Fans Rumors

Amid discussion of the NBA potentially having to play next season in a bubble setting similar to what is ongoing at Disney World, Miami Heat President Eric Woolworth has an optimistically contrasting perspective on 2020-21. “We plan on playing next season in front of fans, and plan on having a sold-out facility, just like we’ve had since going back to 2009, for all our games,” Woolworth said in an interview shown during the broadcast of the team’s Tuesday exhibition scrimmage finale.
“We’re going to keep doing all the things we would do in an offseason. And we’ve been selling tickets right along,” Woolworth said. “And I think it speaks volumes to the amount of interest that people in Miami have in our team, but also in the commitment that we have in the community, and to make sure we do play next year in front of our fans and figure out how to do it safely.” The Heat have not played at AmericanAirlines Arena since March 11, when the NBA shut down due to the new coronavirus pandemic. The league has since resumed activity in a quarantine-like setting at Disney as a means to avoid COVID-19 infection. The Heat resume their regular season with a 1 p.m. Saturday “seeding” game against the Denver Nuggets, to be played without fans at the Wide World of Sports complex.
Once teams select those fans, they will need a webcam and a microphone. They will log onto Microsoft Teams through their computer or phone. And then they will use Microsoft Teams’ new feature, “Together Mode.” That will enable the fans to interact with each other digitally throughout the game while they watch the broadcast feed. With this feature, fans can high five each other, hold out signs or react to anything that happens on the court. The NBA’s video-boards will show those real-time reactions. “They better put some boos in there for us. If we’re not playing hard, we want to hear those boos,” Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons joked. “You can’t put this here and have the fans on the screen and not replicate Sixers fans. We’re one of a kind. They’ll do their best, but it’s nothing like playing at home at Wells Fargo.”
Storyline: Orlando Bubble
For Saturday’s scrimmages, the NBA featured pre-recorded segments of league officials posing as fans. Those segments aired before the game as well as periodically during the game. Once the season relaunch starts, though, the NBA will showcase about 300 “virtual fans” on 17-foot video boards throughout the game. That will include family members. “It can be a good thing. It reminds me of ‘Black Mirror,'” Gobert said. “I like the concept. It will be great for families to watch us and know that we can see them in the stands.”
A generation ago, it was tough to find any Warriors fans outside of the Bay Area, let alone at some desolate outpost in Southeast Europe. But by now, such encounters no longer count as shocking. After five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, with a roster that features some of the game’s most marketable players, and after a concerted effort to raise their profile abroad, the Warriors emerged as a certifiable global brand. According to the team’s internal tracking, the majority of the Warriors’ social media followers reside outside the United States — that’s 80 percent of their followers on Facebook, 70 percent on Instagram, 52 percent on Twitter.
He recalled over the phone last week that in the late ’80s, growing the NBA meant Stern handing a baffled TV executive from Italy a stack of videocassette recordings in hopes the exec would air them when he got back home. “The victories were getting a game that was played 10 days ago aired at a terrible time on Italian television,’’ Welts said. “That’s the kind of thing we considered a victory back then.” Around that time, league officials also attended an international market show in Cannes. “With pretty much a cardboard table and a bunch of business cards,’’ Welts said. “We just tried to grab any television programmer who was there to try to explain to them what the NBA was and why it would be such a great property for their company to air on television.”
From a musical standpoint, “Jock Jams” trended into more modern fare, more electronic and hip-hop. The first volume included songs from 2 Unlimited, the dutch dance group; Tag Team, the rap duo with the iconic hit “Whoomp! (There It Is)”; and C&C Music Factory, the group behind the No. 1 single “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).” The sound reflected the pulsating music that had fast become a staple during timeouts at NBA arenas, the songs that accompanied a dance team, a T-shirt launch or an applause meter. Or, in the words of Technotronic, a pop group from Belgium that appeared on Volume 1, the songs that could “pump up the jam, pump it up, while your feet are stomping.”
“Jock Jams,” in its effort to capture the arena sound, came to define the genre. After the first four volumes went platinum, the compilation series came to an end in the early 2000s. The advent of file sharing and illegal downloads put a dent in album sales. The compact disc’s era faded. Tommy Boy ran into licensing issues when the labels involved with the “Now That’s What I Call Music!” series hoarded their most popular tracks. The series is history, but the legacy lives on. It’s almost impossible to hear “Party Rock Anthem,” a 2011 single from LMFAO, or “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyes Peas without thinking one thing: Hey, this sounds like a jock jam.
Yet, to a significant segment of fans, he remains persona non grata. Despite the seeming inevitability of Carter’s number being retired (or at least honoured in the way that the Maple Leafs have done with several alumni), 26 percent of respondents in The Athletic’s Raptors fan survey last month responded “no” when asked if he should receive such an honour. Yes, that means 74 percent of respondents said his number should be retired, with some saying it shouldn’t be the first number to go up, but more than 1 in 4 is not an insignificant sample in a survey of more than 1,300 fans.
