This year’s Community Day was a three day event that incorporated the 2007 NBA Draft and featured a little bit of sight-seeing. Aside from a brief stop in Honolulu last year on the way to Vancouver, this was my first time in the United States so I was excited to see a bit of New York in between the community events. For those of you who are unaware, I’m in Australia so getting to New York was an 18+ hour adventure that included a stop at LAX, where I fortunately boarded the correct connecting flight and continued on to the Big Apple.
If you read the Q&A I did for the official NBA Live 08 website (go to EA at the Draft and click “Community Q&A” if you haven’t already seen it) you will have read that I spent quite a bit of money at the NBA Store; over $450 US to be precise, a spree that included a Ben Gordon road authentic. I actually made a second trip to the NBA Store later in the week to pick up an Andrew Bogut authentic home jersey as well. I turned a little green when I got home and checked my credit card statement but the exchange rate wasn’t too unkind and it’s hardly a spending spree I’ll be embarking on regularly, so I’d still have to say it was worth the debt, which should be gone in a few weeks. Anyone who’s had to suffer through credit card debt and interest before will know what I’m talking about when I say it isn’t fun.
For those who haven’t been to the NBA Store, it’s a very cool complex with three levels of NBA merchandise and plenty of memorabilia adorning the walls. Definitely worth the trip if you’re an NBA fan visiting New York. If someone gave me a few thousand dollars to go crazy in there, I guarantee you I could spend every last cent.
The first night we all met up and went to Rub’s BBQ for a Draft party hosted by EA Sports. Gilbert Arenas and Kevin Durant were in attendance and the game was on display, though gaming time was restricted to media members (like the guys from IGN) so we stood back and watched. I didn’t get to meet Arenas or Durant personally but it was cool to see them there all the same. I heard that Agent Zero ended up scoring around 48 points with himself in one of the games he played. We finished off the night back at the hotel bar where we had a few drinks and talked video games and sports, capping off the night with a round of shots that Jeff sprung on us, a rib to which I must tip my hat.
The second day was all about the game. I won’t go into detail about my impressions here as I’ve talked about them elsewhere in the Community section but it should be mentioned that we had a tournament for an NBA Live 08 jersey that had been signed by all the rookies who participated in the EA Draft Camp. I took on Bryan (Pastapadre) in the first round in a battle of the diehard fans (Bulls vs Sonics). I had the upper hand for a while but Pasta came storming back in the third quarter as he lit me up with Ray Allen and I found myself trailing late in the fourth as the rest of the guys looked on. Down by one in the final seconds and with a chance to win, the play broke down and Pasta moved on, the loss in the 1996 NBA Finals finally avenged. Every game in the tournament was a close battle up until the final minutes of the championship game, which made for a fun time. Mario from the official NBA Live 08 boards walked away with the prize as his Suns proved to be unbeatable.
On the third day we had breakfast in the hotel then headed out to Madison Square Garden. It wasn’t a bad tour though the mystique of the sports arenas was kind of spoiled by the banners for Elton John and Billy Joel, two great artists but banners that nevertheless seemed out of place across from retired jerseys and Stanley Cup championships. Unfortunately the Knicks’ court and lockerroom decorations were in storage but I still reckon the tour was worth it, if only to see a big Isiah Thomas poster with “Experience the Vision” in huge letters and an unfortunate double entendre in the MSG timeline display.
After lunch we visited the offices of DIME magazine where we talked hoops with the staff and a Fight Night grudge match took place. While we were at the office the guys mentioned the rumoured Ray Allen to Boston deal which ultimately went through, something Will ribbed Pasta about all the way to the Draft later that night.
The Draft itself was a fantastic experience. I’m still hoping to see a game live one day but for me it was great just to be at a live NBA event. We were sitting in the fourth row right in front of the ESPN crew so we had a pretty good view of the proceedings. During the commercial breaks they showed the various NBA Action top ten countdowns of the season on the big screens. I’m pleased to say that Tyrus Thomas’ block and dunk on the fast break got one of the best reactions of all the clips shown.
The reaction from Knicks fans when the Zach Randolph trade was announced was incredible. I’m not sure how it came across on TV but the crowd was hot for that announcement. The selection of Wilson Chandler also brought a huge ovation and even a chant, which soon faded as a few fans seemingly realised they didn’t know much about him (I actually hadn’t heard of him until Draft night). There was also a huge Florida contingent at the Draft who cheered wildly whenever a Gator got picked.
We left around 10:30 as the first round was coming to a close, though we were still there when the guys who heckled Stephen A. Smith last year started heckling him again. Seeing him react to the guys and telling them to go get him some cheese doodles was hilarious, as was seeing Mark Jackson trying to avoid the whole situation when the guys briefly turned their attention to him.
The evening brought the event to a close after three memorable days of hanging out and playing the game, talking sports and even theories behind a seventh Rocky movie. A huge thanks to Marcus for organising the event, he and Will did an awesome job of hosting us. Thanks also to Shawn, Pasta, Mario and DJ Rhude, it was great meeting everyone and hanging out during the event. Don’t forget to check out their sites for their Community Day recaps and their impressions of NBA Live 08.