Let’s go Raptors, let’s go!… Wait… wrong team! That’s right; it’s my first basketball game outside of Toronto. For a big basketball fan like me, I’m surprised I have never been to a game in another city. I have been to countless Toronto games, especially since I have season seats, but never have I been to a game in another arena than the Air Canada Center.
But first thing’s first; this is not a review of the game, as that would be boring, unless you are into stats, and analytics. So, after booking my trip to Florida, and realizing I would be there for the final home game in Orlando, I knew I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity, especially with how cheap tickets were. Another great thing about the Orlando game was that I would be seeing two former Toronto Raptor players. First, there is Bismack Biyombo, who played for us last season, before signing a deal with the Orlando Magic during the summer. Then there is Terrence Ross who was drafted by the Raptors in 2012, and was traded to the Magic in February of this year. Both players were definite fan favourites, and to see them leave was sad; but that’s the way the NBA goes.
A couple weeks approaching the date of the game, I got an e-mail saying that our game was “Fan Appreciation Night,” due to it being the final home game of the season. Now, I knew that the final home games in Toronto were “Fanapalooza” but didn’t really give any thought to final games anywhere else. These nights are ways in which the team and organization try to give back, and thank all the fans for their support. There are small events around the arena, more in-game entertainment, and a TON of extra giveaways, in comparison to usual. Because of all this, it built up more excitement for the game.
As the game day came, we reached the arena and were about to head inside, before a security guard said no backpacks. I was like seriously? What the hell?! Why can’t I take my backpack into the arena? I didn’t care if they checked it or anything, but it became a hassle because I had to return all the way back to where we parked the car, and leave me bag – which also included my camera and GoPro. I did not feel like holding on to and carrying them in my hands the whole time (which is why I carry my backpack). Anyways, that limited my pictures to whatever I was able to capture on my phone. Which btw, needs a definite upgrade.
After we finally got into the arena, we were walking around the ground level, and one of the pre-game events that they had going on was to meet and get pictures/autographs with the Orlando Magic cheerleaders. There was quite a line-up but it went pretty quickly, as in about 10 minutes we were done and continued to our seats. The arena itself is quite big and brightly lit, but as soon as your make your way into the seated section, it gets dark. Now this is a big contrast to the Air Canada Center in Toronto as the vendor/shop section is darker, but inside the seating area it is brightly lit. Honestly, I preferred the lighting in the Amaway Center much more. When you are sitting down in upper bowl, its dark, and the only light you are getting is from the jumbotron and the court itself. It gives it a more intimate setting and more focus towards the court.
The jumbotron definitely has Toronto beat as it has screens on top of the main screen, so they can show even larger videos (which is great for people further back). I wasn’t able to get a picture of all the screens being used at once to project one image, but you can see from the picture above what I mean. One thing I have to give Orlando credit for is when they are doing the introductions for the opposing team, they actually give some enthusiasm and they show each players picture on their jumbotron. In Toronto, no one really even knows when the opposing team is being introduced unless you are carefully paying attention. The atmosphere during the game was amazing. It can’t be compared to the hype and excitement during a Toronto Raptors game but considering both the Orlando Magic and the Detroit Pistons (opposing team) had no chance of making the playoffs, and this game didn’t really mean anything, the fans were still getting into it. They were cheering from beginning to end, and every time a chant would start everyone went along. One perk that watching a game in Toronto had, was that if the team scored over 100 points, everyone could take their tickets to Pizza Pizza the following day and get a free slice. In Orlando, their perk was that if the team scores 5 or more 3-pointers then everyone would be able to get a free strawberry-lemonade from Chick-Fil-A the next day. Although it was just a small drink, it was pretty cool because they were able to reach that goal in just the first quarter.
Orlando lead for majority of the game by a decent margin, until the final few minutes when Detroit was able to catch up, and it came down to the final seconds of play. One thing I love about basketball in comparison to other sports are those last seconds where the game can drastically change. It gives much more hype and excitement. Overall the game was really good, and I am quite happy I was able to attend this game as my first outside of Toronto. Although it was a great game, and an amazing expereience, nothing will compare to a Raptors game in Toronto (might be a biased opinion). I look forward to attending more in different cities, expecially one in Boston (my second favourite team) when they finally make their return to the NBA finals.
Have you ever been to a basketball game before? Where? And how was it?