Any return to play must also come with a green light from the N.B.A. players’ union. A spokeswoman for the union did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is also unclear what the logistics of such a return would be, such as how many, if any, fans would be allowed into an arena for games, how freely players would be allowed to move around or what kind of testing would take place. The games would almost assuredly be run without fans in the stands, as has been the case for some other recent sporting events in golf and soccer. Any return to play would also have added risks for players or team personnel who have underlying health conditions, or for people over 65, a group that includes three head coaches.
Initially, Twitter thought it was Tracy Kornet, mother to Bulls big man Luke Kornet. She’s a Nashville news anchor and known to be vocal at her kids’ sporting events. Soon after, when reached by The Athletic Indiana, she clarified that it was not her, though she has an uncanny resemblance and her phone was blowing up because of it. “I was just kidding,” she said. “That is not me. It looks exactly like me though — and I have long been known as a rabid fan (who does NOT curse) during my kids’ high school years in Dallas (especially my daughter’s state championship game) and all of my husband’s and son’s years playing at Vanderbilt. “Luke now plays for the Bulls, but I have learned how to control myself. He would be mortified. (Unless someone makes a cheap shot and tries to give him a head injury. Then look out.)”
Kathy Martin Harrison didn’t remember she had signed a waiver. After all, it was 22 years ago. But after seeing herself on ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” her phone blew up and she became a viral meme, the light went on. “Before the game started, a national TV guy came up to us and said, ‘Look, we’re filming a lot of footage of Michael Jordan for a movie,'” Harrison recalled in an appearance on Dan Dakich’s radio show Monday. “‘And if we show you in any of the footage, would you sign a release?’ We signed a release.”
Storyline: Michael Jordan Documentary
Harrison, who owns a local car dealership and has been an Indiana Pacers season-ticket holder for 44 years, was talking trash to Michael Jordan and the Bulls, just as she did to everyone else at the time. It’s no longer allowed, thanks to the code of conduct, but she enjoyed the interactions with players — and some grew to recognize her, including Dennis Rodman. “We’d just try to get into their heads. Disrupt their game,” Harrison said. “That was our job. That was our mission. “And he would just turn around. He’d go, ‘Oh, that diamond ring you have on your hand is fake. That’s fake.’ And I’d go, ‘OK, Dennis.'”
Harrison isn’t on social media, but messages started to pour in with screenshots from Twitter. She learned what the Karen meme was. By the time she got to bed, it was nearly 1 a.m. “We felt it was our job to get into the heads of the visitors,” Harrison said. “You can’t do it today, because they’ll arrest you, but back then, it was OK to be feisty and yell at the players and the players would yell back at you. It was just a lot of fun. “I do miss those days, but I’m older now and I just sit quietly in my seat.”
The NBA still hopes to play out as much of its remaining schedule as possible, but Commissioner Adam Silver is now signaling those games will be played in a centralized location without spectators, if they are played at all. The league could incur major financial losses as teams receive an increasing volume of calls from restless ticket holders who want their money back. A league source told The Sacramento Bee the coronavirus shutdown has already taken a huge financial toll on the Kings, who are bracing for what might be tens of millions of dollars in uninsured losses. The source said the stoppage in NBA play and live events at Golden 1 Center is having a “tremendous impact to the bottom line,” saying “over half of the team’s revenue is generated from hosting ticketed events in the arena.”
Team and league officials explain it is difficult to calculate the average price of an NBA ticket due to multiple factors, but some have attempted to do the math. Barry’s Ticket Service, Inc., an online ticket broker, estimated the average cost of a ticket on the secondary market was $89 during the 2018-19 NBA season. Using those figures, the NBA could lose more than $400 million in regular-season ticket sales. In March, a high-ranking team official told Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports the NBA could lose nearly $500 million if the remaining regular-season and playoff schedule is canceled. Just last week, Statista.com, an online portal for statistics, estimated the NBA could lose up to $450 million in gate revenue and $200 million in non-ticket revenue.
Storyline: Coronavirus
As the world wrestles with a new normal built around social distancing, working from home and a dormant sports world, one aspect of the NBA experience is especially at risk. Sitting courtside at an NBA game is unlike any other first row in sports. What will become of it post-COVID-19? One potential solution to the concerns around courtside seating, whether it be temporary or permanent, would be to install plexiglass around the courtside area to separate players and fans. “We have to be more informed about the virus, flus, all viruses, so we can better understand how to protect players and fans … I wouldn’t rule plexiglass out,” said Caron Butler, a two-time All-Star who retired from the NBA after the 2015-16 season. “If you told me a year ago the NBA and the world would stop, I would say you are out of your mind.”
Storyline: Coronavirus
The debate over extending the netting eventually fell off the front page and it has now become the norm within baseball. And while the merits of plexiglass are still difficult to assess, those who regularly sit courtside recognize it would heavily impact the in-game experience. One of the most exciting things about the courtside experience is that it’s possible to be in on the conversations between celebrities and players.
“If you look at a league like the NFL, people are sitting close to the action in the end zone but the players are wearing helmets and it’s difficult to hear the conversations,” said Butler. “Think about that versus the NBA, where LeBron James will walk up to Jay-Z or Michael B. Jordan at courtside and you can pick up on some of the conversations.” “Putting a row of plexiglass will take away that intimacy you have with the game courtside,” agreed Toronto Raptors superfan and one of the NBA’s most known courtside attendees, Nav Bhatia. “I think the most we will see once this passes is less to almost no physical interaction with players and fans. Less of the handshakes and high-fives.”
