Last night, I covered the NBA Draft from the Barclays Center for my student paper, and I’m not sure why.
The draft, like the majority of sports-related events, is something best seen from your couch. The Barclays Center is fine—there’s a Shake Shack across the street, which is cool—and the setup with all the bright lights and big names is entertaining for the first 30 minutes when you’re just walking around taking pictures. But once the draft started, I was pretty confused as to why I—or any other reporter—was there, other than the fact that it helped my Deadspin mission to update our live-blog with photos of the people covering it.
Once Adam Silver comes out on stage and starts his schtick, reporters suddenly become completely uninterested in what’s happening in front of them, and are instead glued to their Twitter feeds, because that’s where are the real news is being broken.
It’s not exactly a secret that Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski more or less owns the night. Every year, he wins the epic dick-measuring contest that is the race to announce picks on Twitter before Silver can reach the podium, and it’s not really that close a race. I’m not even sure if he got beat once in the lottery this year. A reporter on press row’s night went something like this: Stare at TweetDeck until Woj announces the next pick, type up your own tweet announcing the pick, wait until Silver officially announces the pick to send said tweet, rinse, repeat. It’s all pretty silly.
So, really, if you can get all the info you need on Twitter, what’s the point of being there? Some reporters would say, “You’ve got to go for the press conferences—we need sound!” But that’s not true, either. Every lottery pick gets asked the same 10 questions— “Were you surprised that (insert team here) drafted you?”, “What do you think about the city?”, “HOW ARE THEY GOING TO PLAY THREE CENTERS?!”, etc.—and are then shuffled away to take phone calls and hit up the post-draft party, which is not open to press. After that, even if you get lost in the bowels of the Barclays Center like I did and missed a part of a certain player’s press conference, the NBA puts the quotes online for you, already typed out. The internet is a beautiful thing.
I suppose the event is for the fans—who also happen to be the worst part of the experience. How so, you ask? At the start of the night, I had the pleasure of listening to a group of Brooklyn Nets fans yell, “Brook-lyn” for about 20 minutes. Which, fine. You love your team, I get it, I guess. I’m a Hornets fan, so my enthusiasm went out the window when we took Frank the Tank.
Then, for at least 30 minutes, after 75 percent of the New York and L.A. fans had drained out of the place, I got to listen to seven mayo-bro fans yell at Jay Bilas and Jalen Rose. They weren’t even yelling insults; they just wanted the guys to look at them. And when Bilas and Rose stiffed them, the bros turned it up a notch, shouting out tweets, Young Jeezy quotes and “I gotta go to work.” Finally, around pick No. 50 or so, Rose raised his hand and waved to the crowd, which in turn lost its shit. That was about the point I packed it up and hit the road.
The draft had its moments, though. The most memorable came from a player that probably won’t pan out and wasn’t on anyone’s radar at the start of the night. Sitting to my right in the stands amongst the crowd was Satnam Singh, a 7-foot-2 guy from India. When the Dallas Mavericks selected him with the 52nd-overall pick, Singh broke down, crying and hugging his family, and the remaining fans who had made their way down to the lower bowl gave him a standing ovation. It was a nice moment.
But even with Singh’s tears, the draft wasn’t the best part of the night. On the way back to Manhattan, I was sitting on the subway with about 20 people or so when some guys, presumably Knicks fans, sat down at the other end of the car started talking about the draft. Things got pretty lit.
“The guy they drafted was 7-foot tall and 205. Everyone in here could body him!”
“Phil Jackson don’t know anything!”
“Winslow was so good, but the Knicks said, ‘Nah we don’t want him. Give us the tall skinny guy. We’ll coach him.’”
They went on for a bit, yelling loud enough for me to hear them clear as day over the music that was blasting in my headphones, and one of them kept standing up out of his seat to make his point. I can’t exactly say they were having fun, but their draft-night experience was surely more valuable than my own.
Top Photo: AP