Blistering lips and a mix up between sweetened chicken and sweetened beef—both with copious amounts of dud floured bits to distract and spit out—led into the balmy night. Buying tickets an hour before tip-off affords the closeness of sitting near to, but not too close to railings that separate the silver section from the overhang of the walk in the Entertainment Centre. Shorted sleeves. Passing reference was made to the massively blue lines covering veins on the hands and quickly hidden in plain sight thereafter.
Climbing a short hike, the reality of the ticket's letter row dawned on the night, suspicions on a reverse alphabet layout dismissed. From the rows of E, the bright lights are brighter than those had at row P and the sound system leaning in with a clarity that suggest that these seats are very near the audible sweet spot. Seated along the sidelines, the new big screen from Philips is on a fair angle with a touch of head turning. Montages from previous highlights play and even features three new songs fresh to the Kingdome—one being a now old Superman (It's Not Easy) from Five for Fighting, the even older Downtown by Petula Clark and the recent head waste of Fatboy Slim's slashdotdash. There will be no more new music heard after tip-off.
Opening with no fanfare or even a raucous, the unveiling of the 2003/04 NBL Championship banner is a silent observation as the gloss looks Napisan-white compared to the banner from 2002/03. Gears are heard squeaking on each metre rising up toward the ceiling. Moments later, Andrew Gaze from the Melbourne Tigers takes the floor and speeches on for the retirement of Shane Heal's #23. A relatively short player, the rising singlet is a massive shirt and would comfortably fit a Bigfoot, Sasquatch or Yeti—whatever name it's using. This too is met with mysterious silence, no clapping, no music, nothing but looks into the air.
Announcer Rodney O makes a welcomed return to calling the shots and there are a whole swag of new Sydney Kings players, and their nicknames, to get used to. Jason "The Twin" Smith, Ben "Knightrider" Knight and one of the new imports, Mark "Sandman" Sanford sticking out along with ridiculously rhyming rhymes thrown out as each player walked on court for the warm up.
Leading out from the tip, the Melbourne Tigers race away with the lead to show just how green the new look Kings are. Ball handling is starkly erroneous in this early stage as the touch is lost nearly every time a King has possession. Once a part of the home team, and now on the opposition, David "Stiffy" Stiff gets absolutely no love from the now hostile crowd, a great sense of bile spewing as each touch of the ball is met with boos and even hissing. There is no cohesion and time as a team is lost on the purple and gold as they watch the veteran Tigers slip away to end the first quarter 34 points to 13.
The Harlequins are introduced in one break as the night's visual entertainment. Their moves still set to the same songs heard time and again. Maybe it's a bad memory, maybe it's the glare from the prospect of having to read photos for an assignment but it counts like they're missing one of their flock.
Radio station 2UE, having set themselves up at the northern baseline, just up and leave midway through the second quarter.
The Airganix blimp clutches tight to a ping pong ball even when the call was made for all those who had grabbed one to head down to the court. Whatever happened to them isn't made clear as only two turn up for a seriously weighted game of hot and cold with the hotspot being the Lion himself.
The poor opening isn't enough, the hurt continues as the Tigers show what for and age as they continue to pile on the points to hold onto their grand lead from the end of the first quarter to end out the first half. The points actually go the way of the Kings, but only marginally and this margin doesn't count. They end this half trailing 39 to 54.
Out there amongst the stands, runs around the Lion. Taking big paws, babies are held about like they're rag dolls, their small bodies seemingly ever so fragile. That he doesn't drop one is remarkable, that the parents aren't soiling their pants even more so. One stride sees him take to the court with a babe in his arms as effortlessly as a football. Earlier, a skit featuring Frostie's Tony the Tiger standing in for Melbourne's own raises few laughs though a little more noise than rising cloth. Underlying tones are missed by most as the old Tiger is given an examination that almost ends with the use of a rubber glove. Almost.
Back from half-time, one in which Shane Heal is interviewed during the movement, the Kings start to really run up the laughs as their shocking performance is highlighted remarkably well in the third quarter alone. Turning on the charm and picking up the hate, import Mark Sanford sleeps through the performance, even trying to steal possession from a team-mate. No matter how many times Sandford gets the ball, he always misses the basket, an initial two free throws showing signs of composure on the court that would quickly dissipate. Trailing the third quarter at 60 points to the Tiger's 80, the Kings fans look for some late charging, and not that of the fouls falling all over the place amidst the travelling of the Tigers, unseen by the refs.
Paralysis sets in as the Lion stands about waving his arms and taking photos with the woman in the seat behind and back to back with a fan on the right. Why is he wearing a singlet featuring the number 24 and the name of Green?
Having spent the first three quarters entertaining the crowd at their spectacularly bad showing, the Kings look rejuvenated, more talented and a little more cool headed facing the last stretch. Jason Smith makes for a fine captain as he heads on the team to a 30 point break over the 9 scored by the visitors in the final turn. CJ Bruton still looks to where the ball will bounce and throws away an easy break because of this. Making it hard to understand just where they were for the first half of the night, the Kings impressively steal the win with Smith potting a ballsy three to close out the night with one point across the line. Final possession and seconds are in Andrew Gaze's hand who just misses the final basket.
Kings win their home game with 90 over the Tiger's 89.
Reviewed on Thursday, 14 October 2004