My annual trek to the NBA Draft, started, as always, somewhere toward the back of the line outside the Madison Square Garden Box Office. Rumors were running rampant that only several hundred tickets were being sold for entry into the WaMu Theater at MSG, which sits up to 5,600 people.
Deciding not to risk being shut out, I darted toward the front, cutting the line to assure myself a ticket. In past years, the Garden sold up to four tickets per customer but this year, that number was cut to two to help reduce scalping. Still, a few enterprising teenagers purchased tickets and offered to sell them for $100 each for people who were shut out. And on craigslist, one guy attempted to sell a pair of tickets for $400.
The NBA Draft has gotten bigger and bigger each year. And fewer tickets are seemingly reserved for the hardcore fans. The lower section of the WaMu Theater is reserved for players’ families, agents, girlfriends, and the very entourages the NBA warns its players about. Michael Beasley, the second pick, now of the Miami Heat, had a busload of people sporting T-shirts with his name on it.
The attire of people attending the draft is as diverse as the people themselves. You have team jerseys favored by basketball enthusiasts (the most popular jersey seemed to be the Knicks number 42 worn by David Lee). Then you have the suits worn by anyone affiliated with the Draft, from agents to players and their families. And of course, you have the beautiful ladies in tight dresses looking to impress.
All of the beautiful people sit below, closer to the stage. The rest of us sit atop, the most boisterous of us in Section 305. The hardcore fans come to boo as much as cheer. And Commissioner David Stern certainly got an earful as he walked onto the stage to open the 2008 NBA Draft and declare the Chicago Bulls are now on the clock.
But no one received as much harsh treatment from the fans as the Knicks’ pick Danilo Gallinari, a 19-year-old Italian kid. “You *&%$# suck,” yelled one fan. Said another, I *&%$# hate you.” as Gallinari exited through an aisle within earshot of his tormentors.
Welcome to New York, Gallinari. I actually felt sorry for the kid. To be subjected to such vitriol in front of his family on the most important night of his young life, I thought to be unfair. At least he’ll be well prepared for the day he misses six or seven straight jumpers in front of the home crowd.
Following Gallinari’s selection, a rumor floated around that David Lee had been traded for the Charlotte Bobcats’ point guard, Raymond Felton, and a future first round pick. The rumor was completely believable. The Knicks were reportedly shopping Lee. And since they drafted another forward who could shoot, Lee became even more expendable. Not to mention, everyone knows the Knicks are looking for a new point guard to run Coach Mike D’Antoni’s high octane system.
Rumors like this one are a product of sitting in the upper section of the Theater. The biggest complaint I have is that you cannot hear the ESPN crew comment on the draft picks or report breaking news like a major trade. Occasionally, you could hear Stephen A. Smith blurt out a question, but that’s about it. In other words, you’re kind of in the dark.
Until the second round, at least. That’s when the bottom section of the theater empties. And the hardcore fans slip down, toward the front. The seats that once occupied the beautiful people, suddenly start sitting guys like me. From the new vantage point, you can not only see better, but actually hear what’s going on as the speakers pick up ESPN’s coverage.
Now you almost feel like you’re at home watching the draft on television. Every year I tell myself that I’m going to sit this one out and watch it on TV like almost everyone else. But come Draft Day 2009, you can probably find me sitting in Section 305 atop the WaMu Theater.