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The Cheapskate Way to Watch Pro Hoops


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I went to my 13th Denver Nuggets’ game the other night. The tickets cost $65. Not $65 per game, $65 total. Welcome to the best deal in pro sports: the Rocky’s Den, named after the Nuggets’ manic mascot, Rocky the mountain lion.

His lair migrates from section to section of the third level of the Pepsi Center. But the cost of the seats never changes.

They are five bucks apiece.

When you consider that I have found 75-cent parking a short walk from the arena, I have been watching one of the best teams in the NBA for 50 cents less than it costs to buy a beer in the concourse.

One of Carmelo Anthony’s socks costs more than I’m paying to attend games. And it’s all thanks to the largesse of the Nuggets.

Rocky’s Den tickets are not available for every game (call 303.405.1100 on game
day for availability, if they are, purchase them in person after noon).

Certain teams and players have enough drawing power that robust pre-game sales shut down the den. For instance, if you want to see the Lakers and Kobe for five bucks, forget it. But I did see LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for a fiver.

Midweek games are your best bet. So, of course, are teams with losing records. But with determination and a lunch hour, you can be a live witness to Melo’s slashing drives to the basket and Allen Iverson’s incomparable cross-over dribble.

Of course, “view” is a relative term. Sitting a few rows from the court at a recent Colorado 14ers game at the Broomfield Event Center, Walt and Bobbi Spader sum up just what I might be missing.

“You’re up close,” Walt, a Broomfield City councilman, says of his season tickets to watch the Nuggets’ developmental team. “You get to hear the conversations between the players and the refs and the players and the coaches.”

“Sometimes,” Walt’s wife, Bobbi, chimes in, “I can scream at the refs and they can hear me.”
“It’s so much better being next to the floor,” says Jim Miller of Westminster, who on this night has brought his 2-year-old son, Cole. Cole is just mesmerized.

Ask Kim Wright what she expects to see at a 14ers game in the Event Center as opposed to the Nuggets’ games and she says, simply: “The players.”

“At the 14ers games,” Manuel Soto acknowledges, “you can see people get a lot more physical. Obviously, it’s a lot better.”

And perhaps a tad more familiar.

Across the arena, down by the court, Quincy Hayes and Donald Chiles cheer on their favorite 14er, former Denver East star Keniel Dickens. Nearby, Dickens’ dad, Keith, watches, too.

Down here you see the speed of the game. And you can even offer helpful tips to the players. As the 14ers line up for a foul shot, Chiles locks eyes with Dickens, who is roughly 65 feet away.

“Turn it up; turn it up,” Chiles shouts to Dickens.

The 6-foot 8-inch ballplayer grins at his friend. That doesn’t happen in Rocky’s Den.
Still, as both a confirmed basketball fan and cheapskate, I remain proud to root for the home team without spending a fortune. Courtside seats at 14ers games cost 40 bucks apiece. And the lower
level, where the Spaders, Wright, Soto, Hayes, Chiles and Dickens sit, go for $19 per game.

For me, $19 is one dollar short of watching AI slice to the basket for four games.

Sure, I may not be able to hear the whack of flesh when players set picks or see drops of sweat flying from foreheads. But I can see the whole floor to understand how the coaches design offenses and defenses. And I can yell and holler as loud as I please, knowing full well that though I wrote about Iverson during his troubled high school career and my son once played on a summer league AAU team with him, AI would not remember me if we stared directly into each other’s faces, unblinking for 30 seconds.

I may spring for a 14ers game soon. It is, as Walt says, fun to watch because “all the guys on the 14ers hustle. …That’s the only way they’ll make it to the big time.”

Still, my heart will remain with the big time. I am proud to have found a deal that lets a bottom feeder like me go to 20 games a year for the cost of a single game on the lower deck.

That’s why I was so happy the other day when a scalper accosted me.

“You need tickets for tonight?” he yelled.

“Not unless you’ll sell them to me for five bucks apiece,” I shouted back.

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