It’s every basketball fan’s dream to watch their favorite NBA team play live in the finals. I was lucky enough to get this opportunity at Game 4 of this year’s series between the Celtics and the Warriors.
It was everything I hoped it would be and more.
I know the season just ended and we have another long year of anticipation while waiting for the next NBA finals series. But just in case you have it on your bucket list, or if you feel your favorite team has a good shot for next year, here are some tips for watching your first NBA finals game live.
(Disclaimer: I’m not an unbiased reporter. I’m a Celtics fan.)
Tip #1: Walk to the stadium
Walking to the stadium is 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 thick as the humid Manila air.
As I walked closer to the 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 TD 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’s lots to see. Come early!
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 there 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.
If you’re a Celtics fan and one day find yourself here, bring an extra suitcase for your trip. The shopping scene is overwhelming—but in the best way.
After spending an ungodly amount of time sorting through the piles of green in the ProShop, I left happy with my new Celtics cap, my Jaylen Brown photo, and my Jayson Tatum basketball card. 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.
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 you’re in the same place as they are.
And a bonus: they gives out free shirts on all the seats.
A bold print for a shirt, if you ask me. But I was all about that 18 myself.
Tip #3: Make friends
To tell the truth, 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 me 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 friends.
This made the experience ten times more than it could have been. So if you ever find yourself at a game, don’t be shy. Talk to people around you. It’s a special thing to connect with strangers so easily for a couple of hours.
Tip #4: Cheer. LOUD.
If you’ve been to a UAAP finals game (bonus points if it was DLSU and 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 thing. 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 started 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 getting me the most hyped over basketball than I’d ever been.
But the main 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.
This is proof that cheering real loud pays off.
Tip #5: Stay until the final buzzer
If you watched Game 4, 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 difficult.
With two minutes left on the clock and with the Warriors’ considerable lead, fans started to slowly leave their seats to beat the rush. Whenever I saw fans doing that on TV, I would tell myself, If I ever watched my team live, I’d never leave them before the buzzer.
But admittedly, I considered leaving when I was in the moment. You might feel this way too.
But I stayed, and I’d recommend the same. I told myself I’d be happy to get caught in the crowd, somber as we all were.
And I was glad 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 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 ever.
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.