Australian Basketball: An Evening With the Sydney Kings
This guest post comes to you from my go-to sports guy, Tony Perna of It’s Good Overseas! He spent the evening watching a local basketball game and reports back on the experience below:
Basketball is one of the smaller sports in Australia but still makes for a very enjoyable night out.
I’m a pretty big fan of the NBL so I went along to the first 2011 home game of my team the Sydney Kings. They took on the 2011 champions the New Zealand Breakers at the ‘Kingdome’ – the nickname for the Kings home venue at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in Darling Harbour.
The Kingdome is quite an imaginative name for a venue but I’m also a fan of some of the other venues in the league. These include The Swamp (Townsville Crocodiles), The Cage (Melbourne Tigers) and The Snakepit (Cairns Taipans).
The National Basketball League (NBL) has been around since 1979 and showcases the best basketball in Australia and New Zealand.
There are currently 9 teams in the NBL from Cairns, Townsville, Gold Coast, Sydney, Wollongong, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and New Zealand. So unless you’re travelling in NT, Tassie or WA, you’ll always be close to a game.
Former teams include the Brisbane Bullets and perhaps one of my favourite team names ever – the Singapore Slingers. You can only imagine the frequent flyer points accumulated from all those trips to Australia and New Zealand.
Most teams have one or two American ‘import players’ and the quality of these players often contributes to how successful they are during the season. This season the Kings import roster includes Kevin Ratzsch (who previously played for LEB Plata-Oviedo Feve in Spain) and Jerai Grant (formerly of the Clemson Tigers in the USA).
When? Season runs from October to March
Where? Sydney Entertainment Centre, Darling Harbour
Cost? $22-30 (in the lower circle near the court) or $22 in the seats higher up (where you have a chance of winning a prize from the Lion mascot)
Queuing time? 10-15 minutes outside the venue or 5 minutes queuing to pick up the tickets you bought online
If you want to ‘try before you buy’, the ONE HD free-to-air TV channel shows games each weekend.
The Sydney Entertainment Centre is big. It has about 10,000 seats so you’re almost guaranteed a seat. The seats are also cleverly covered in purple material – I’m guessing – as a nod to the Kings kit colours.
There is no doubt when you check in on foursquare (for those of you on Twitter) that watching the Kings is THE thing to do here. I had a flick through the other tips but disappointingly there was no comedy to report.
Security guards often colour your experience of a sports venue and from my experience they can be hit or miss. I found the guy taking tickets on the door to be friendly but I was given a rap by security showing people to their seats. He was upset with me for taking a quick photo of the pre-game choreography rather than singing the New Zealand national anthem. I wish I’d told him I didn’t know the words.
Eat and drink
The Kings returned to the NBL last season after a 2-year hiatus so I went to quite a few games. I found out quite quickly that the food offering doesn’t suit the taste of someone on a budget so I won’t cover it here. Safe to say, the usual sporting event food and drink is on offer.
The security guards don’t check your bags so one option could be to take food from home or the supermarket. Or if you feel like a good budget feed, you can take a 3-minute stroll up to Dixon House Food Court, cnr Little Hay St and Dixon St in Chinatown. You can pick up a big feed for around $8.
My personal favourite is Pondok-Selera Indonesia-Malaysia Food and it’s number 23 dish ‘Indonesian Fried Rice Noodles with Prawn Chicken and Fish Cakes (Kwe Tiaw Goreng)’. Ask them to go easy on the chilli.
Games generally start off with the Australian national anthem but since the NZ Breakers were playing, the New Zealand national anthem was played too. However on this occasion, things got awkward.
The mic was passed to the girl singing the Australian national anthem, she started to sing but the mic was broken. The cameraman didn’t start filming and a slow handclap ensued. Finally after what seemed like an awkwardly long period of time, a lady marched on with a replacement mic to cheers from the crowd.
God was certainly defending New Zealand. And its microphones.
The NBL plays the international-standard four 10-minute quarters as opposed to the NBA which still plays 12-minute terms. This rule change was made in 2009 and caused many punters to ask why they should still pay the same ticket prices when they are getting 8-minutes less?
