If you happen to be a basketball fan, you’ll find yourself in your element traveling though the bustling city of New York. Experiencing an NBA game in NYC is a bucket-list item for many and the best part is you get double the chance to catch a game here since you’ll find not one but two NBA teams.
New York City is home to two iconic teams, the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets, offering thrilling matchups and an electrifying atmosphere. To ensure you make the most of your NBA game day in New York, here are some tips and recommendations to enhance your experience.
Visiting NYC? Here’s How to Make the Most of an NBA Game Day
Choose Your Team and Arena
You can catch NBA games in New York from October to April every year, and even into May and June should either team enter the playoffs and make the finals.
The New York Knicks are one of the oldest and most storied franchises in the NBA. You can catch them in the heart of Manhattan at Madison Square Garden which is regarded by many as “The World’s Most Famous Arena”. The arena not only hosts NBA games but also draws in fans for NHL games and big-name concerts. It has also seen political rallies and some of the best boxing matches in history like Muhammad Ali’s “Fight of the Century”.
The Knicks have a large and passionate fan base, and their games often draw significant attention and support from not only resident New Yorkers but NBA fans across America and the world, many who come to watch star players like Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson.
The Brooklyn Nets only relocated to Brooklyn from New Jersey rather recently, a little over a decade ago, but have already gained a significant following in that relatively short period. You can catch them at Brooklyn’s multi-purpose Barclays Center, which was built just in time to welcome the Nets arrival into the city.
The Nets’ roster features star players like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons which only enhances the team’s worldwide popularity.
Plan Ahead and Get Your Tickets
NBA games in New York City are highly popular, and tickets can sell out very quickly. To secure your spot, it’s essential to plan ahead and purchase your tickets in advance. Check the official team websites or trusted ticketing platforms to find the best seats and prices. Some platforms often provide a wide range of ticket options including resale tickets from season ticket holders or other fans.
If you don’t mind a bit of hassle, you can purchase tickets directly from the box office of Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center in person or simply head there to inquire about ticket availability which may eliminate any additional fees that might be associated with online purchases. That being said, for travelers heading to New York it is far easier and more feasible to simply purchase tickets online.
Consider becoming an official Knicks or Nets fan club member. Becoming a member may provide you with early access to ticket sales, special offers, or exclusive presale opportunities. You can also follow the teams on social media or subscribe to their newsletters which announce ticket sales, promotions, and presales.
The availability and pricing of affordable tickets for NYC NBA games are dependent upon a number of factors that include who the two teams’ opponents are, the day of the week, and the time of the season.
Tickets for early season games as well as weekday matchups tend to be less expensive compared to weekends or games closer to playoff season. Tickets will also be cheaper if the teams are hosting weaker or low-profile teams, but be warned these games can often be blowouts and not exactly likely to provide nail-biting action that comes down to the final seconds.
Generally, tickets for seats in the upper levels of the arenas tend to be less expensive than lower-level or premium seats, so if you don’t mind being far from courtside and using binoculars then exploring upper-level seats can be a more budget-friendly option.
Arrive Early and Explore the Arena
To fully immerse yourself in the NBA game day experience, arrive early and take the time to explore the arena. Both Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center offer various amenities and attractions for fans. From team stores where you can purchase merchandise to interactive displays and photo opportunities, there’s plenty to keep you entertained before tip-off.
I recommend you arrive at least 30-60 minutes before the start of games to allow yourself plenty of time to navigate security checks, find your seats, and have time to enjoy the pre-game atmosphere and any activities happening in and around the arena.
If you have digital tickets, ensure they are readily accessible on your mobile device for quick entry. Arriving early can help you avoid potential lines at ticket counters or box offices. Add extra time if you expect traffic, which NYC is of course known for, and allow extra time when attending sold-out games which mean larger crowds and longer lines.
Madison Square Garden also offers tours that allow you to explore the iconic venue and learn about its long and cherished history. Go behind the scenes and discover various areas of the arena seldom seen by those visitors just attending games.
