Lockout Silences NBA Arenas

The Los Angeles Staples Center has been void of Kobe Bryant's flashy showmanship due to the current NBA lockout.

It’s been quiet on all fronts at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. This time of year and all the way up through the beginning of summer, Staples Center is a place of constant movement and buzz with basketball hawkers trying to make deals with patrons on NBA tickets.

The hustle and bustle of an NBA crowd is usually a feverish wave inside and outside of the Staples Center as professional basketball begins its long windup of a season. But the Staples Center, much like other NBA arenas across the country, has been silenced to a large degree by the current NBA work stoppage.

NBA players and owners continue to wrangle and haggle over the nuances of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). That means more quiet nights for basketball arenas and no games to attend for fans. That also means no revenue for the NBA. The NBA has already taken a $200 million hit because of the lockout, which took effect this past July. The NBA has had to cancel all summer league games and preseason games.     

It’s now looking more and more that the start of the NBA season is likely to be delayed. At worst, the season could be tanked if things are not worked out between the players and owners. That’s certainly not news the folks running Staples Center or other arenas want to hear.  What they want to hear is fans screaming at the top of their lungs, cheering on their team. What they want to see is fans frantically trying to buy tickets as their arena doors are being opened.

Staples Center and all of Los Angeles are sorely craving to have that atmosphere right about now. With no professional football team in the city, Los Angeles belongs to the Lakers.

Staples Center is home to both the Los Angeles Lakers and the upstart Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers are the more gaudy, more flamboyant and more fame and glory-synchronized team of the two NBA franchises.

The Lakers are the NBA’s version of Hollywood. They’re stylish. They’re razzle-dazzle. They’re flashy. They’re good-looking. They’re widely successful. And they know how to strut their greatness on the court.

The Clippers, on the other hand, are the more blue-collar team that the average Joe seems to identify with in the city. A team long considered to be the doormat of the NBA, the Clippers, with the arrival of highlight-reel dunk master Blake Griffin and other young talent, have now given their fans a reason to come out and cheer them.

But this town remains a Lakers stronghold.             

The Los Angeles Lakers and Lamar Odom to hope be back in Staples Center sooner than later.

Coming to a Lakers basketball game is more than sitting in the stands for a three-hour show-it’s a full throttle entertainment event. You have celebrities galore everywhere. Famed film stars Jack Nicolson, Denzel Washington and Leonardo DiCaprio usually can be found holding shop with a courtside seat of a Lakers game.

 But these are not the only stars that can be found at the Staples Center, home of their famed Lakers. Comedians George Lopez, Chris Rock and Hall of Fame rocker Prince also make cameo appearances at games.

Stars recognize other stars. Stars align with other stars. The Lakers are the stars of the NBA. Never mind that the Lakers fell short of their ultimate goal last season of winning the NBA title, Kobe Bryant and his teammates are still the hottest ticket in town-bar none.

Sure, the Boston Celtics beat them with the blue-collar work ethic that the great Larry Bird, Bill Russell and Paul Pierce embody. But it’s the glitz and glam of the Lakers those fans come to see.

With Hollywood and the wonderful world of the television and motion picture industry serving as a backdrop, the Lakers popularity in and out of the league and around the globe has been fueled just as much by the team’s ability to draw in players with star power as well as producing winners on the court.  In other words, star wattage matters in this town. With that concept in mind the Lakers organization hasn’t disappointed.

Wilt dominated. Elgin glided. West amazed folks. Kareem gracefully executed. Magic dazzled. Shaq intimidated. Kobe leaves you in awe. In a town full of stars, the Lakers electric exhibition on the basketball court becomes a must-see event.

The high ticket prices are not enough to keep the high-roller and the average working Joe from flocking to see Lamar Odom flush down a thunderous dunk or Paul Gasol effortlessly whip a no-look pass to an open teammate for a basket.

These are the Lakers. If the NBA is the Academy Awards of professional sports leagues, the Lakers would certainly be considered to be the biggest Oscar winner. With the recently embedded L.A. Live and ESPN Zone lined up just across the street with its high-end clientele, you can bet the Lakers will have more is share of high-powered brokers wanting to get in on the piece of the pie. Stars have that kind of an effect on people.

Staples Center can recapture those moments again once the lockout finally come to an end.


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