Anyway, I digress.
I have one word to describe this game: carnage. The NZ Breakers took it to the Kings from the start and led at every change throughout the game. In fact I remember looking at the score line at one point and wondering how the Breakers managed to take their score to double that of the Kings.
Not even Kings captain and local favourite Julian Khazzouh was firing with too much accuracy.
In summary, the game was quite depressing from a Kings perspective but conversely great if you’re a Breakers fan. The NZ Breakers are still a force to be reckoned with this season and on the night completely outplayed the Kings.
In my opinion, the entertainment part of going to a Sydney Kings game is worth experiencing in itself.
There’s one exception to the above statement. Last season the Kings had the booming base-heavy voice of Rodney O (American Rodney Overby) as their courtside announcer. You couldn’t help but be impressed by the quick wit and deep baritone voice.
According to @thesydneykings on Twitter, Rodney O didn’t accept the wage offer. I’m sure I’m not the only one highly disappointed by this! It just won’t be the same without hearing him say, “Let me hear you Sydney – D-Fence!”
Having done some research, I believe ex-West Sydney Razorbacks announcer Steve Allen has stepped in to replace Rodney O. While he isn’t quite as good, I did like some of his calls including the wordplay “Khazzouh for two” (referring to captain Julian Khazzouh scoring a two-pointer).
Whenever a timeout is called, you’ll get to see either the Superchargers (cheerleaders) or the Royalty Crew (the guys) perform.
For me, the Royalty Crew weren’t at their finest for this game but they pulled out a tractor-like move which I thought was good.
The Superchargers came out and immediately made an impression – a cheeky one at that.
The girls did some choreographed moves but as soon as the Kings Lion mascot got into the mix, he didn’t know his luck. In not time at all the Lion was down to his undies…
The half time entertainment is always hit or miss. They never really get much attention from the crowd and this game was no exception. The performance was ok but the lyrics “I will fly” and how to rap with a broken arm is about all I took away from it. You know you’re having a bad day as a rapper when you get little or no reaction to “I say Sydney, you say…”
You’re always guaranteed to see one or more celebrities at a Kings match. Admittedly, I’m not the best at recognising celebrities but a friend of mine who often comes along with me is pretty good. At this game we saw actor Lincoln Lewis of Home and Away fame, [we think] Australian editor of Marie Claire – Jackie Frank, and Kendra Wilkinson, known for being one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends and for her role on the TV series The Girls Next Door.
Amusingly, two guys sitting next to me noticed I had a good zoom on my SLR camera and asked “can you zoom in on Kendra with that?” By that point the Kings were so far behind the Breakers I’m not surprised their minds where on how to zoom in on Kendra.
Another regular fixture is the 10-pin bowling at three-quarter time.
Usually, the security guards set up the elastic and fling the Lion mascot down the court and into the pins. However we were fortunate to have champion Australian basketball player Andrew Bogut in for the night and he had a go instead. As you’ll see in the video, it isn’t as easy as the security guards normally make it look.
Finally, you won’t go to a Sydney Kings game without experiencing the Kiss Cam. Basically the camera pans around the venue for couples to the sounds of Sixpence None The Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’ and they have to kiss. It isn’t always amusing, but on this particular night the Kiss Cam produced the highlight of the night.
The camera panned around to several couples but then one came up displaying the two stunned faces. The Kiss Cam had singled out a mother and son!
Epic. Kiss Cam. Fail.
But so funny at same time.
Whether you’re into basketball or a fun night out, there’s so much to like about a night watching the Sydney Kings.
From chanting D-Fence, to celebrity spotting, to being caught on the Kiss Cam, I’d fully recommend catching the Sydney Kings live and it won’t break the budget to boot.
If you want to experience a winning vibe in the Entertainment Centre this year, I’d suggest heading along to see opposition such as the Adelaide 36ers, Gold Coast Blaze or Wollongong Hawks – the Kings stand a greater chance of winning those games.
Big thanks to Tony for sharing this unique Australian sports experience. Be sure to find out more about sports in Australia by reading about his hockey and cricket experiences. Also, follow Tony on his travel blog and on Twitter.