I wanted to make sure I did something really special for the husband's birthday this year. Not only is turning 30 a big milestone, but he has had some real sucky birthdays for the past several years due to school and work commitments always getting in the way of being able to do something cool. Booo!
But, what should I do? He doesn't have much time to have a hobby, so a gift geared to that was out. I tossed around several ideas including throwing a big party or taking him on a surprise trip. However, nothing really felt quite right. And then I remembered something he had mentioned while we were at a Lakers game earlier in the season. He looked down on the court and pondered out loud, while his eyes glazed over like a kid in a candy store, what it would be like to sit courtside and to actually have your feet on the the wood. Hmmm....
I jumped on the internet and started investigating. Could I even get tickets? Were there any left this late in the season? If there were, would I have to sell a kidney to afford them? And so on and so on. After a lot of research, multiple calls to a ticket broker and putting my eyeballs back in my sockets after seeing what courtside seats actually cost, I managed to make it happen! A once in a lifetime opportunity for my wonderful husband for his birthday --- we had coutside seats for the upcoming Lakers game vs. the Toronto Raptors. Unbelievable!!
Jim has been on cloud 9 since I told him about them a couple weeks ago. And everytime we'd see a game on tv he'd get all googly eyed and say "I can't believe we're going to be courtside in a few weeks!" You and me both babe. :P
Before the game, I scoured the internet for any first-hand accounts of what it's actually like to sit courtside at a Lakers game. And I couldn't find a darn thing! So, with that in mind, I'm trying to emulate WeeMo with this post and give a very detailed account of the evening. It's gonna be long and picture-filled, but it was just too special of a night not to fully share here.
Arriving at the stadium
Staples Center opens 2 hours before tipoff for VIP ticket holders, so we arrived shortly after 5:30pm to try and get as much time in in our seats as possible. However, we didn't realize that the lower levels aren't open until closer to 6pm. To kill time, we headed to concessions on the premier level and had a quick dinner of cheeseburgers, fries and coke. Neither of us were wild about chowing down during the game so this worked out perfectly. I'd love to show pictures of our meal, but I hadn't yet started taking pics. Oops.
Getting to our seats
After dinner, we hightailed it back down to the VIP entrance and were directed to go down the super secret staircase, go through the double doors and then head right. Um, okay. At this point, the camera was pretty much glued to my face.
Okay, it just got really freaking cool.
Nope, I lied. This is cool!!
From the time you go through the double doors, your tickets are checked at least a half dozen times until you get to your seats. I think we were both in complete shock as we entered the tunnel and then headed to the court. It's all just surreal. I mean, it really is just a basketball court and yet, after watching so many games at home and in the arena (but from mid-level seats), it's a lot to take in that you're actually standing on the court. And yes, we were this excited and still hadn't seen any players yet. Ha!
I had been told that our seats were "across from the visitors, around the 3 point free throw line." Um, yeah. Not so much. Normally, I would have been pissed at the false information, but I was having trouble doing anything besides grinning like a cheshire cat and Jim was looking the same way. Ultimately, our seats were just past the baseline, which was fine. And Jim got his wish -- our feet were firmly planted on the wood of the court.
From about 6-7pm, several of the guys from both teams were out on the court warming up and taking practice shots. We were some of the only people in their seats (for obvious reasons -- we were determined to milk this experience for all it was worth!) and it was really relaxed. The calm before the storm, if you will.
Chris Bosh was doing a shoot-around for at least 20 minutes right in front of us. He seems to be rehabing a knee injury right now and while he didn't play in the evening's game, it was really something to see him practicing his shots and working with his trainers right in front of us.
The man is really tall and incredibly athletic. He also had on cool shiny shoes.
And what a nice guy. As he was leaving the court, we saw him sign at least a half dozen autographs for kids and adults alike. Made us both smile to see that.
After the unofficial warm-up ended, there was a break in the action and then both teams took to the court for the official pre-game warm-up. You can usually feel the excitement start building at this point as more and more people file into their seats. Last night was no exception.
The Canadian and American National Anthems soon followed.
And then the starting line-up introductions for each team.
With 'I Love LA' playing in the background, the Laker Girls rock out and get the crowd pumped up.
Yes, I <3 the Laker Girls! They are amazing dancers and there was always a small part of me that wished to be one. Not that it was ever gonna happen, but it was a fun thought to have. Before the Laker Girls took their place on the baseline, I guess it dawned on Jim that they were going to be sitting right next to him.
Jim: So, the Laker Girls are gonna be [pointing] right there, huh?
