I did something I never thought I would ever do on Wednesday night. I went to an NBA game. And it was only because the price was right. It was free-ninety-nine. I would never pay to watch that crap.

Yup, I am the hockey fan who thinks basketball is an awful sport.

I’m in Milwaukee on business and a few of my co-workers were going to the Bucks game and they had an extra ticket. I flat out told them I refuse to pay to go to an NBA game. The Bucks were hosting the Houston Rockets so there was a lot of star power in the building that night between the Greek Freak, James Harden, and Chris Paul. The free ticket was enough for me to give a game a fair shot at impressing me.

Since this was a rare occasion I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you my live game experience. Here are some thoughts and observations from my first, and most likely only, NBA game.

1: When did the game start?

We show up to the game a little before tip off and the first thing I notice was the players were still out shooting around. This seemed odd to me that just moments before the start of the game they are still warming up. Then some kid came out, played the national anthem on a guitar, and the game starts.

It was very casual, there was no real big intro into the game. They did turn down the lights a bit for Bucks starting 5 and some cheesey pyrotechnics went off but nothing wild that would get you pumped up.

In the NHL, or in hockey in general, they benefit from having to clean the ice between warm ups and puck drop. This allows the home team to set the stage for the game. The lights go down and most teams have a “pump up” video on the scoreboard. Then there is the count down, or the live feed of the home team coming out of the locker room on their way to the ice. There is more entertainment and build up in the presentation.

It made me think of the first time I went to a Bruins home playoff game back in 1999 against the Sabres. The video of the team walking out to the ice with Byron Dafoe leading the way. I got goosebumps. Here are a couple of intros for an example:

This NBA game couldn’t even compare to the two intros above. I do not get why the NBA would not want to make a bigger deal out of the start of a game. If it wasn’t for the kid playing the national anthem and some sparklers the game could have been presented the same at the playground.

2: Why do they play music during game play?

Another thing I found odd, and annoying, is they play music during the actual game play. Maybe that’s because the NBA realizes how horribly boring it’d be sit in a quiet room watching this going on for two and a half hours. The negative trade off though is you get little feel for the game atmosphere because you cannot hear the sounds of the game. You cannot hear the players calling for the ball, or the sound of their sneakers squeaking on the floor. At an NHL game you can hear the puck off the boards and glass, the slap shots, the saves, the shots ringing off of the pipes. I felt with the music playing during the actual game it took away from the atmosphere that’d help get a casual viewer, like I was, into it. It was an elevator ride, trying to fill the space with music to try to manufacture some sort of good feeling.

3: Is there any flow to NBA games?

The other thing I noticed was even the most boring hockey game has more flow than an NBA game. The problem with basketball is the whistle blows every 30 seconds. There’s as many stoppages as there are in field hockey. Not a lot of action going on. There is however a ton of walking around, standing around, and jogging. There’s not nearly as much sprinting going on out there as you would think.

At one point I said to one of my co-workers, “why don’t the Bucks just leave Giannis Antetokounmpo on the floor the entire game? Unless he is in foul trouble, why not?” He said they need to rest. How can he be tired when they stand still 90% of the time? Especially in NBA regular season games. They’re playing twelve minute quarters. I am fat and out of shape and I could walk and jog around a basketball court for forty-eight minutes. Shit, I made the 20 minute walk to and from the arena without sweating. I wasn’t tired. I might have even jogged across a street or two.

Bonus thought: Promos are fun

The one thing that NBA teams can do more than NHL teams are the promos. Because there is a whistle every two seconds and tons of commercial breaks they can run someone out on the court to throw t-shirts, have the crazy dunk guys do their thing, or other on court games. Wednesday night they had a t-shirt Gatlin gun. I don’t know how many shirts it shot in 30 seconds but that thing was firing fast. It was by far the coolest part of the entire game. I enjoyed it. With an ice playing surface and far more flow to the game the NHL does not have the benefit of being able to do a lot of things like this.

Yes, I might be biased but I feel like the NHL has a superior live product and it isn’t even close. How basketball is so popular, I have no idea. The NBA is largely an unwatchable and predictable organization with stacked teams, and every year everyone knows the final four teams (Golden State Warriors are going to win the championship again?) before the season starts. Their regular season is largely irrelevant.

I’m sorry NBA, I honestly gave you a legit shot. I tried. It didn’t work. I will stick with hockey. Gary Bettman, you have an entertaining thing going with the NHL. It’s clear if you want to continue to try catch other major sports leagues you will need to do a better job marketing your stars because that’s all the NBA does and it works. And eliminate your work stoppages. Because the actual sport of hockey is already the best live sport today.

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