First of all, let me say to anyone who wants to dispute the tagline’s claim that this is in fact the blog for NBA fanatics that I drove a total of more than six hours in order to attend this D-League affair. It was a long time in the car (even for a person who enjoys being in the car), and gas turned out to cost almost twice what a ticket to the game did, but hey, I did what I had to do to see Ricky Davis play for the Maine Red Claws. I’d definitely do it again, and I hope he sticks with the team long enough to make that possible.
Upon arriving at The Portland Expo, a high-school-sized gym in a city of about 65,000, I was immediately surprised by how many people had shown up. I got there about 45 minutes early and folks had already begun to file in. The seats never filled completely, but by the time the game started the scene looked like this…
This is the first D-League game I’ve actually attended, but I’ve watched my fair share of ‘em on NBAtv and what I’ve seen has never compared to this–not even close. I don’t know if it was the Ricky Davis effect or what, but there were a lot of people there who were very enthusiastic about basketball. Considering that it was their second home game in two nights I was especially surprised by the great turnout. There were lots of kids in the building, and the Red Claws did a nice job of providing them with all sorts of fun activities during breaks in the action. There was a lot more to this whole deal than I expected; they had cheerleaders, a mascot, t-shirt tosses, etc. At one point the PA announcer belted out, “whoooo waaaaants…………” …a t-shirt, of course… “A PIZZA?!” A pizza? Okay, they’re giving away coupons for free pizzas, that’s cool. Oh, here comes the mascot with an actual pizza fresh out the damn oven for some lucky bastard who probably wasn’t as hungry as I was. T-shirt giveaways are cool, but a pizza? That was unexpected, yet awesome. It was a large one too, and form a legitimate pizza shop.
As for the actual game, the much-anticipated Ricky Davis sighting commenced sometime around the start of the second quarter. He received a pretty solid ovation despite his underwhelming play in his first two games with the team.
It didn’t take him long to score a scrappy bucket…
…but, unfortunately, the ugly aspects of that play are most indicative of them game he and the Red Claws had. After going into halftime trailing by a few scores they failed to put a single point on the board for what seemed like an eternity. I think they were stuck on 30 points for a solid six or seven minuts, and at that point the Rio Grande Valley Vipers had pulled out to a ~20-point lead. It was never again close, and the star of the show continued to clunk jumper after jumper (Ricky finished with 8 points on 4-13), but I still had a blast. D-League games aren’t really about who wins anyway, so a 104-81 final wasn’t a huge disappointment. The Vipers had a few high-flying forwards who got out and ran the floor along with an impressive point guard by the name of Kelvin Lewis, who scored a game-high 19 points. They were definitely the better of the two teams.
Anyway, back to Ricky Davis. Although he shot poorly and his team got clobbered, I was impressed with his enthusiasm. Here’s a guy who played over a decade’s worth of NBA basketball with a career average of 13.5 PPG, and he appears to be genuinely excited about playing some minor league ball in a little redneck city. That certainly took me by surprise. Davis was easily the team’s most frequent towel waver and the most vocal player on the floor. That was actually the best thing about the entire game… he never stopped flapping his jaws, and it was hilarious. He barked on defense, he barked on offense, he talked sh!t with fans, and he made his feelings known to officials. After one play during which he felt his teammate got fouled, he stared at the ref for a moment before loudly exclaiming, “COME ON, BROTHA!” On another possession he was busy high fiving fans as he spotted up in the corner. Had someone thrown him the ball it probably would’ve hit him in the back of the head.
The overall impression I came away with is that Ricky’s got some work to do if he wants to get buckets in the league again, but the dude has even more swag than I had ever imagined. He shot 4-13 and was still the coolest dude in the building. He could’ve shot 0-13 and it wouldn’t have mattered. He has this unexplainable charisma; a super-fly aura about him that’s un-dislikable. I always knew Ricky Buckets was a cool motherf@cker–that’s why he’s a favorite player of mine–but seeing him in person made me realize just how impeccable his swag really is. Five-star, top-notch, unbelievable swag; this is what the man possesses. I felt honored just to be in the presence of such swag, and I hope a little bit of it rubbed off on me.
Apparently it did not. For me to be photographed with my eyes open it takes perfect lighting conditions and about five or six attempts. Oh well… eyes open or not, I have blurry photographic proof that I once met the man who defines one of my favorite qualities found in human beings, and what this blog is all about.