Q: It’s been about eight months since drafting Rui Hachimura. What kind of expectation did you have after that draft and what kind of results have you seen so far? Van Stone: The response and support that we received from Japanese fans over the last eight months has been absolutely amazing. The support that we are seeing for Rui and the Wizards on a nightly basis at our games from visiting Japanese fans and also Japanese Americans attending has been so much more than we ever expected. It’s a very humbling experience but it has also created a level of responsibility for us organizationally that we have to create as much Japanese language content as we can to develop a relationship with the market to make fans feel like they’re at home even when Rui and Wizards are playing so far away. We also saw very quickly with the amount of Japanese media covering Rui’s first press conference in Washington after the NBA Draft that his popularity was a very unique opportunity for our organization.
Knicks superfan Fred Klein, a longtime Garden courtside fixture, died Saturday from coronavirus, his wife Terry told the Daily News. He was 85. Klein, who also once co-owned the iconic Carnegie Deli, was a season ticket holder for longer than Spike Lee, having purchased his first seat in 1959. He boasted of missing only 43 home games over about 55 years before Alzheimer’s left him unable to attend. Klein died inside a Manhattan nursing home, according to Terry, after treatments for pneumonia were unsuccessful. “He was a legend,” she said. “He really was.”
The 20,000 refunds will be paid out to those who purchased floor-level seating for the games. Despite a mock-up depicting tiered seating, the seats used were in flat rows, lower than the court and, in some cases, more than 30 metres from the action. “Consumers paid a premium for floor-level seats, ranging between $895 and $3,995 for a hospitality package, and may have done so as a result of misleading seating advertising,” said Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. “In our view, TEG Live’s conduct was unacceptable.”
TEG Live’s statement echoed Sims’ comments. “We acknowledge some fans were disappointed that the USA Men’s Basketball team that competed in Australia in August did not include some of the NBA’s biggest stars,” it read. “Based on the information provided to TEG Live by USA Basketball, we had expected these stars to play.”
But on Wednesday when he got off work, Masri, a physician at Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner, canceled his trip. About an hour later, the NBA announced it was suspending play indefinitely after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. Masri, a Pelicans season ticket holder who has two seats in section 124, was disappointed that the NBA was halting play just as the playoff race was heating up but understood why the league was taking such drastic steps. “I’m kind of on the front lines of all this on the coronavirus,” Masri said. “I’ve been telling other people, for someone like me to say we should hold off on sports, being such a huge sports guy says a lot.”
“Every time I look at my tattoos, it puts me back in the perspective of time, or the inspiration behind it,” James says. “So that’s all part of the journey.” In that way, the Lakers’ All-Stars aren’t so different than the tattooed fans who rooted from Bryant from afar. They weren’t ready to let go, so they got something permanent they could hold onto. Ortega is a committed bodybuilder. In his Instagram profile picture he’s flexing bulging biceps in a gold No. 24 Bryant jersey. And though he connects first and foremost to Bryant’s love of family, he says, part of the reason he wanted a tattoo after Bryant’s death was so that he could look at his forearm on the days when the weight is a struggle and “see that it’s Kobe basically telling me, ‘You better not fuck around. Push through it.’”
Storyline: Kobe Bryant Death
It could be the old adage of having to spend money to make money. Target Center has been empty this season. The Wolves have the lowest attendance in the league, and a long-suffering fan base gave the Wiggins-Towns coupling a vote of no confidence on a nightly basis. “I expect people will see what we’ve done here,” Taylor said. The immediate reaction from those beleaguered fans has been noticeable. The Wolves had already prepared some social media materials featuring Russell when the team went into recruitment mode last summer, so they were able to finally put that work to use on Thursday.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are aware of the incident involving a courtside fan and Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry late in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s game, and are looking into it before deciding on discipline, league sources tell cleveland.com. After Raptors center Serge Ibaka swatted a rebound back toward the sideline, Lowry hustled over to save the ball, dove into a pair of spectators seated near center court and was shoved with two hands in the back by one out-of-line fan. Lowry immediately looked behind him and seemed to say something before getting back into the play.
A Cavs spokesperson wasn’t willing to discuss a potential punishment for the fan yet. The organization wants to review the video, from different angles if possible and in conjunction with the NBA, before commenting further. But an indefinite ban is possible, especially if it’s deemed malicious. The Cavs won’t tolerate that kind of behavior and will look to find the fan or account holder. One source said “it didn’t look good from the first angle” and they could view it in a similar light as a fan stepping onto the court, which is against arena policy.
Video showed Lowry landed on two fans in the first row of seats, and one appeared to press his hand on the six-time All-Star’s back as he returned to the floor. Lowry turned and looked at the fan as play continued. “I got pushed, and that’s the second time it’s happened to me,” Lowry said. “The next time it happens, I don’t know if I’ll be able to control myself. Fans like that shouldn’t be able to lay any hands on you and shouldn’t be a part of our game.”