NBA basketball is an exciting product, but today’s economy can make it tough to convince fans to pay to attend games. To help spice things up, many teams host events that honour the military or celebrate racial diversity. The Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls, for example, are two of the many teams that celebrate Latin Night. In other cities, the franchise’s marketing team rejoices every time they acquire an international athlete—fans of the Toronto Raptors were treated to Lithuanian Heritage Day in November in consideration of one of their players. Here are some of the best (and funniest) promotional events we’ve seen this season, all guaranteed more exciting than the Philadelphia 76ers’ $1 Hot Dog Night.
Fourteen years ago, the world’s technological infrastructure was supposed to collapse. That, of course, turned out to be a dud. To celebrate the pop culture of the early 2000s, the Milwaukee Bucks rolled out Y2K Night on February 22 against the Indiana Pacers. The Bucks went all out, ensuring that all in-arena entertainment—player introductions, music and in-game contests—reflected the millennial theme. They offered Y2K-era pricing ($7 seats) and gave away retro Bucks pennants. Coolio, the ’90s cult hero and hip-hop artist, performed at halftime.
The Bucks have the lowest attendance in the league, so their marketing team has to work harder than others. In fact, 32 of their 41 home games are promotional nights. Among the other standouts this season are Country Night, Super Hero Night (free Bucks capes!) and Beard Night. The next one that’s worth going to is Larry Sanders Bobblehead Night on March 27 against the Lakers. After signing a lucrative multi-year contract extension in the offseason, Sanders has averaged 7.7 points and 7.2 rebounds in the 23 games he’s played this season.
Nickname Jersey Night
The Brooklyn Nets hosted the Miami Heat in the battle of the East (just kidding—the Nets were and remain nowhere near the Heat in the standings) on January 10. However, the matchup was still awesome because it was Nickname Jersey Night at the Barclays Center. This is the first game in NBA history where players wore jerseys bearing their nicknames. The best nickname on the Heat was hands-down Ray Allen, who opted for “J. Shuttlesworth” as a tribute to his character in the film “He Got Game.” Norris “Cole Train” Cole, Michael “B Easy” Beasley and Roger “Moneymase” Mason, Jr. all deserve honourable mentions. Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Greg Oden, on the other hand, wasted this grand opportunity by going with their initials. On the Nets, Andrei Kirilenko wins for his attempt at getting “AK47” printed on his jersey, which was rejected for obvious reasons. He ended up going with his last name spelled using the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.
January 11 was Drake Night at the Air Canada Centre. A sold-out crowd came to see Drake, rap superstar and global ambassador of the Toronto Raptors. Fans in attendance received free long-sleeved black and gold T-shirts with the original Raptors logo on the front and Drake’s OVO owl on the back. Drake announced the starting lineup for the home team as they marched out to meet their Atlantic Division rivals, the Brooklyn Nets. Drake’s DJ, Future the Prince, performed at halftime. It was a celebration of all things Drake. From the Raptors Dance Pak tribute, to all the attention he received taking in the Raptors’ 96-80 victory from courtside seats with his name on them, Drake proved he’s still fly.
Bad Boys Night
Members of the 1989 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons are reuniting to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their first NBA Championship, the title that cemented the Bad Boys’ place in basketball history. Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, John Salley, Mark Aguirre, Dennis Rodman, Vinnie Johnson, James Edwards, Rick Mahorn, John Long, Fennis Dembo and Micheal Williams will be honoured at halftime when the Pistons take on the Miami Heat March 28. Nostalgic fans will want to come out to pay respect to the players at the forefront of an era that is the pride of the Pistons organization. Currently, the Pistons are bad, but not in the same way the Bad Boys were. The team is fighting for a playoff spot at 23-35 (ninth in the East) and are fourth-to-last in league attendance. This event should help with that, if only for one night.
Ladies Night Out
“We are fifth-worst in league attendance! We have got to do something!”
“That’s right, Albert! We have to think outside of the box.”
That’s what we imagine was said at the event staff meeting that led to the T-Wolves teaming up with HBO for this weird event. The team specifically targeted female fans with an irresistible offer of a glass of wine, the first season of “Girls” and a ticket to a Timberwolves game for the low, low price of $18 (which, to be fair, is two bucks less than the DVD set alone retails for on Amazon). The promotion is available for four games this season, with your last chance to experience it on March 26 against the Atlanta Hawks.
The Bobcats have been a running joke for a while, but the one category in which they come out on top is in (drumroll please)… freebies. And they don’t play around. The current Bobcats (future and, er, past Hornets) don’t worry too much about themes. Unlike many teams, the Bobcats give out free stuff that is actually worth keeping. Fans attending Bobcats home games are the first to pick up new, revamped Charlotte Hornets gear. The organization has given away bobble heads of some of the best players to suit up for the Hornets. Better yet, they have handed out some neat Cody Zeller and Kemba Walker gnomes. Who wouldn’t one one of those on their lawn?
Meet the Heat
This one doesn’t really belong on a list of the best in-arena promotions, but it’s too embarrassing to omit. Minnesota tried drawing a crowd by offering fans a chance to high-five players as they came out of the tunnel. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, the matchup in question was on December 7 against the Miami Heat. The Timberwolves essentially marketed the game to fans as an opportunity to interact with the other team. Come to our game so you can meet the defending champs! We have one of the best power forwards in the game on our team, but don’t mind him. Poor Kevin Love.