Tickets were sold out in three minutes. That’s how much excitement surrounded the preseason game – the first of the 2016-17 NBA season – between Toronto and Golden State in Vancouver on Saturday.
“It was an awesome atmosphere,” Steph Curry said after the game. “It’s a really cool way to start off our preseason schedule.”
Whether that means Vancouver is an NBA-worthy city or it’s simply an “event town” is hard to say.
In the end, Toronto won 97-93, with rookie Pascal Siakam giving Toronto a four-point lead with eight seconds left, but that wasn’t what the night was about.
Kevin Durant making his Warriors debut alongside current NBA MVP Curry, facing a Raptors team coming off their best-ever season, made it more of a must-see (or must-be-seen-at) event than an average game.
The game itself was fun too.
The crowd of over 19,000, made up of more Raptors than Warriors fans, went crazy when DeMar DeRozan ran the length of the court off a Durant giveaway and dunked the ball in the second quarter.
Funny sign here in the crowd in Vancouver, which is fired up for tonight's game. Shame there's not a team here still. pic.twitter.com/H33wNEhBAT
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) October 1, 2016
They appreciated last year’s finalists too – when Curry sunk his first three early on and when he later alley-ooped the ball for an Andre Iguodala dunk just before halftime, they were as loud as they’d get all night.
No love for Durant
The only negative sentiment from the sold-out crowd was directed at Kevin Durant. Oh, they were loud when his name was announced, but half of them booed while the other half cheered.
Everyone involved had a different take on the crowd’s reception of Durant.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had a good approach: “I didn’t even notice,” he said.
Sure thing coach.
Curry heard it.
“It’s (the booing is) just buying into a narrative that doesn’t really make sense to me. It probably won’t be the last time, but he handles it well,” said Curry.
Then there was Durant, handling it well.
“Uhh, I heard more cheering than booing to be honest,” he said.
“I was just so locked into going for the win that I wasn’t really focused on that or listening too hard for the boos. I heard cheering for me.”
Talking about whether it will bother him if he’s booed throughout the season, Durant’s response made you feel there’s no way a guy this likeable won’t win the fans over.
“Everybody that comes to the games are fans of basketball,” said Durant.
“As long as everbody’s supporting the game of basketball that’s cool with me. No matter if they’re cheering or booing, it’s all good.”
The NBA in Vancouver
To a man, the players and coaches raved about Vancouver.
Before the game Steve Kerr told a story about his most memorable visit.
“I loved coming here,” he said. “I remember taking half the Spurs team up in a seaplane the day before our game.
“I was sitting in the Pan Pacific Hotel staring at these seaplanes taking off and I said I gotta get on one of those. I called the concierge, we set it up. I didn’t tell Popp (coach Gregg Popovich). He would not have wanted half his team up in a seaplane above Whistler.”
Back to the crowd on hand for the game, Draymond Green was amazed.
“It was very energetic,” he said. “It’s a great place to play. The city’s been great to us in the short time we’ve been here.”
Klay Thompson elaborated: “I think a lot of players league-wide and coaches as well would love to come up here and continue to play.”
Could it work? Would Vancouver support an NBA team the second time around?
It’s no scientific study, but the fans at the game definitely thought so.
“It’s an opportunity to bring a little more sports passion to a great city that’s known worldwide,” said Chris Shelard, a fan in his mid 40s, decked out in Warriors gear.
“The fanbase has changed in all sorts of ways with the way the city has grown. It’s more of an international city with an international stage after 2010,” he continued.
A couple of 17-year-old Raptors fans agreed.
“Basketball has grown in BC and Vancouver to like triple what it was three years ago,” said Kabir Dhaliwal.
“The Toronto Raptors got all of Canada hyped.”
His friend Tripat Sandhu agrees: “We only have one Canadian team. Why not make it two?”
For the final take on this important debate, we’ll go to the star of Saturday’s events, Steph Curry. Before the game, he was asked if Vancouver should have an NBA team.
“Sure, why not?” he replied.
It’s on then.