So I’m never particularly tuned into the world of professional basketball unless I’m trying to tease my associate managing editor Eric He on the rare occasion that his beloved Golden State Warriors lose. But this weekend, the New York Knicks did something that caught my eye.
The Knicks don’t have a lot going for them, with a 26-38 record setting the tone for another disappointing season for faithful fans. But on Sunday, they hit the right note in their first half against the Warriors.
No, they didn’t knock off the
so-called Best Team in America. But the Knicks made the decision to cut out all the antics that are so typical of the NBA — the T-shirt cannons and loud music and constant egging on from the loudspeakers. It was refreshing, a break from the showmanship of the league to focus on the game that actually mattered.
On the same day, I attended my first NBA game at the Staples Center. It wasn’t a bad game, ending with a scrappy comeback by the Los Angeles Lakers and a tight finish by the New Orleans Pelicans. But after three hours of witnessing “NBA magic,” I was exhausted by all of the extracurriculars that came with the game.
As the Lakers’ introductions began, the lights dropped and spotlights spun around the haphazard crowd in the Staples Center. In the course of the Lakers’ 105-97 loss to New Orleans, the program ran its crowd through a gamut of flashy song-and-dance routines, complete with everything from kiss cams to Star Wars sound effects during free throws.
Yet the most genuine — and the loudest — moments of crowd interaction came without any artificial prompting at all. No spotlights, no announcer, no cheesy organ playing or early-2000s hip hop music were required to get the crowd rowdy when the game called for it.
The fans roared when their players slammed down a hammer dunk in the first quarter and shook the backboard with a ferocious block in the second. They booed fiercely whenever DeMarcus Cousins took to the free throw line and slung heartfelt insults at the referees whenever a call went against the Lakers.
It wasn’t the loudest crowd I’ve ever heard — that would be the Kansas Jayhawks in their third overtime against Oklahoma last season — and it wasn’t the most involved, either. But that’s to be expected when a team is sitting at the bottom of their conference with a 19-43 record. And for a team with that record and those prospects, those fans were doing their very best.
That’s the thing about fans. They don’t need fancy lights or over-the-top intros. They know their role — chant taunts after an airball, hold their breaths during free throws and holler at the referees after every call. There are many things that fans want, including winning seasons and championship rings, but they really only need some heart, a voice and a pair of hands to slap together to fulfill their main purpose on the sidelines.
That’s one of the reasons I adore college ball so much. I come from the Midwest, where college teams are just as big of a deal as their professional counterparts. Earlier this season, half of my high school classmates helped to break a Guinness record for sound produced by a crowd at a Kansas basketball game.
Those games don’t need anything but a band and 16,000 rowdy fans to create the type of intimidating atmosphere that sends opposing teams packing. So why should NBA games be any different?
There isn’t necessarily a need to cut all of the antics out of the NBA — I’ll never begrudge a team its chance to launch free T-shirts into the crowd or kill time during halftime with a fan 3-point shooting contest.
But the Lakers could learn something from the Knicks, and from the wild world of college ball — killing some of the effects and letting their fans do the talking. They might find out that the crowd is stronger than they expected.
Julia Poe is a sophomore studying print and digital journalism. She is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, Poe’s Perspective, runs on Wednesdays.