Jim: [with a big goofy grin on his face] Wow. It's even better than the Spearmint Rhino!
We were celebrating his birthday afterall, so I decided not to smack him. Hilarious.
And now it's time to start the game!
The starters for each team trade "pleasantries" with each other...
and then get down to business.
The Lakers played defense on our end of the court for the first half. Jim and I basically didn't speak the entire time as we were just trying to take it all in. We were both amazed at how athletic the guys are and how physical the game is up-close. There are so many details that get lost even when you watch the game on television. Those guys move so damn fast and play really, really hard. The fouls that look minor on tv look brutal when they're 6 feet away from you. You also realize how much the guys talk during the game; to their teammates, to the opponents, to the refs, hell, even to the fans! And Kobe's facial expressions are fantastic. I couldn't keep from laughing everytime he'd shoot the ref a "Really? REALLY?" look when he didn't get a call he was expecting--- that is, until Jim told me I had to stop laughing as he was afraid Kobe would come over and take it up with him. hehehe! There is so much going on that it is almost too much to take in at once. Maybe if those are your regular seats you get used to it, but I think we both felt the entire game was overwhelming (in a good way of course!)
About mid-way through the 2nd period, Phil put Coby Karl in the game. He only played 7 minutes, but his 3 pointer, 2 rebounds and 1 blocked shot doesn't really tell the true story of how well he played and how much he helped invigorate the team. This from the kid that has played very little all season and looked like a fish out of water when he did play. At one point, he was going for a loose ball and the ball wound up in the lap of the guy next to me and Coby wound up practically in Jim's lap with his hand on his knee, steading himself. Folks, he was close enough that I could see the freckles on his arm. Jim and I were on tv for a split second when they showed the slow motion replay (we taped the game and watched it later), but you can visibly see both of us flinch as he came in for a landing. Once he went back to the court, Jim turned to me, completely deadpan and stated "Dude. Coby Karl just touched my knee. I'm never washing it again." I couldn't stop laughing!
While Jim and I didn't do a lot of talking during the game, we're both pretty vocal, yelling out comments such as "Nice!" or "Come on, you gotta take that shot!" or other similar things. We're not obnoxious, but you can definitely hear us cheering or jeering, depending on the play. Eventually, the guy sitting next to me turned and said "Wow, you really know your basketball, don't you?" Why yes I do sir! I get this every so often from guys (young and old) who are surprised that I can actually "talk sports." And I always take it as a compliment, especially seeing as how it's something that Jim is quite proud of. :)
And what about the celebrities off the court, you ask? Nick Lachey and Matt Leinart (with his baby in tow) trotted past us to their seats in the lower level as did Andy Garcia. We also saw Nick Cannon chatting with some folks courtside during halftime. And, it's not a Lakers game without the their #1 celebrity fixture:
The Lakers ended the half up by 6. Wheee!
There is a private bar that is only open to courtside ticketholders that we briefly checked out. We were under-whelmed. Maybe if you had a group of friends there to hang out with it would be fun, but being just the two of us, we much preferred the vibe on the court, so we made our way back to our seats and just hung out.
The Lakers warmed up right in front of us before the second half got underway. So Cool! Great opportunity to get lots of close-ups of the guys seeing as how they were just a few feet away. Again, Jim and I were pretty much silent just taking it all in.
Yay, the Lakers were now playing offense on our side of the court! So so great. Like I said earlier, the athleticism of the players is unreal and getting to see D Fish pull up for 3 pointers and Kobe drive to the basket just a few feet from us was something neither of us will ever forget.
I'm telling you, they're all more impressive in person, but especially Kobe. He is just in a class all his own. [I know the same can be said about many other players, Jordan in particular, but since I never got to see him play like this, I'll just stick to making these comments about Kobe.] Jim noted that I basically had the camera glued to my face whenever Kobe came within 12 feet of us. I don't really think he's exaggerating :/ I'll spare you most of the 1800 pictures I have of him, but a few can't hurt, right?
Oh, and he had on cool shoes, too!
Jim said he didn't want to drink too much because he didn't want anything affecting his memory of the evening. However, he also said that having a beer courtside might be one of those things that you look back on years later and just can't help but smile. Mid-way through the 3rd period, we made that happen.
Before we knew it, the game was over and the Lakers had won! YAY!
It all went by way too quickly! But, Jim was so happy with everything and said that it was a perfect birthday gift. I was thrilled to be able to do something so over-the-top for him as he is always so good to me and has been for years.
Happy 30th Birthday sweetheart!