With the advent of high-definition television and League Pass programming, the idea of attending a live sporting event has become less enticing. Paying a hefty sum of money to sit high above the action of an NBA just doesn’t have the same appeal as watching on a large TV screen in the comfort of your own home for free. The NBA game is best viewed up close and personal.
However, attending a game in person provides perks that can’t be experienced outside the stadium. The best of these perks, in my opinion, is the communal experience with other fans. The most memorable communal experience I’ve had as a fan occurred at game one of the 2006 Finals.
When I was four years old, my dad attended the last of the Cowboys three Super Bowls in the nineties. Before leaving, he promised me that the next time the Cowboys made a Super Bowl we would go. Seeing as that may be a promise he’ll never have to fulfill, I begged him to take me to one of the Mavericks' Finals games in 2006. We scoured Craigslist and found tickets about 3 hours before tipoff at a reasonable price.
Upon arriving at American Airlines Center, it felt like all of downtown Dallas had taken a double shot of espresso. Everyone from the fans to the game ushers to even some of the homeless people on the street had this childlike exuberance about the Mavs that night. It was the kind of unadulterated joy a fanbase exhibits before they’ve ever been truly hurt.
Our seats were at the very top of the stadium with our backs literally against the wall. I was wearing a white Jason Terry jersey that went down to my knees and an off-brand NBA headband I bought from Target. JET was absolutely incredible that game, hitting shots from all over the floor. This was back when JET played mostly point guard. He diced up Jason Williams with an array of pull up jumpers and floaters. (The Jason Terry-Jason Williams matchup is the greatest point guard matchup in the history of the Finals). Terry finished with game-high 32 points as the Mavs cruised to a 90-80 win.
I don’t remember much from the game besides trying to be a jet plane several times. However I’ll never forget walking around downtown Dallas after the game. Mavs fans flooded the streets of downtown Dallas. Cars were honking with drunk fans hanging out the window yelling "go Mavs!" I high-fived and hugged several random strangers as I made my way to the train. It was a true communal experience; we were all one. Everyone felt like we were going to win the Finals.
It’s a shame that the NBA cancelled the Finals after game two.
Although the 2006 Finals is one of the darker periods of my life, I’ll always remember game one as one of the happiest moments of my fandom because the shared experiences I had with those fans.