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Pace, Proximity and Performance at the WNBL Finals

Words: Wilhelm Philipp

Images: Wilhelm Philipp

I arrive at the State Basketball Centre a little past 7:30 PM for game 2 of the WNBL finals and the first thing that caught my attention was the huge screams coming down the corridor from the court. I moved quickly, power walking towards the game thinking it had already started but it turned out to just be the hype man in the crowd revving all the fans up. The game was a sell out, however the cheers alone sounded much louder than 3,655 people.

Making my way to the court I decided to post up and take position on the back wall, this was my first time ever going to a professional basketball game so I wanted to allow myself to take everything in and be aware of my environment. The players were beginning to warm up but my eyes were still on the crowd. It wasn’t hard to notice the range of age that filled the stadium but also the scale of those who were just avid supporters, to the full fanatics donning face paint, coloured hair, costumes and anything else that represented their beloved team.

An announcement came over the loud speaker that the game was minutes away from commencing, I decided to get a little closer to the action and made my way onto the court’s sidelines. From a distance the players don’t look too tall, but once you are really up and close to them you realise just how little you are in comparison. More huge screams filled the stadium as the referee prepared to start the game. The pace from the first jump ball was electric, there really isn’t a second to stop and take it in. I’ve never really been a huge basketball player myself, I have no real idea of the rules expect the basics, but it wasn’t hard to tell when the crowd thought the ref got it wrong. People were out of their seats, coaches with their arms spread in a full wing span, it really added to the high intensity atmosphere. Any time one of the teams looked to score, their bench would jump out of their seats and cheer their teammates on, jumping around if it was successful or clapping their efforts when it wasn’t.

Being so close to the game really allowed me to appreciate the ferocity of it all. I had never thought of basketball being too much of a high intensity physical sport. Bodies pushed, jumped, bumped, held and knocked over one another in such a small proximity. As the game went on these knocks and drives became even more fierce.

Scores were tied in the final minutes of the game, the crowd were on the edge of their seats, the players and coaches on the sidelines couldn’t even sit on theirs. It was such a joy to be able to be so close to this energy and take it all in whilst being a fly on the wall. In their home town the Melbourne Boomers were able to hold on to defeat the Townsville Fire 58-57.