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Court by the Buzz*: an afternoon with the Manchester Giants

I’ve only been to the basketball once in my life before (I know, shame.on.me.)

Started off low-key at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, with the Brooklyn Nets. I had no clue what was going on. Not entirely helped by being in the nosebleed section. See, I know basketball words.

One minute there was seemingly some basketball being played, next we were being alerted to the presence of a beaming Bill Clinton smiling and waving to us on the big screens (I could just about make him out in the arena – a tiny dot, waving his tiny dot hand), the next t-shirts being fired out of a sort of t-shirt gun at what appeared to be a frightening rate and speed, the next some rapping.

I mean it was all very exhilarating and exciting but anything could have been going down in that court, I only knew it was basketball because it said so on my ticket.

Mind, I did accomplish one of my finest purchases that day. A foam finger in all its glory.

And so when I was kindly invited to a basketball game last Sunday on home turf; that of the mighty Manchester Giants!

Told the game against Plymouth Raiders was a sell-out, with tip-off at 5pm (yes, tip-off! Think kick-off but with fewer feet), we arrived at George H Carnall Leisure Centre, Urmston, about 40 minutes early, assuming plenty of time to have our pick of the bleachers and seats. I had my eye on court-side – if it’s good enough for Jack Nicholson, it’s good enough for me.

Oh how naive I was. As we approached the sports hall, we could hear balls bouncing and beats ringing out from the sideline DJ and as we entered, it was clear that there was to be no court side for me today, no siree!

The atmosphere was electric and the players were still only warming up! As we found our way to the end of a row – not courtside yet not quite ‘nosebleed section’, the beauty of going to see your local team is that you don’t need to be courtside to be engaged with what’s going on.

A brief rundown of the rules (that I will pretend I already knew…

Basketball is played by two teams who score points by throwing a ball into an opposing team’s basket. The team with the most points are the winners.

Each team has a squad of 12, with 5 players on the court at any one time.

You can move the ball round by passing, tapping, throwing, rolling or dribbling.

The game consists of four quarters of 10 minutes each with a 15-minute break at half time. There are also two-minutes interval between the first and second periods, and between the third and fourth periods.

If the game is tied after the fourth period, it continues with an extra period of five minutes, then as many five-minute periods as are necessary to break the tie.

Points are scored for shooting the ball through the hoop – 2 points for a goal within the 3 point semi-circle and 3 points for goals scored from outside.

Free throws, taken from the free-throw line and awarded after a foul, are worth one point.

BBC Sport website

An immersive and seemingly collaborative experience, the MC (?) is on it throughout, helping to whip the fans into a frenzy, encouraging cries of

DE-FENCE, DE-FENCE, DE-FENCE

And of course…

GI-ANTS, GI-ANTS, GI-ANTS

I started off chanting to fit in with the crowd, ending up chanting because, reader, I was willing defence to block that shot (is that the correct terminology?), passionately wanting the Giants to get the ball in the net.

It really does get you.

And then I espied the merch. Was there a Manchester Giants branded foam finger?

Oh yes.

There was.

And it was pretty.

My Brooklyn Nets finger was all fine and dandy but the most miserable shade of grey you could imagine.

This finger was green, of course. Bright green. And it was mine.

I also pondered the many rubber ducks I could see on sale, but the finger was the thing, and I returned to my seat triumphant, noting the slightly tortured look on my face of my partner as he recalled the constant foam jabbing he endured on our last trip to the basketball.

Half-time came and did the action calm down? It did not and suddenly the abundance of rubber ducks became clear as what felt like hundreds starting whizzing past from every direction towards the centre of the court, launched by grinning children, teens, adults alike. What was this sudden onslaught? It was the ‘Chuck a Duck’ challenge, it transpired; closest duck to the centre got its thrower a signed ball!

At one point it seemed like there were as many people on the court as off, as local children and teens lined up to take part in a penalty shoot-out session.

As people returned to their seats and rubber ducks were swept away, it was time to return to the action proper.

Time flies when you’re having fun, as the whole adage goes and it really did feel like the second half flew just flew by as my eyes only momentarily left the court to check that my foam finger wasn’t intruding on someone’s personal space (only happened the once – my partner’s personal space does not count).

Excitingly, the fourth period ended on a draw and so time was played for one team to secure a win. On our feet, we cheered, whooped, chanted with all our might. Sadly it was not to be as Plymouth Raiders narrowly secured the win.

However, and forgive the cheese, we were all winners really (I know the Giants may argue that point), as we’d all enjoyed a brilliant Sunday afternoon.

It really is such an inclusive and immersive experience. And whilst some sporting events and fixtures can feel quite intimidating, I would recommend that parents especially considering getting your children into the game as it’s such a fun and exhilarating sport, and this is coming from a grown woman (yes, foam-finger withstanding – now I own two, I’m ready to set up as a Kenny Everett tribute act – google it..!).

A match report this was not in the sporting sense, but as a new experience and event, the Manchester Giants triumphed.

For details of fixtures and tickets, please visit https://www.manchestergiants.com/

* yes I’ve just been to see Supergrass at Victoria Warehouse

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News: Manchester Giants basketball – Final Six season ticket on sale now

I’ve been to a basketball game and I really enjoyed it.

A million ‘mehs’ sound out across the land by those who have been to a million games and don’t feel the need to advertise it.

The point is (and there is a point) that I had to go to Brooklyn to do so. And Bill Clinton was there. But that’s another story (it’ll be popping up in a blog post near you, though).

And whilst it’s not technically true that I had to go to Brooklyn to do so, I’m getting a second bite of the cherry a lot closer to home. Urmston to be exact, in the shape of the hugely popular Manchester Giants!

The Manchester Giants reclaimed their place in the professional British Basketball League (BBL) back in 2012/13 after a decade long absence, much to the delight of their large following.

Manchester leads the way, once again, (of course) as the city has the highest number of basketball players and enthusiasts thanks, in part, to a vibrant amateur scene.

Last season, the Giants enjoyed their most successful season since their return to the BBL, winning 19 games and reaching the semi-finals of both the BBL Cup and the BBL Trophy.

If you’re not already court-side a’la Jack Nicholson (see, I know the lingo), there’s a great opportunity to see what all the fuss is about.

The club has just launched their ‘Final Six Ticket’ which covers six of the remaining home games for the price of four.

Their next game is a classic Roses Derby (do love a war of the roses), on Sunday 16 February, against B.Braun Sheffield Sharks.

I’ll be there on Sunday 1 March to watch them thrash Plymouth, waving my huge foam finger (not a gross metaphor) in the air (I genuinely have one, I just need to do some creative Manchester ‘rebranding’).

I’ll let you know how I get on (and I might elaborate on Clinton).

To get your Final Six ticket, or indeed any other ticket to see the Manchester Giants in action, head to www.manchestergiants.com