It’s been quite a while between drinks for my ‘Weekend Shout’ column, a wrap up of the weekends happenings, however I felt compelled to compile my thoughts, my experiences and what I learned basically in Melbourne for a three day sporting bucket list moment.
By Aaron Callaghan
Basketball is my game. I buy NBA 2K every year, yes, it’s the same thing every year, same guys, same teams, similar gameplay, slightly better graphics but I buy it every year. Point is I love hoops. I have played since I was five including three junior representative games for my town/city before being unceremoniously dumped in favour of a taller, faster, more athletic, better shooting and faster power forward, having said that I am convinced if I was at least 6 foot 10 I would be on an NBA roster right now, probably a bench glue guy, good locker room presence so when Team USA was coming to town, to play against my Boomers, of whom over the years I’ve sat up watching to all hours on weird European FIBA ball streams, I was all in. I sold my meta-data for pre-sale priority, I lined up virtually on the website coughed up several hundred in bitcoin and I had tickets to see Team USA in AUSTRALIA.
Life is grand.
As the event drew closer and the big names took a deli-counter ticket to take turns pulling out of the event, I was annoyed, however somewhat expected, maybe not to the extent of which it ended up, but as an informed observer who religiously watches NBL, FIBA ball and the NBA, I knew the top superstars would eschew the international series and the World Cup, but the team which arrived on our shores was still worthy of the price of admission, of which I was on level one at $190 per ticket and had a supreme viewing angle approximately 20 metres behind the premium Bunnings chairs. I watched enthralled as Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown were able at times to blow by defenders like they were standing still, their supreme athleticism was a sight to behold, in Thursday’s game one Kembla Walker crossed up an Australian defender and I even lost sight of the Walker for a split second from 100 metres away, the thought of trying to guard him is frightening.
Game two was an experience an Australian basketball fan will cherish forever and I was there in the nosebleed section trying to entertain a toddler and will Patty Mills to carry the Boomers to victory, in a performance that will be forever remembered one of the greatest in the Australian green and gold basketball singlets. Mills poured in 30 points on 10-22 shooting, moreover Mills was a relief valve for the Boomers offence against the USA defence consisting of rangy, switchy defenders. It matters not that the USA didn’t have their best guys on the court, Australia was without their own key ingredients leaving four NBL guys to step up. Chris Goulding’s perimeter shooting is extremely valuable, he doesn’t miss with the Molten and his defence is quite adequate, he steps it up a notch in the green and gold.
Australians have an affinity with the NBA and a very quickly growing love affair with basketball which has outpaced the lofty mid 1990’s for uptake in the game and key National Basketball League metrics such as attendance and social media interaction. Basketball is alive in the land down under and growing, to have over 100 000 spectators for two games in a huge leading indicator of future success. It was alleged there was over 100 NBA staff and executives in Australia for the event, take of that what you will - NBA pre-season games down under in the coming years?
The price I paid for admission was worth it all, I can’t obviously speak for the Bunnings lawn chair ticket holders however it truly was the greatest experience I’ve had in attending live sports.
Life is grand.
The Cherry on Top
To call the Essendon Bombers v Collingwood Pagpies game a throw in on the sporting weekend is a complete disservice to the spectacle, however I did decide to attend on a whim and I’m glad I did. The Melbourne Cricket Ground under lights for a traditional rivalry steeped heavily in tradition, my AFL followings is limited the Sydney Swans which might rank second or third on the channel surfing hierarchy, a Friday night game at the SCG is good viewing, all this aside the pre-match is something on a different plane that the National Rugby League could only ever hope to emulate 50% of. The day of the game the colours come out, business people in Melbourne’s CBD wearing expensive suits still find a spot for a scarf or beanie and the banter from the preceding four days hits over drive.
Access to the ‘G from Melbourne’s CBD is enough to make an Sydney-ite green with jealous envy, one could get a tram from anywhere straight to the ground, where as getting a bus out to Moore Park and a sherpa-led expedition to Homebush are both laborious tasks. Well played Melbourne.
With 80 000 screaming Aussie rules fans, it’s often hard to hear the person beside you at the ‘G and god forbid you be mid sentence and a player is tackled without disposing of the ball when having the opportunity to do so;
A truly great weekend of sport was enjoyed and the cherry on top was stumbling back to the couch in time to see England get rolled for 67.
Life is grand.