MY TICKET TO THE 1991 NBA DRAFT
Synopsis: With respect to popularity, the NBA Draft trails only the NFL Draft as a sporting event/spectacle. As such, it seems logical to focus on the NBA for my second compilation of Top 10 Busts. Regardless, the main reason for creating this particular countdown relates to the featured image. In particular, it shows my ticket stub to the 1991 NBA Draft. To date, that draft remains the only one I have ever attended in person. While I don’t provide any insight about a specific bust in this post, I offer some foreshadowing for future posts. As an enticement, there’s also a link to a classic Seinfeld clip regarding political incorrectness.
1991 NBA DRAFT NIGHT
All four major professional sports leagues rely on a draft to increase parity among their teams. Somehow, the NFL and NBA stand out in their ability to turn the announcement of names into a sporting event. One might even say that these drafts have become spectacles that allow the leagues to stay relevant during the off-season.
To start, the drafts offer many hours of entertainment. Of note, they include beauty pageants (a.k.a combines), weekly mock drafts, and post-draft report cards. More importantly, they give hope to teams that failed in the prior season. Every fan can dream during the off-season. Unfortunately, reality sets in quickly once the actual games begin. Heck, just ask any Sixers’ fan.
THE EVENT OUTSIDE THE EVENT
Many years ago, a friend and I bought into the hype. Specifically, we decided to make the trip into NYC to attend the 1991 NBA Draft at MSG. Technically, that draft took place in the old Felt Forum. Although much smaller than the main arena, it had capacity for several thousand people. As such, we thought we could get a reasonably priced ticket. Unfortunately, we were wrong.
Before getting to there, we expected to pay around $20 each to get inside. To our amazement, it would have cost us at least $50 each to see the first pick. Instead, we waited with other stubborn (OK, cheap) fans. Based on prior experience, our intuition told us that the street price would decline rapidly once the draft started. As college students at the time, the extra $30 mattered. Aiding in our decision, we didn’t have anywhere to be.
After Larry “Grandmama” Johnson went with the first pick, the price quickly dropped to $25.
1991 NBA DRAFT #1 PICK – LARRY JOHNSON
As a matter of principal, we countered at $10. Still, no dice. With the second overall pick, the nearby New Jersey Nets took local prodigy Kenny Anderson. At this point, the place started to empty as if a fire alarm had been pulled. Given the outflow of spectators, our friendly “ticket speculator” came back to accept our $10 offer. We looked at his wad of tickets and told him that we’d wait some more. Realizing the declining value of his inventory, he revised his offer to 2 for $10. Finally, we had a deal!As an aside, I intentionally avoided using the nickname of Washington’s football team in my previous posts. Therefore, I can’t justifiably use the better known term for a “ticket speculator.” I don’t want to be accused of being
an . . . a person who gives you something and then takes it back. In case you don’t get the reference, this picture and clip might help.
SEINFELD CLIP – AS PROMISED
By the time we got to our seats, the venue looked half full. In Miami, we might have been early. In New York, it meant that event had ended. To be honest, it never would have gotten that full in Miami. Even though we had missed the first three selections (Billy Owens went #3 to the Sacramento Kings on our way in), we still appreciated having the opportunity to experience the draft in person.
As college basketball fans, we knew the names of many players in the draft.
1991 NBA DRAFT – WHERE’S WALDO (DAVID STERN)
In particular, we knew marquis players still remained on the board. Of note, we expected to see:
- Dikembe Mutombo (4th pick – seated 3rd from the left).
- Steve Smith (5th pick – standing 3rd from right).
- Mark Macon (8th pick – standing 4th from the left).
- Stacey Augmon (9th pick – standing 4th from the right).
Without the benefit of television commentary, we filled in the dead time with our own amusing story lines. For instance, we bet each other when the attendance would fall below 1,000 people. I can’t remember who won, but I’m sure I rigged it such that I would. Regardless, we didn’t have to wait too long. Right after the New York Knicks took Greg Anthony with the 12th pick, only friends, family and media members remained.
Before the start of the 2nd round, an usher asked us if we wanted to move closer. We liked sitting by ourselves so we didn’t accept the offer. As the draft progressed, we enjoyed observing the whole absurd spectacle. Frankly, we couldn’t understand why anyone not directly tied to the event would pay even $5 to go to see it.
The draft may be entertaining television, but it’s not entertaining in person. For us, we had the most fun negotiating with the ticket speculator. I’ve never met anyone else who actually went to a draft in person. Of course, I’m excluding anyone who attended as a guest or for professional reasons.
While hundreds of fans might enjoy watching the NFL or NBA drafts in person, millions of fans certainly enjoy watching them on TV. In particular, television coverage of the first day of 2014 NFL Draft averaged 12.4 million viewers. That total made it the 2nd most watched program that evening (after The Big Bang Theory). In comparison, the 2014 NBA Draft averaged 3.5 million viewers. While much lower than the total for the NFL Draft, it’s still quite impressive.
For a telling comparison, the television ratings for both drafts dwarf the totals for the 2014 NHL Draft (330,000 viewers) and MLB Draft (220,000 viewers). Assuming that television ratings provide a good proxy for fan interest, it seems appropriate to follow-up the Top 10 NFL Draft Busts with the Top 10 NBA Draft Busts. Needless to say, it may be a few years before I try to tackle a similar list for the NHL or MLB.