The MSG All Access Tour led by a knowledgeable guide lasts about an hour and includes visits to the arena bowl, locker rooms, the press area, and other exclusive spaces within the venue, while the VIP Experience offers an upgraded tour with added perks such as priority access, a dedicated tour guide, and often a special gift.
Indulge in Game Day Food and Beverages
No sporting event is complete without indulging in snacks and beverages, so be sure to arrive hungry and feast on classic stadium favorites like hot dogs and nachos. Many NY Knicks fans eagerly await digging into crispy fried chicken and fluffy waffles, often served with a side of syrup or hot sauce.
Buffalo wings are also popular at the Garden as is classic New York-style pizza, paired with a local or regional craft brew. You can also find a range of signature cocktails inspired by the New York Knicks as well as classics like margaritas, mojitos, and martinis.
Meanwhile, at the Barclays Center, be sure to try the famous Brooklyn Burger which features a juicy beef patty topped with all the classic burger fixings like cheese, lettuce, tomato, and special sauce. Alternatively, lobster rolls with fresh chunks of lobster meat served in a buttered and toasted bun are another favorite as are the venue’s flatbread pizzas.
Soak in the Atmosphere
You probably chose to travel to NYC to experience Times Square, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, or its many world-renowned museums such as The Met and MoMA. While I recommend all these experiences, catching a local NBA game is more of an authentic local thing to do which allows you to surround yourself with real New Yorkers away from the touristy attractions.
Attending an NBA game in New York City is about more than just watching basketball; it’s about experiencing the unique atmosphere created by New York’s passionate fans. Join in the chants and soak in the energy that reverberates throughout the arena. You’ll find the camaraderie and excitement is contagious, making it an unforgettable experience for anybody regardless of whether you’re a sports enthusiast.
Capture the Memories
Don’t forget to capture the memories of your NBA game day experience. Take plenty of photos and videos to immortalize the electrifying moments and the vibrant atmosphere. Share your highlights on social media using the official hashtags of the teams or the arena to connect with fellow fans and relive the excitement.
Some tips for taking photos at NBA games include using fast lenses with wide apertures, since there are usually low lighting conditions in arenas, and increasing your camera’s ISO setting to maintain proper exposure.
Shoot in burst mode to stop the fast-paced action and try to anticipate the action so you’re prepared to capture key moments like killer dunks.
And while the players may be the main focus, don’t forget to capture the atmosphere and energy of the crowd, cheerleaders, and mascots which is what makes basketball games in New York extra special since they tend to go all out.
Remember to enjoy the game and be present in the moment while taking photos. It’s important to strike a balance between capturing memories and experiencing the live action.
Explore the Surrounding Area
Make the most of your visit to New York City by exploring the surrounding area before or after games. Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center are located in vibrant neighborhoods with plenty of attractions, restaurants, and landmarks to explore. Take a stroll through Times Square after a Knicks game or enjoy the trendy Brooklyn neighborhoods near the Barclays Center. Extend your NBA game day experience by discovering the unique charm of these iconic New York City areas.
Embrace the Rivalry
New York City basketball has a historic rivalry between the Knicks and the Nets. Regardless of which team you support, embrace the rivalry and engage in friendly banter with fans from both sides. The passion and intensity of the New York basketball scene is what makes it a memorable experience.
The Knicks and Nets play against each other multiple times each season as they are both part of the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division. This makes them division rivals during the regular season. The games between the Knicks and Nets create a local rivalry known as the “Battle of the Boroughs” or the “Subway Series” which are the games to book tickets to if you have the opportunity or ability to.
Attending an NBA game day in New York City is an exhilarating experience that combines the thrill of live basketball with the vibrant energy of the city. Basketball has a strong presence in New York City, with a rich history of street basketball and legendary players who have hailed from the area.
Be sure to take notice of the basketball culture outside of the arenas which can be found at the numerous basketball courts spread throughout New York’s neighborhoods, which often become gathering spots for players and fans alike where the next rising talent often emerges.
Header Photo By Tdorante10 CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
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