Dirty wrappers and napkins littered the concourse seating area at Madison Square Garden. You didn’t have to search far to find the remnants of some adult beverage containers that were enjoyed by thousands of basketball-deprived fans who were finally getting their basketball fix in.
Fans of the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics were treated to one of the best opening night games of the way-too-early season that ended with a 138-134 double overtime win for New York.
But for a longtime basketball scribe like me, seeing all those joyful, enthusiastic, inebriated faces was exactly what I needed.
NBA arenas are not all the same, but the in-your-face energy and passion from the various fan bases isn't all that different from one NBA city to the next.
But the global pandemic robbed us of many things; among them being the chance to congregate at an NBA game and not have a limit on who all can attend.
Of course there are some health and safety protocol concerns that remain issues that have not been totally taken care of. But to see and feel that packed house at the basketball Mecca better known as Madison Square Garden, felt so good.
There were lots of laughs shared by all, and a clear spilling out of emotions by fans in between the spilling of drinks and other assorted digestible goodies like this.
After the game, there were plenty of storylines and subplots to talk about.
Boston’s Jaylen Brown went into the game as questionable after spending a large chunk of the team’s training camp in isolation after a positive test reading for the COVID-19 virus.
Brown was in the starting lineup, and wound up delivering the game of his life before finishing with a career-high 46 points in the loss.
But Brown’s monster of a game, wasn’t enough because the Knicks had their own star, Julius Randle, stepping up and in doing so, stomped out any hopes the Celtics had of pulling out the win by finishing with 35 points of his own.
Kemba Walker (10 points, eight rebounds) was the former Celtic everyone was talking about before the game, but it was Evan Fournier, also a former Celtic, who stole the show for New York as he finished with 32 points.
New York also got strong performances from R.J. Barrett (19 points) and Obi Topin who chipped in 14 points off the bench.
Of course the fans came to see the players do what they do well. But there was an unmistakable connection fans had on this night with one another that stood out; a connection rooted in the camaraderie that comes with attending an NBA game with a packed house full of fans.
They were loud.
They slurred their words from time to time, too.
They were doing what fans do, which is to enjoy the hell out of a game.
And for folks like myself who have seen more than my share of NBA basketball for years, this was very much the fix I needed, right now.
For me, the final score didn’t matter.
More important was seeing the joyful smiles so many fans flashed all game and the inebriated fan or two who had a little too good a time.
It was a reminder of how much I missed the game, and how to not take the little things - like a dirty wrapper or a partially empty adult beverage container - for granted.