The New York basketball experience

Migs Bustos
The author at Madison Square Garden, the "Mecca of basketball."

The first week of February 2019 was when I had my first journey to the concrete jungle of New York City. The Big Apple boasts of everything around the world: sights, food, culture, art, and of course sports (the latter is especially true because they boast of multiple teams in various leagues).

During my brief stay, I had the chance to sample that famous hoops culture New York is famous for. Follow along with my expedition, below:

On my first day, I made sure to visit the flagship store of the NBA, located on Fifth Avenue. I was in awe at the fan merchandise available. Everything you could want was there!

Row upon rows of mannequins ensured that all 30 teams were represented.

Of course, I had to take a photo by the façade. It ain't New York without the people.

The next day, I had the chance to watch the Knicks-Pistons game at Madison Square Garden. The game came a few days after the blockbuster trade of Kristaps Porzingis for DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, and Dennis Smith Jr. from the Mavericks. Despite the swap, or perhaps, because of it, fans were still thrilled to see their Knicks play.
 
That said, Porzingis shirts were being sold for $10, while jerseys ran for $20 at Modell’s Sporting Goods. Mo’s is the go-to-sports store around New York, with literally dozens of them on every corner.

The Garden has a simple design. The fan store greets you once you get in. You then line up to enter your section once you've finished shooping. I was there early, an hour and a half before tip-off, but they only open the gates an hour before. Once I got in though, the feeling inside "the Mecca" was overwhelming.

Because I was early, I got the chance to see the players shootaround before the game. It seemed like everything was so easy for them. Seeing them work on their footwork and hitting simulated game shots was all so smooth.

Come game time, it seemed New Yorkers were quickly over trading away "the Unicorn." I love how Knicks fans are so passionate. I remember during the whole first half, I kept on overhearing conversations from fans behind us, doing their own commentary of the game with their sons, educating them on the basics of the game, and sprinkling in a little bit of Knicks history. It’s amazing how they follow their team every step of the way. Of course, there was much dismay when the home team struggled to make their shots, which was most of the time, because they lost to the Pistons that day.

Overall, it was a great experience watching from similar to lower box seats in Philippine arenas. Even though the Knicks didn’t win, I felt that the fans were still there for their team.

On my last day, I had the rare chance to go to Harlem, where the iconic Holocombe Rucker Park is located. It’s a surreal feeling to be able to step on the court where legends like Julius Erving, Stephon Marbury, “Skip To My Lou” Rafer Alston, Kevin Durant, Wilt Chamberlain, Allen Iverson dribbled a ball and got buckets. Luckily that night, the lights were on and I was able to take photos. I didn’t have a ball, but luckily, a local kid, Shequan, kindly lent us his. Even though it was flat, I didn’t mind as long as I got to shoot around.

It's been said that New York is one big playground, and I could see why. There is so much to explore and to learn. In my brief stay, my basketball heart came away fulfilled, because of all I was able to witness. At the same time, I know it is only the tip of the iceberg. I can't wait to go back and experience more of the city's history and culture. And of course, get in a round or two of pick-up ball at the Rucker as well.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports.

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