Watching the NBA Finals this year? Here are six tips we can give you from our own experience to make the most out of it.
It’s every basketball fan’s dream to watch their favorite NBA team play live, and an even bigger dream to see them play in the Finals. I was lucky enough to get this opportunity at Game 4 of the 2022-23 NBA Finals, between the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors.
It was everything I hoped it would be and more, and it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
And because seeing your favorite NBA team in the Finals is not an opportunity that rolls around every single year, if you should find yourself going to see your team live, you’ll want to do it right.
Here are some tips we’ve gathered that might help you watch the NBA Finals the right way.
Tip #1: Walk to the stadium, be among the fans.
While this may not be an option in all NBA cities, walking to the stadium was the perfect way to warm up for the game. The entire city of Boston lives and breathes sports, so naturally, the energy in anticipation of Game 4 was as thick as the humid Manila air.
Getting closer and closer to TD Garden, I began running into more and more Celtics fans — people wearing jerseys and carrying signs. At first, the Celtics fan stood out from the crowd. But as soon as I reached the Garden, the only people who stood out were those not in Celtics outfits.
The Warriors fans looked completely out of place.
Outside the Garden, the fans were already beginning to cheer. Someone will randomly yell out, “Let’s go, Celtics!” and then instinctively, the hundreds of people crammed onto the sidewalk outside TD Garden would clap in unison.
The entire walk slowly and steadily hyped me up for the game. It was an introduction into a city loud and proud of their boys in green. I was incredibly honored to be a part of it, even for a day.
Tip #2: There is a lot to see. Come early!
We probably don’t need to stress this too much because you will likely be too excited to come late, but I definitely recommend getting to the stadium early. An NBA finals game is stressful enough without having to worry about getting in time to catch the tip-off.
And getting to the stadium early means you can spend time doing what every sports fan loves to do: shop for merchandise.
I entered the store right next to TD Garden called the Boston ProShop. Every inch of the store was lined with Celtics merchandise — a paradise for me.
After spending an ungodly amount of time sorting through the piles of green in the ProShop, I left happy with a ton of new merch. Shopping bag in hand, I made my way to the entrance.
With an hour and a half left until the start of the game, the doors to TD Garden were opened, and everyone waiting outside slowly inched their way through in ordered chaos.
When I finally made it in, I walked through the tunnel of my loge and let my senses adjust to the scene: the near 20,000 seats surrounding me and the players warming up on the parquet. Yes, I freaked out.
Seeing your favorite players live for the first time is one of the most exciting parts of the whole experience. Trust me, you’re going to want to savor every moment that you get to be in the same place as they are.
And a bonus: they give out free shirts on all the seats.
Tip #3: Make friends.
To be frank, I felt a little bit intimidated being at TD Garden for the finals. While I do love the Celtics, I’m not from Boston. I was thinking it would be obvious, especially to fans who watch all the time.
But the people around me couldn’t have been friendlier. Before the first quarter even started, the two men sitting next to us were already making friendly conversation (if you would consider us trash-talking about Draymond Green friendly).
Throughout the game, every time the Celtics landed a shot or were fouled, we’d jump up off our seats and high-five everyone around us. And it wasn’t just us, everyone was doing the same too. We were all strangers, yet for those four quarters, it felt like everyone was close enough to be lifelong friends.
This made the experience ten times more fun than it could have been. So if you ever find yourself at a game, don’t shy away from the fans around you. Talk to them. Share your opinions. It’s a special thing to connect with strangers so easily about one specific passion for a couple of hours.
Tip #4: Cheer. LOUD.
If you’ve been to a UAAP finals game (bonus points if it was DLSU vs. ADMU), I’m here to tell you that the feeling of watching an NBA finals game live could easily be up to five times the energy. You will not want to miss joining all the action going on around you.
And I can guarantee you that there will be plenty of it.
At first, it was overwhelming to the senses. The fans cheer at the top of their lungs throughout the entire four quarters. And though it may feel a bit new to have your cheers heard by other people rather than just your TV at home, join in and cheer as loud as you can.
My throat began hurting within the first five minutes of screaming and my ears felt like they were buzzing with all the noise, but honestly, it was the best part of the experience. My eyes had a hard time focusing on the floor of the game with all the fans frantic around me, but I was in awe of the passion.
But, another huge reason to cheer loud and get hyped and dance around in your seat is to make it on the big screen. Some friends back home spotted us on TV and sent us a photo (and yes, I was proud).
Here’s hoping one of the Celtics boys looked up at the exact moment we popped up on the Jumbotron.
Tip #5: Stay until the final buzzer.
If you watched Game 4 of this particular series, you know how things ended for the Celtics. Once they continuously missed their shots, the energy in the Garden shifted completely. And not in a good way.
Suddenly, the deafening cheers of the crowd diminished to a just few voices yelling, “Defense!” I did my best to stay cheering along as loud as I could, but as the Warriors began to widen their lead, it became challenging to maintain the energy.
With two minutes left on the clock and with the Warriors’ considerable lead, fans started to slowly leave their seats to beat the crowd rushing out. Whenever I saw fans doing that on TV, I would tell myself, If I ever watched my team live, I’d never leave before the buzzer.
Yet, admittedly, even I considered leaving when I was in the moment. You might feel this way too.
But I stayed, and I’d recommend the same to anyone. I told myself I’d be happy to get caught in the traffic, somber as we all were. And I was glad that I did. To be a fan, sometimes you need to have the never-say-die attitude we want our players to have. When it comes to the finals, I’m sure we never want to lose hope for our teams.
Believe me, if you left early and found out your team put up a good fight and you missed the chance to see it live — it’s worth sticking around to make sure that doesn’t happen.
The final cheers when the buzzer went off were discouraging in comparison to the roars before the start of the game, but I was still happy to be a part of it.
Tip #6: How to cope with a loss…
If you’re a fan of any sport, you know what a loss feels like. But watching a loss live is maybe twice (if not thrice) as hard to see.
But the perk of watching live is that you get to share the loss with thousands of other people who feel the exact same way you do. Getting on the train and making my way back, I was surrounded by the same energy around me and it was comforting.
So if you stay for the final buzzer, even if you don’t beat the traffic and your team didn’t quite have the game you were hoping for, this is still a unique experience in itself. And it’s way better than just sitting on your couch at home marinating in a loss.
But my advice for coping with a loss is to think about it this way: the win would have just been the cherry on top.
Throughout the entire game, I cannot say I didn’t enjoy myself. With all the back and forth in scoring and with the Celtics staying in just until the very end, I was having an enormous amount of fun. It was easily the most fun I’d ever had in a sporting event.
I cheered loudly, made friends, bought my merch, even got a free shirt, and saw my favorite players live. Thinking about those things alone already sounds like a good time. Sure, the win would have sealed it. But I’ll take the loss and relive it all over again if I could.