Unicorns from New York couldn’t be believed in tonight. Wall’s from Washington wouldn’t be put up (in one way that’s an extremely good thing and we aren’t talking about the cut deck of the House of Guards). And there were even warrants out for Enes Kanter’s arrest from the Turkish government. And sitting this one out he felt too that if he traveled to the United Kingdom he could have been the victim of an assassination attempt. This is serious. Let’s stand by him like the NBA have, taking care of their own. But let’s not get started on Dwight Howard. Now a former Laker called Bryant has taken his place as the center of attention in Washington. Hash-tag, karma. Hash-tag, soft.
So even before the ball was thrown up like bad concession food, NBA London looked to be done before it even begun. But it was still worth the Norwegian flight, like talking to fans from all over the world in Knicks gear at your hotel about the game over breakfast. Nothing beats it.
Kristaps Porzingis. John Wall. They themselves were two big superstar names no longer on the ticket. Sending a lot of these seats to second seller sites for half the price, from the floor to the Gods. For people like this writer taking BasketballBuzz down south to town to scoop up. And if you read my article last year about the whole Stub Hub fixed fiasco then I’m sorry, but they do say karma’s a b####! Oh…and I’m petty. I used Viagogo.
Still even without two of the most exciting players in the league and so many more stars, there was still so much talent on display even from two teams tanking harder than that R&B singers ‘Nasty’ single. And everything wouldn’t just run through Bradley Beal street with talent like Trevor Ariza and Otto Porter Jr under the Wizard wand. Even the Knicks have an impressive scouting report worth of rookies and star sophomores. Not to mention a big name in the form of the son Tim Hardaway Jr. Making his own name in the game that loves to breed players with identical LeBron, Payton and too many more to name players with the sons of the father same name as their pops.
So it was more just the legends in the Big Smoke for this year’s London game. Like Brit born John Amaechi, who has done more for this game across the pond than any player. As Knicks grit legend John Starks was in Tissot being watched by fans, before joining more of New York’s finest right on time like Charles Smith, Latrell Sprewell and Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe courtside. Whilst former journeyman, All-Star, teammate champions Caron Butler (thanks for the photo op legend) and Shawn Marion were going one-on-one in a fancy restaurant to see who could make the best steak for chef Gordon Ramsay. And it was a rare (pun intended) time for compliments from the ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ host as the Butler had it to The Matrix’s red pill. Talk about Hells Kitchen, New York.
So cue all the Foot Locker, House Of Hoops and Niketowns being decked out in all the ‘New York Forever’ and ‘DC Family’ jerseys as these two teams went to war after photo ops with Tower Bridge, Abbey Road (as Beal, Mystic superstar Elena Delle Donne, 7-foot-7 legend Gheorghe Muresan and the G-Wiz mascot recreated the classic cover of The Beatles album on this streets zebra crossing) and of course the crowing of some social media Sherlock or Shakespeare parody videos. To stereotype. Or not to stereotype. That is never a question. But save the fish and chips jokes because there was more to play for here than climbing the apples and stairs. As the capital of the United States Of America and the world’s most famous city from the world’s most famous arena came together as Big Ben chimed to see who would strike it lucky in this European road trip in the house of hoops parliament. Forget Brooklyn taking on ‘Bron and the Lakers in Shanghai, China. This right now was for the season even if both teams are in the wine cellar. Tonight they were on England’s biggest stage outside of Wembley.
Chelsea, Arsenal, the Spurs…and we aren’t talking about San Antonio. Tonight the soccer city got a taste of a ballgame above the rim. And what a goal the National Basketball Association scored in the United Kingdom. And with rumour having the NBA taking a Eurostar across the Channel to the hoops hotbed of Paris for a future regular season game, the Big Smoke wanted to put a Hogwarts Harry Potter spell on the NBA like the Wizards wanted to the Knicks.
Marking the tenth straight game held in Greenwich’s 02 (formerly known and forever remembered by Brits as the Millennium Dome (a botch failed project, but still an innovative one)). A decade in the making has seen this ten year challenge take a concert venue and turn it after all these years into a legit, bright light bells and auditorium whistles NBA venue, complete with the traditional Association music that plays like an iPod that hasn’t be synced since everyone discovered Spotify…or should I say kind of like my Apple playlists?! So if the NBA blows from the Big Smoke to the City Of Light they will be losing one awesome arena and veterans at hosting the games now. But a relative sedate affair to begin with looked like being a sedative into lulling London into a false sense of one job playing host security.
Despite some big shot and dunks worthy of your nightly top tens this game started off flatter than a Coke Zero left in your cup holder for four quarters. It was nothing to send a postcard home about. But basketball is basketball. And the purists and the tourists love it. But like any night out, this game can change at any second and fans ready to throw their beers were ready to say cheers by the final round. The fan next to me even kindly brought me a Bud (does he know I’m not the guy who profit brought the ticket next to him and couldn’t go? Should I tell him I don’t drink?).
When the Wizards looked like they were running into a brick wall like platform 9 and 3 quarters, Bradley Beal turned it on in the fourth. After starting as quiet as if Beal Street could talk, the guy turned into a winner like the Barry Jenkins ‘Moonlight’ Oscar winning follow up for the Academy. The man that worked out with Kobe this Summer woke up the Mamba Mentality with 26 points 9 rebounds, to go with Porter’s 20 and 11. But 2B was key when he found another Bryant in the paint for the game dagger. Former Laker and South Bay two-way contract switch-hitter, Thomas Bryant switched hands and went for a clutch lay-up that was furiously swatted away by rook Allonzo Trier for a clutch block that sent the London crowd calling. But whilst all this happened Bryant was flexing and jawing down court, bumping his high fiving teammates. Did he not see what just happened?
Turns out that beautiful block was actually a gratuitous goaltender and after more VR than ‘Ready Player One’ the referees were ready to tell us that player one actually had the high score and the official in standing home team abroad, the Washington Wizards were up one. And with 0.4 seconds to go it looked like that was it for everyone. Everyone unfamiliar with the Los Angeles Lakers that is. And with exactly the same inbounded looking shot with less than a half second to get it off, Emmanuel Mudiay (who had 25 points looking to be the hero tonight) tried to do his best Derek Fisher impression in four tenths like the Knicks old coach, but just built bricks…could you call that karma?
I call it a 101-100 win on a clutch goaltend. Something I’ve never seen before in all the years of this game.
Tend to that London.