Milwaukee Bucks: Sampling the fan experience on the road

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 12: (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 12: (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

As the Milwaukee Bucks gear up for two of their most important road games in years, what is it like to catch your favorite team away from the friendly confines of Fiserv Forum?

Ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks hitting the road to face the Boston Celtics in Games 3 and 4, I’d like to tell a story of my own experience catching up with the Bucks on their travels this season.

Without doxxing myself too much, let me give some personal background. I’ve been a Bucks fan since they drafted Jabari Parker, because I’m a loathsome Duke fan, and I live below the Mason-Dixon line. Nobody in my family has any connection to Milwaukee or the Bucks franchise, so I’d never been to see a game in person — until Spring Break 2019, that is.

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My partner and I had been planning a trip to New Orleans for spring break for some time, and whilst I was walking Bourbon Street, I thought to myself, “I wonder if the Pelicans have any home games while we’re here, and against whom specifically they might be playing.”

Anthony Davis is always fun to watch, and this was before he got totally shut down for the year (and then got un-benched), but I didn’t really want to spend time and money to watch something horrible like Pelicans-Suns.

As it so happened, my trip intersected with the March 11 visit of the Bucks to New Orleans. I realized this a couple days beforehand, convinced my partner to accompany me on an unplanned excursion to the game, and faced my first agonizing decision: which seats to buy?

Should I go cheap and sit in the nosebleeds? Do I want to be in the 100s? Should I be towards the middle? The visitor’s tunnel? Behind the basket? Which basket should I sit behind?

I’m terrible at making decisions under pressure. This was important: it was my first live Bucks game (although not my first NBA game — a long time ago, I was present for a random regular season Nuggets-Bulls game, in which Melo hit a buzzer beater to win) and I wanted to be sure to get the best possible experience, short of dropping 300 dollars per person to sit courtside. I eventually settled on a spot behind the home basket, in the third row of the stands. This was very affordable for the location, probably because of how NOLA’s season has been going.

The gameday experience at the Smoothie King Center was excellent. I came in with no expectations and found myself enjoying the experience. I can’t say how parking was, because we took a rideshare, but the traffic was not too bad around the arena. It’s tucked away a certain distance from the actual gameday parking and from the downtown streets.

We arrived a full hour early, because I’m a basketball nerd, and quickly found our seats. I did the usual NBA fanboy thing and pointed out who everyone was during warmups to my partner who very kindly put up with me. It was around this point that I noticed something I’m sure anyone who’s been to a game will know: just how tall everyone on the court is. It’s rare in daily life to be around a large number of people who are all between six and seven feet tall.

The stands actually filled up pretty well by tipoff — New Orleans fans deserve better than what they’ve been getting these past few years, and because the game itself was close for the first half, the atmosphere was electric. As the Bucks pulled away through the second half en route to a 130-113 win, people calmed down and began leaving early, although a few big dunks from AD did occasionally rouse the relaxed fans.

One of the other things one notices when seeing the game in person is all the contact that isn’t as apparent on television. The players are constantly in contact: there’s endless hand-fighting in the post, forearms in backs, big men setting screens often use their hands and the defenders respond by using their own arms to maneuver around them, and rebounding is even more physical than one realizes.

If you were to play the same way in a pick-up game you’d quickly anger a lot of people, but that’s just how basketball is played at this level. Despite the popular refrains of older players that the game has gotten soft, there’s still a lot of hand checking and bumping of cutters.

You’re also much more able to hear the players talking to each other and to the refs depending on how close you can get to the floor, which can be instructional and amusing depending on whether they’re discussing defensive rotations or talking trash.

It was enjoyable being a Bucks fan at a Bucks win. Khris Middleton‘s open disdain for smaller guards in the post was even more evident, as is the freakish nature of Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s movement and ability.

Nikola Mirotic went for double figures in the game, and received a friendly welcome back to New Orleans. I believe there was actually a promotion involving Mirotic bobbleheads, which was interesting.

The food was passable — I have no strong opinions about stadium food. There were no promotional monstrosities like we’re starting to see at baseball parks, although they did have more regional fare like shrimp and grits. If you’re going to be in New Orleans, though, you might as well get shrimp and grits from an actual restaurant.

I’d recommend the Smoothie King Center experience to anyone who has the opportunity and the means in the future.

The Bucks finished the season tied with the Warriors for the best road record in the NBA (27-14). For Bucks fans outside of the Milwaukee area, this season offered a great opportunity to catch up with the team on the road, and to sample the winning experience that’s been such a common occurrence at Fiserv Forum.

There haven’t been many years of late when Bucks fans could have attended home games confident of seeing a Milwaukee win, let alone getting lucky enough to catch a victory on the road.

Hopefully this trend will continue for years to come, and not only will Bucks fans be able to catch up with their team around the country and get to witness a good performance and a win, but also to sit back and enjoy Giannis’ ability to draw gasps of sheer awe in visiting arenas around the league.

Next. Milwaukee Bucks: 15 greatest NBA playoff moments. dark

For now, let’s just hope any intrepid Bucks fans making the trip to TD Garden over the next few days can come away with the same enjoyment, and result, that I got on my trip to New Orleans.