The Blazers will play the Utah Jazz tonight in a neutral site game held at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho. Boise is home to the Blazers D-League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede. The move is certainly meant to draw in fans from the general region, and by all accounts it seems to have been extremely well-received.
Ticket resale site StubHub has, at the moment of writing, exactly zero tickets for sale. I cannot honestly say I recall a sporting event I searched for in which this is the case – normally there are at least some tickets available, even if they are overpriced. It isn’t any better from the official CenturyLink Arena site either; every price tier is also sold out there as well.
The arena only holds approximately 5,000 fans for basketball games, so some of this is certainly due to the relative scarcity of the tickets, but it is also due to a larger issue. With the continued absence of a pro basketball team in Seattle, there is a huge swath of the country without an NBA team. Really, take a look at the NBA map that Reddit user cs_irl made last week. The Blazers are the lone team for quite literally hundreds of miles, although the Jazz, located in Salt Lake City, are also sneakily close to Boise.
In a microcosm, I am very happy to see the Blazers making an effort to reach out to more fans. These are the kinds of things that successful franchises keep in mind, and getting more fans is never a bad thing. A franchise with a strong fan base (which traditionally the Blazers have had the luxury of) is one with a stable future, something that Blazer can appreciate.
In a far more macro sense, though, the game represents the the NBA’s growing desire to expand their brand outside of traditional areas. The pre-season international slate of games includes stops in Mexico, England, Spain, Brazil, China, and more, with Mexico and England even hosting a regular season game each. Just in that short list, the NBA is making a foray into three other continents in addition to North America (but sadly still no love for Australia).
Stateside, the Jazz / Blazers game is one of many that is taking place in a non-traditional setting. Just two days ago, the Knicks / Celtics game took place in Providence, Rhode Island, while the Pelicans and Magic duked it out in Jacksonville, Florida. Both cities are devoid of NBA teams, and as with the Blazers and Jazz, these games allowed more fans an accessible opportunity to see the NBA up close and personal.
This is all excellent. I am all for expanding the NBA brand by any means possible, and these are all steps in the right direction. The feeling that this is a necessity was exacerbated this past year, when I lived abroad and was able to see just how global of a game basketball is becoming. One of my fondest memories was making friends with some Italians in a hostel, in Poland, by talking about NBA basketball. The NBA is doing well to cultivate such a worldwide demographic.
Personally, I would love to see even more regular season games played abroad. As I’ve mentioned, there are only two this year. I know that the extra travel can be tedious and unwelcome by teams, but these days with private airplanes and modern conveniences, I think the hardships would be well worth it for the sport as a whole. I get the impression that there is still some pushback against this idea, that some people think maybe the NBA is hitting this international angle too hard. This couldn’t be further from the truth – the world is truly shrinking, and the NBA is wise to recognize this.
This isn’t to take away from the efforts here at home, though. Getting NBA level games (sadly just preseason) into cities such as Boise, Providence, and Jacksonville is a commendable step as well. As Portland fans, or for that matter, fans from any city with an NBA team, sometimes it is too easy to take the constant availability of top tier talent for granted. These efforts make it (and hopefully will continue to make it) easier to be an NBA fan in an area that has a dearth of NBA teams.
As basketball fans we’re all a community, and everyone has the chance to see some of the best basketball the world has to offer.