Seven things I learned from my first NBA game

The Sport Review's Kieran Beckles attended his first NBA game on Monday night as Golden State Warriors beat Miami Heat 97-80

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles at The Oracle Arena
Golden State Warriors' No30 Stephen Curry Photo: Noah Salzman / Wikimedia

Curry, the superstar

Attending my first NBA game, Stephen Curry was the player who I was excited to see. Following Golden State from the UK and then from California over the past 24 months, Curry was the name synonymous with the Warriors. Wherever you go in San Francisco and the Bay Area, the No30 Curry shirt is visible. With a squeaky clean reputation only enhanced after managing to incur the wrath of President Donald Trump, Curry can do little wrong. It’s easy to see why Curry is so popular. Kevin Durant may have won the NBA Finals MVP last season, but Curry draws the biggest cheer from the Oracle crowd. He’s Golden State’s golden star. Having spent so much time watching Premier League football where players like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Philippe Coutinho have thrilled with their ability to manipulate the ball with their feet, it was a new thrill to see Curry’s delicate but incisive passing. The 2015 MVP came to life with in the second half. He didn’t quite make the splash I was expecting from the three-point line, something which he alluded to when speaking to media after the Warriors’ 97-80 win against the Miami Heat.

Timeouts – and breaks

Living in San Francisco and watching a lot of sport on television, I’ve slowly adjusted to the incessant interruptions in the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB. While I wouldn’t describe myself as a purist in Premier League terms, there is something to be said for the ebb and flow of a football game. I’ve been hardwired to expect 45 minutes of uninterrupted action (or 40 minutes with rugby union). With a maximum if 12 timeouts, four quarters and a half-time break, there are lots of breaks. While I thought this would take some getting used to and could become irritating, it had did have its perks. There is a chance to check out the running commentary on social media. There is an opportunity to jot down copy. Let’s be honest, who watches a Premier League games without regularly checking Twitter? The smartphone is a constant companion amongst most Premier League fans these days. However, the breaks in play allow you to focus on the short bursts of action without any distractions. Also, the stop-start nature of basketball allows for Kevin Durant to produce an explosive bursts to the ring, or the Warriors to go on a thrilling run before the whistle goes and the Oracle fans get to savour the magic.

Premier League and NBA fans have something in common

Tradition dictates that English fans love an old-fashioned tackle in the Premier League. Stadiums such as Anfield fed of a Steven Gerrard sliding tackle. Stamford Bridge would be on its feet when John Terry’s well-timed challenge dispossessed an opponent striker in a dangerous position. When you think of basketball, LeBron James barreling down the court and throwing down a slam dunk or the swoosh of the net after Steph Curry sinks a three comes to mind. But the Oracle Arena applauded a ferocious block just as loudly. Draymond Green had the Warriors fans on their feet on a number of occasions when he swatted the ball away from a Miami Heat opponent. Despite the NBA’s glitz and glamour, like the Premier League, some fine defensive play has a certain appeal.

The atmosphere

In a word: loud. While chants and songs from the terrace are common place in Premier League stadiums, the Orace Arena’s atmosphere was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. It was light-hearted but passionate. Of course, it’s only game six at The Oracle this season. Hence, the lack of tension. With 72 games over the course of a regular season, Warriors and their NBA rivals have room for slip-ups. Of course every timeout was filled with entertainment to keep the crowd pumped. In the Premier League, a three-point swing can make a huge difference. Another quirk as a Premier League writer making the transition to the NBA is the PA blasting out music during play. It’s audible on TV but in the venue itself, the music is deafening. One Warriors move had a soundtrack before possession was turned over and the music stopped. Just picture a Manchester City passing move being accompanied with some upbeat pop. Perhaps Liverpool should consider introducing Golden State’s “Defence” track.

Thoughtful Durant

Most press conferences in the Premier League and the Champions League are pretty dull affairs. Expect plenty of cliches. Expect brief answers. So it was a welcome surprise to sit down after the Warriors beat Miami Heat to see the reigning Finals MVP engage with journalists. The 29-year-old gave thoughtful answers and kept referencing a stat sheet provided. The access in NBA is on a different level to football in Europe. No wonder NBA fans seem more in tune with the players. His coach Steve Kerr was also engaging, which makes a change from listening to disgruntled Jose Mourinho or agitated Pep Guardiola.

Star-Spangled banner

Another difference between the Premier League and the NBA is the national anthem. The Star-Spangled banner is a ritual before the start of the game. Of course, most sports fans will be aware of this tradition in American sports given the NFL-Trump controversy in recent months. It certainly got the Oracle crowd warmed up for 48 minutes of basketball.

High-scoring games, low-scoring Warriors

In conversations with some Americans since moving Stateside, their complaint about Premier League football is the lack of goals. How can a 90 minute sporting event finish, 1-0, or even worse 0-0. Given Warriors averaged more points than any other NBA in the 16-17 regular season (115.9 per game) and are the leading point-scorers in 17-18 (118.5), expectations were high. However, I caught the reigning NBA champions on a low-scoring night. Just the 97 points for Kerr’s men.

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