I received an early Christmas gift tonight: a row one ticket to tonight’s New York Knicks versus Utah Jazz NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. I’ve had a close seat to an NBA game one other time, but this seat was three rows closer. And those three rows make a big difference. In my opinion, watching an NBA game from close seats is the premier sports fan experience.
Row 1 in section 6 is right behind the Jazz bench, but it’s actually the fourth row up from the floor. The players’ bench is row A. The assistant coaches occupy row B. Row C is the first row open to the public. Row 1 is next.
I arrived at the arena early. I went to my seat and sat down to watch shoot-around. A couple minutes later, an usher approached and asked to see my ticket. She read the fine print for a second and announced, “your ticket comes with dinner.” I was surprised, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Am I getting a free hot dog, or something? The directions to retrieve this “dinner” were overly complicated for a reward as meager as a hot dog.
I didn’t quite understand her directions, so I stopped to ask the ushers guarding the locker room where to go. Then I had to ask other ushers where to go once I got to the second floor. It became clear at each stop that my ticket was likely granting me access to a VIP area. Eventually, I arrived at the VIP dining room, which offered an all-you-can-eat buffet and soft drinks. I had a salad, potatoes, lemon rice, and beef tenderloin with gravy. I ate quickly because I wanted to get back to my seat to watch warm-ups.
Being that close to the court, I was among most of the “famous” people associated with the Jazz. Thurl Bailey (former NBA player and a Jazz studio show host) was hanging out near my seat and said hi to me when I first arrived. I also ran across David Locke (radio play-by-play), Ron Boone (former NBA player and radio color analyst), Matt Harpring (former NBA player and TV color analyst), and Craig Bolerjack (TV play-by-play). Kenny Albert (Knicks TV play-by-play) and Walt “Clyde” Frazier (NBA Hall of Famer and Knicks TV color analyst) were a short distance away doing their pre-game work for MSG. And, of course, the players were all right there. Shortly before the game started, Kyle Whittingham, the Utah Utes’ head football coach, passed by me to get to his seat near half-court. It was quite the scene.
The game was a blowout. The Utah Jazz established a large lead early and never let the Knicks back in the game. The biggest stars on both teams, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks, and Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors of the Jazz played sparingly in the second half of the game. Despite the lopsided result, the game was still enjoyable to watch from those seats. The players’ size, skill, and quickness are even more obvious from that close.
And it looks like I ended up on being on TV all night…