Fans going to an NBA game may be treated to some of the world's best basketball, but that's not always enough to lure people into the seats. Thus, NBA teams are forced to entice potential spectators with carefully created giveaways and theme nights. (Average fan: "Gah, I want a Luis Scola wig so badly!" Houston Rockets: "Come to our December 16 game!") There's been a lot of speculation that the weak economy will translate into fewer fans willing to plunk down their diminished disposable income to see a game, so what are NBA teams doing to prop up attendance this year? Here are a few of our favorite offbeat promotions for the 2008-2009 season:
1. Job Night
The New Jersey Nets announced yesterday that they know the economy is putting a pinch on their fans, and they want to help. They're not just going to lower ticket prices, though; the team wants to find the fans jobs. Unemployed fans can submit their resumes to the team, which will provide them with four free tickets to a game and access to a November 22 job fair at the Izod Center. The team is hoping that fans they help find new jobs will return the favor and become ticket buyers when the economy turns around. Anyone can go on Monster to try to find a new job, but the Nets might have a leg up. After all, if they could con the Mavericks into taking on an aging Jason Kidd's albatross contract last year, they might be able to work miracles with less handsomely paid positions.
2. Singles Night
Finding that special someone is already tough enough, but it becomes far more challenging when you add the caveat "Must love the NBA" to your list of potential dealbreakers. You can approach dozens of women in bars before you find one who Darius Songaila is, and even she might not have an appreciation for his rugged defensive work. Luckily, the Washington Wizards feel your pain and will host Singles Night three times this season. For just $55, prospective lovebirds get to come to mixers both before and after the game with music, drinks, and food in addition to lower-level seats. Nothing says "romance" quite like being able to tell someone, "Baby, I thought I was the only one who wanted DeShawn Stevenson to bring back his beard"¦" And if things go really well, fans might want to follow Wizards star Gilbert Arenas' steps for getting engaged.
3. Home School Night
Just because students don't leave their houses to go to school doesn't mean they can't be rabid NBA fans! Or at least that's what the Orlando Magic think. This season, the team will be hosting two Home School Days that will give home-schooled kids a chance to get into the game. The days begin with an afternoon basketball clinic that includes a visit from former Magic guard Nick Anderson, who will undoubtedly teach the children that just because you don't go to regular schools, it doesn't mean that you can't clank four consecutive free throws with an NBA Finals game on the line. The first Home School Day has already passed, but the second one is coming up on February 2nd, which is also listed as the Magic's celebration of Black History Month.
4. Bridal Expo
It's a bit of a clichÃ© that guys don't like participating in wedding planning, but some brides would like their future spouse to take a more active role in nuptial preparations. That's where the New Orleans Hornets step in. On February 2, 2009, the team will host its second Guys and Dolls Bridal Expo before a game against the Portland Trailblazers. The event, which is co-hosted by Weddings Noir magazine, bills itself as the perfect way to get a guy interested in the wedding process in an environment in which he can meet caterers, florists, and wedding planners before watching some hoops. Tickets are only $15, so even those fans who haven't popped the question might want to sneak in to get a look at Greg Oden and the resurgent Blazers.
5. Elvis Night
The Memphis Grizzlies may not have even been born when Elvis still lived at Graceland, but that doesn't stop the Grizz from celebrating the King on January 6. The theme night, which falls close to Elvis' birthday on January 8th, is an annual event that sounds pretty raucous. Last year's festivities included an Elvis special playing on the arena's exterior LCD screen and a meet-and-greet with the winner of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest winner, who then performed at halftime with the Grizzlies dancers. One slight hitch, though: if rumors of the King's demise really were greatly exaggerated, would he want to spend his golden years watching a bottom-dwelling franchise? Unless O.J. Mayo's hot start to his rookie year had Presley all shook up, probably not. [Image courtesy of Suffering The Benz.]