I woke up this morning to the news that the NBA trade deadline had passed without the Mavericks making a move. This immediately took my still-sleepy brain a dozen years into the past, to a more memorable trade deadline.
In February 2002 — during the Mavs’ first season in the American Airlines Center, and their first without their cowboy hat logo — the team acquired Nick Van Exel, Raef LaFrentz, Avery Johnson, and Tariq Abdul Wahad from the Nuggets. The first game featuring these new players was a home tilt on a Saturday afternoon against Chris Webber and the Kings. Both teams were at the top of their respective divisions, so the game was a pretty big deal — a war of leaders, if you will.
I worked an odd shift at the Morning News on Saturdays back then, so I left the office right around tipoff. I had a $10 bill in my pocket and nothing better to do, so I walked over to the AAC to see if I could get a ticket. The first quarter was almost over by the time I started to engage scalpers, none of whom wanted anything to do with me and my 10 spot. Most of them looked at me like I was crazy when I said that was all I was willing to pay.
Once I’d circled the arena, it was nearly halftime, so I gave up and started walking back toward the office. A scalper I’d already talked to spotted me and asked if I still needed a ticket.
“Yeah,” I said, “but all I’ve got is a 10.”
“Man, gimme 30 at least.”
“I’ve got 10.”
“Man, gimme 20.”
“I’ve got 10.”
“All right, gimme your 10.”
I did, even though he had produced no ticket in exchange. He then hollered to a few other scalpers, “Yo, I’m walking this guy!” I was quickly surrounded by four scalpers, all of whom were much taller than me. As I wondered whether “walking” was code for “kicking his ass in the alley behind the garage,” the five of us moved as a unit toward the fenced-in smoking patio on the southeast corner of the AAC. My walking companions had some sort of VIP status in the eyes of the security guard standing next to the fence’s gate, because he swung it open for them without a word.
Suddenly, I was on the inside, allowed to melt into the crowd of ticket holders. Still being without a ticket of my own, I went upstairs, scouted out an empty row, took a seat, and enjoyed the second half of the Mavs’ 111-97 win over Sacramento. Alas, the Kings would get their revenge in the playoffs, eliminating Dallas in a second-round series.
Anyway, that was a sports story I wanted to share with you guys.