Sitting among a crowd of 4000 frenzied red-t-shirt wearing fans at the final home game for the Perth Wildcats on Sunday took me back to the mid 90s when I was around six or seven and basketball was huge. Back when collecting basketball cards was the cool thing to do and you looked up to sporting stars like Andrew Vlahov, Ricky Grace and James Crawford. While the enthusiasm for the National Basketball League has gone quiet for the past decade, the 2010-2011 season has seen the sport return in all of its glory.
Forget football, watching the NBL is more like watching a show than a sport. It was almost hard to keep up with the chanting, the clapping, the standing ovations, the booing, the cheering, the cheerleaders dancing, the competitions and all of the sound bites – not to mention a live music performance at half time. Much like listening to a radio station, the national basketball league games aim to keep you enthralled every second of the way. From the opening light show to the handshaking at the close, you never find yourself coming up with excuses to leave your seat except to cheer on your home team.
To be honest I didn’t even pay much attention to the game. All I could think of was how difficult it was going to be for our Wildcats to win the next two games away before the finals if our home crowd was anything to go by. The amount of booing and hand waving and chanting of “defence!” while the opposing team attempted to score was infectious. Even as a relative newcomer, I found myself shouting out the occasional “boo” when the opposing team scored a goal. The Gold Coast Blaze certainly had their work cut out for them with the amount of negativity coming from all sides.
Despite the gimmicky setting, the game itself was rough. The umpires got hammered every time they made a call on the home team and the players themselves never missed an opportunity to heckle guys on the other team. The crowds, ever eager to participate, were also the first to jump out of their seats with guns blazing. For a game that spans just 40 minutes, the amount of penalty shots saw the play time stretched to more than double that.
It also saw some spectacular rivalry. Gold Coast Blaze needed the win to make it to the playoffs while the Perth Wildcats were playing to make it to their 25th consecutive playoff. Wildcats Centre player, Matt Knight, put in a hard effort scoring 21 points and seven rebounds. Despite Blaze Shooting Guard, James Harvey’s consecutive three-point plays, the team was well behind on the final buzzer, losing out by 21 points.
And that is about all I can remember of the actual game play. Nevertheless, you don’t need to follow basketball religiously, or even know what is going on, to enjoy it. After last Sunday’s game we can safely say this grasshopper supporter is back in the stands. Bring on the finals!
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