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Friday, April 10, 2009
Build-Your-Own Ultimate Fan Experience


Matthew Rachamkin, die-hard TrueHoop reader, (it's the homepage of his computer and his phone) was nice enough to write up an account of an incredible experience he created for himself at February's All-Star Weekend in PhoenixHere are his words and photos from his big night.

For months I had hoped that I would be able to make it to Phoenix for NBA All Star weekend. Just so happened to work out: Two days in the Bay Area and one day in Arizona set me up perfectly. Luckily I also got to travel with my company's co-founder Rich, who just happened to have a cousin out here who has season tickets to the Suns.

Matt Rachamkin
Memo to NBA Security: The man sitting in Suns' owner Robert Sarver's seats was not really with Pau Gasol and actually does speak English. An investigation would have revealed one second-hand nosebleed ticket, to go with one ton of moxie.
(Photo courtesy of Matthew Rachamkin.)

My initial thought was that the tickets would be ridiculously expensive and I would just try to sneak into to some of the events. Randomly enough, right before I left I checked StubHub and found two tickets to Friday's rookie/sophomore game for $15 (in nosebleed seats) way, way up there. Done and done. I bought the tickets for Rich and me and the plan was in motion.

Rich spoke with his cousin who said he also was going to the game (with his son) so we planned on meeting for dinner and then heading to the stadium. Rich's cousin and his son happened to be awesome, awesome company and after a great dinner we all walked to the Arena.

Unfortunately since this was not a regular season Suns game, they did not have their usual seats and were up in the nosebleed section with Rich and me. But we tried our luck. As a season ticket holder Rich's cousin has an "All Access Pass" to the basement of the stadium through a private elevator. Although that "Pass" isn't valid for All-Star weekend, we tried it anyway. Luck was on our side, the lady that was doing security at the elevator recognized him and let us all in.

The goal was to just take a few pics from behind the basket and then head up towards our seats. That was their goal, not mine. I took out my iPhone and start taking pics left and right as I maneuvered closer and closer to the court.

Finally, I was standing at the corner of the sideline and baseline when a security guard approaches and says, "Sir, may I please see your credentials?"

Pau Gasol
Great player. Even better cover story.
(Photo courtesy of Matthew Rachamkin.)

Instead of hesitating I just said, "Sorry" and walked right past him. Please note, I did not turn around and walk back through the tunnel, nor did I head up towards the stairs. I walked past him, onto the court's sidelines, past the scorers' table, until I found myself right next to Pau Gasol and this lovely little Spanish woman sitting in the first two seats. I also saw two empty seats next to them. I sat in one of those empty seats. Courtside. First row.

Pau gets up to do whatever it is 7 foot Spanish people do when they aren't playing basketball and I find myself alone with this pretty lady. A second later a security guard comes up to us with a stern look on his face and says, "May I please see your credentials or tickets?!"

It is in that moment where my true genius exposes itself (sarcasm?). Instead of saying something I wait and let the lil lady talk, "I'm with Pau!" she exclaims in a thick Spanish accent.

What did I do? What did I say? Nothing. I said absolutely nothing. I just nodded. One simple tilt of the head up and then down. Apparently the security guard interpreted my head nod perfectly as "he doesn't speak English well but he is also with Pau."

So here I was sitting courtside next to Pau Gasol when I got a call from Rich who was by then up in the nosebleed seats with his relatives. "Matt don't you dare leave there," he said. "That is incredible! But you might want to move over a seat or two. I just heard that the seat you are in belongs to the owner of the Suns. GOOD LUCK! I will see you on Tuesday!"

Chris Bosh
Life adjacent to Chris Bosh.
(Photo courtesy of Matthew Rachamkin.)

Apparently the owner of the Suns is not a big Rookie/Sophomore game fan because he didn't show up. I took full advantage of my opportunity, and took out my $15 e-ticket and ask Pau for an autograph. I proceeded to ask Michael Beasley and Russell Westbrook (who were literally five feet in front of me shooting around before the game) for their autographs, and they obliged.

Right before the game started they introduced TNT's special guest announcer... MR. LEBROOOOOON JAAAAAAMES! So then I was sitting about 15 feet from LeBron and I realized this might be my only opportunity in life to get LeBron's autograph. I waited until a TV timeout and snuck over to his announcers table and ask if he would mind signing my ticket. He didn't mind at all and signed it.

The whole game was just unbelievable. Since I was so ridiculously close to the players I had a chance to talk with them, "Yo OJ (Mayo) lemme see something!!" I yelled. He responded with an, "aight" and then wet a 3 next time down the court.

Autographs
The haul.
(Photo courtesy of Matthew Rachamkin.)

Halftime came and Kevin Durant appeared right in front of me. He signed my ticket too... then my boss's cousin's son, Chris, realized that he had sneaky powers too and ended up right next to me as I was charging my phone at the press table. Then when we realized, "Oh s---, Chris Bosh just took my seat!"

Ok, phew -- there was still room next to him. We sat down where we could, and the order became Pau Gasol, Spanish lady, Chris Bosh, Henry Thomas (Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade's agent) me, then some dude who had the illest watch I've ever seen and then Chris. Unbelievable.

The game continued and I started yelling to D. Wade, who was coaching the rookie team, "Dwyaneee you gotta get em to play some D" When he finally looked up I mouthed, "You owe me an autograph!" He responded with, "After the game." He stuck to his word. Then I politely asked Chris Bosh for his autograph. He was cool as hell and gave it to me.

The game started getting intense and then Kevin Durant just went nuts and hit three 3s in a row, ending the game with 46 points, setting a game record, and winning the MVP.

I ended the game with a record of my own:  Seven autographs. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Michael Beasley and Russell Westbrook all signed the back of my $15 ticket.

Thank you Rich. Thank you Rich's cousin. Thank you Pau. Thank you demented security guard. Thank you LeBron. Thank you life.