At the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans they serve frozen daiquiris, at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta there is a barbershop, at the FedExForum in Memphis they play regularly, from the Oscar-winning film Congestion and Flow“Hey that trick.”
Fortunately, all three teams is currently in the off-season. The Memphis Grizzlies, No. 2, are preparing for their first-round matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans have play-in games on Friday. Whenever the Grizzlies are in the off-season, their audiences show up, and last night both audiences in Atlanta and New Orleans brought the energy they are sometimes reviled for not having on a nightly basis.
For most teams, it takes an off-season race for the fans to really get in the spirit that allows the energy to be felt through the TV set, and hopefully the Pelicans and Hawks win their games on Friday, so in at least one playoff round we can everyone has the treat of these three unique metropolitan areas that bring all the crunk to a few games.
The beauty of the NBA is that the games are more intimate. The players are not hidden by shoulder pads and ball caps, and arenas generally accommodate no more than 18,000 people. So it’s common to see Patrick Beverley tease the crowd up in Minnesota by jumping on the goal scorers’ table and throwing his shirt down in the stands, or Joakim Noah running around the court’s high-fiving fans after a triple overtime victory. Legendary sports writer Frank Deford once described the NBA as having more sex appeal than the other sports, and I understand where he came from. Because the fans are so much closer to the pitch, there are only 10 players at a time, and they do not carry equipment, it gives viewers a greater opportunity to be attracted to the game because they can see everything. You get a full experience of watching the matches, and when you watch the Pelicans, Hawks and Grizzlies play at home, part of that experience is the culture.
Memphis is a unique city for several reasons. First, its metropolitan area includes northern Mississippi and western Arkansas. It’s a southern experience quite different from the rest of Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains. In the corner of Memphis, they have some Mississippi blues for the grill, and it’s also a town that, as Ja Morant said of his Grizzlies, “does not dodge smoke, it runs up the chimney.” Bone Thugs & Harmony got to see it on their own during their Versuz match against Three 6 Mafia. Never forget what the perception was of Zach Randolph’s career and personality when he first came to Memphis. He’s pretty much an honorary mayor for life now.
When you first arrive in New Orleans, you will look around and ask yourself if you are still in America. The French, Caribbean and Spanish influences were all boiled together into fascinating gumbo that you can walk around all day and never get bored. It is also a place where you can find a foam party at. 15.30 and buy your own second line parade for $ 300 if the mood strikes you. It’s also more of a basketball town than you think. The Pelicans have, on average, had a capacity of over 90 percent for some years, and that is with a team that has finished over 0.500 three times since 2010. Also Mannie Fresh and Juvenile performed by the break of the finals of the regular season, and any team that gives their fans those kind of treats is okay with me.
Atlanta, this is a place where I saw a long peanut butter-colored car roll down the street during the car and bike show time of year, and on the side of the car were the words “peanut butter.” It’s the type of place that might have a DJ and a karaoke contest at a bar during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and eating outside means a party bus blazing Migos can intrude on your conversation. This is a place that makes things BIG, and the Hawks made sure to keep up with the stadium renovations – there is a real club in the arena as well as the hairdresser. Atlanta has a reputation for not supporting its teams, but forgiving the community for having other options when the teams are boring. However, go to a United football game or a Hawks playoff game. You will quickly see that if you give people something worth supporting, they will make it just as great as they do everything else.
Three big American cities, all different, but they all embrace the same, fun. And while yesterday’s play-in games in Atlanta and New Orleans were nowhere near as compelling as the Timberwolves and Clippers game on Tuesday, the environment in both arenas was hype, and it felt as always much like the cities that both teams represent. . So I want to go after all three teams can reach as far as they can because I like NBA basketball, I like a good time, and I like that these three teams embrace the culture of their cities and can have moments as a whole crowd shouts “Hey that trick!”