Mission Bay, San Francisco. Late April, 2019. Round about midnight.

The 18,000-seat arena is empty, save one man. In near darkness, the lone figure dribbles twice, elevates, releases. Splash. Over and over again.

Hoisting shots with trance-like focus, he doesn’t notice a second man emerge from the shadows and onto the dimly-lit court behind him. The newcomer observes silently for a few minutes, then breaks the spell, calling out, “Looking good, Klay.”

“Oh. Hey, Steph.”

“Didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Yeah, well. Just thought I’d get some work in. You too, huh?”

“Yup.”

The pair fall into an easy rhythm together. Elevate, release. Splash. Pass. After a half hour, they retire to courtside seats. The sound of their conversation carries faintly to the rafters of the cavernous space.

Steph: “Sure is quiet here at nighttime.”

Klay: “Not that much different than game time.”

Steph: “What are you talking about?”

Klay: “You know what I’m talking about.”

Steph: “This place gets plenty loud.”

Klay: “This place is a tomb. Even with all the music and sound effects. I’m pretty sure they started pumping in fake crowd noise, too. Doesn’t make a difference. Makes me mad, actually. Oracle was so much better.”

Steph: “Are you hating on the Twitter Center? The NBA’s premier arena-slash-IMAX theater-slash-fine dining experience-slash-karaoke bar-slash-amusement park?”

Klay: “There’s no magic here, no life. It feels synthetic. Sterile. Plus, all that other stuff is just distracting — keeps fans from paying attention. And with what? Gourmet sushi? Mini-golf? I got bored of the roller coaster after about the sixth time.”

Steph: “Don’t knock the Dipsy-Doo. My kid loves that ride.”

Klay: “I bet she does. But how does she feel about, you know, basketball? I swear, sometimes I think these people aren’t even here to watch us play, they’re just here to be part of a scene. A couple weeks ago, I went to the line with a few minutes left in the fourth, down by one. Caught a glimpse of some couple behind the basket taking a selfie. Totally phased me. I nearly air-balled it.”

Steph: “I remember that miss. But you redeemed yourself by winning the game with a buzzer-beater.”

Klay: “I bet you that selfie couple didn’t catch it, though, along with half the arena. I’m always seeing people heading for the exits before we’re done. And we got empties at the start, too. The seats don’t fill until the second quarter. It’s like we’re in South Beach or something. Given how expensive tickets are, you’d figure people would want to get their full money’s worth.”

Steph: “Yeah. I heard it’s topping out at ten grand for tomorrow’s game.”

Klay: “Wow. And we’re only in the first round. Imagine what the cost will be for the finals.”

Steph: “Don’t jinx us.”

Klay: “Sure, fine. But my point is, even during the regular season, the average fan can’t afford the price of admission here, much less the artisanal vegan hot dogs and organic craft microbrews and all that other foo-foo nonsense they serve.”

Steph: “Have you actually had the fufu here? You can get it up on international culinary pavilion number three, just above the go-cart track. It’s delicious. They put a fancy twist on it, but Ezeli claims it’s still pretty authentic.”

Klay: “Um, I have no idea what you’re talking about. It just bothers me that we’re alienating regular folks, squeezing out the little guy in favor of the corporate glitterati.”

Steph: “Come on, dude — don’t act like you aren’t enjoying Silicon Valley’s generosity. I know you had fun in Mark Zuckerberg’s submarine last month.”

Klay: “It’s surprising how such an awkward guy can throw such a great party. And underwater, even.”

Steph: “Right? And our orbital spaceflight with Larry Page and Sergey Brin is going to be even better.”

Klay: “Yeah, but I’m concerned that experiencing zero gravity will make the act of dunking less exciting once we get back.”

Steph: “I doubt it. And how cool is it to have access to Joe Lacob’s private helicopter?”

Klay: “I’ll never forget flying over Steve Ballmer’s mansion and dumping all that gold paint on his Maserati collection.”

Steph: “See? Learn to stop worrying and love the luxury box.”

Klay: “I guess that’s one way of looking at it. But it’s hard for me to embrace all this San Francisco decadence when I think about the diehard fans we left behind in the East Bay. Especially with them losing the Raiders and A’s as well. My heart goes out to them.”

Steph: “Oakland’s a tough luck kind of place. But Oaklanders are resilient. They’ll be alright. Besides, we gave them some great basketball while we were there — some of the best that town has ever seen.”

Klay: “Most definitely. We sure put on a show, huh? Well, I hope they appreciated what they had, while they had it.”

Steph: “I hope so too… But enough of this idle chatter. We got a playoff game tomorrow. Let’s go home and get some rest. I’ll give you a lift — I got Lacob’s bird up on the helipad.”



ALEC MACDONALD

Alec MacDonald is a writer and editor who lives in Oakland, California. Alec is a 2015 Dat Winning fellow.

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