since 1999.
The match-up at the 1st Mariner Arena, the dump that Baltimore is obliged to call their own, featured no real big names besides that of the city’s own Carmelo Anthony as Tyson Chandler only saw six minutes of action; Amar’e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Metta World Peace were all DNP’s; and, of course, after John Wall, the Wizards are only the Wizards.
While I did not attend this preseason Carmelo-lovefest (something about an NBA game at 1st Mariner Arena just didn’t tickle my fancy), I was in attendance at 2011 when the best NBA match-up the city has seen since the Bullets left in 1973.
Remember, in the fall of 2011, the NBA was stuck in a lockout. But, of course, the players still wanted to play. The game’s bests were showing their talents at street ball courts like Rucker Park while others were playing in the Goodman and Melo Leagues.
On August 30th, two squads composed of NBA talent like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Gary Neal, Jeff Green, Juan Dixon, Austin Daye and others planned a game between the Goodman and Melo Leagues in the basketball-loving and basketball deprived city of Baltimore.
The game, originally to take place in the gym of St. Francis Academy, a high school in Baltimore City, gained such popularity that it had to be relocated to Morgan State University, a college located just within the city/county line.
And by the “city/county line” I also mean “5 minutes away from my house.”
The price? $40 for general admission.
An NBA all-star game was being played five minutes from where I live, and I could pay $40 to be there? Yes please.
As expected, there was a long wait to buy tickets as well as to get into the arena.
Upon entering, bags were checked and fans were allowed into the gym where the teams were already shooting around. Since it was general admission, fans had to walk around the sides of the court and across the baseline in order to get to the bleachers.
Me, and the group of friends I was with, wanted to sit in the bleachers to our right where it seemed as if no one had reached yet. In order to get there, you had to go through a pair of doors and up some stairs. We made it through the doors and hesitated in going up the steps. In that hesitation, a security guard denied us entry, and told us we had to go to the other side. Why? Oh, no big deal, just that those steps were being used for the players to get from the locker rooms to the court and vice-versa.
Making our way to the other side towards the rest of bleachers, we had to walk down the baseline and underneath the hoop where LeBron and company were shooting around. Someone missed a shot. Someone by me picked the ball up and gave LeBron a chest pass. Real life? I wasn’t really sure.
We finally settled here:
Not bad for an $40 for basically an NBA all-star game, right?
The game started a little later than it was supposed to: Kevin Durant was running late.
In the meantime, I snapped some not-so-good photos with my not-so-good camera.
For example, here’s LeBron stretching:
Kevin Durant arrived and we were ready to go.
As you can see, it was pretty close to capacity. In fact, it probably was breaking some kind of fire code. It would have probably taken me about a half-an-hour to get to the nearest exit in case of a fire.
Maybe it was because of that — or maybe it was because the police and security in charge of watching over the event were instead watching the game itself — we moved to the baseline at halftime, without a word from anyone. The tickets down there were called “VIP” tickets, and they were around $100 a piece.
Remember where we were when LeBron was stretching before the game? Check out where we were at half:
Also, in person, Rachel Nichols is gross.
When the action started, we were still there with no one having said a word. Check it out:
If only there were videos.
BUT THERE ARE.
How about Eric Bledsoe taking Kevin Durant to the rack?
Carmelo driving on Jeff Green?
LeBron throwing an alley-oop to himself off the backboard?
How about LeBron James going one-on-one with Kevin Durant?
Amazing, once in a lifetime stuff.
Of course, we stayed there for the rest of the game. When it ended, we ran onto the court with LeBron, Durant, Melo and company, because that’s what you get to do at NBA all-star games, right?
Obviously, we weren’t the only ones who went on the court after the game. Everyone had the same idea as us to get as close as they can to some of the greatest basketball players of this generation.
Navigating my way through the masses, I was able to snap some blurry photos from my phone.
Here’s Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Austin Daye, and a couple other players:
Kevin Durant with a sweat towel:
On my way off the court, once again working my way through the crowd, an arm reached out and stopped me from walking. When I looked at who it was, it was Juan Dixon who was making sure I didn’t walk through the picture he was taking with a fan.
I’m a big fan of Juan Dixon since he is both a former Calvert Hall Cardinal and Maryland Terrapin. Of course, I had to get a photo with him (Note: I wasn’t ready!):
Now let me ask you: have you ever spent a better $40?