The NBA is special in one respect compared to other sports. Due to the nature of the free-flowing action, momentum can change at any time.
A big play in the NFL happens and then there is a break in the action. A pitcher can give up a home run and by the time the trot is over and a new batter is in the box, the crowd has sat back down and gotten back to their beer and nachos.
The NBA doesn’t have that luxury. The ball goes through the hoop and then it’s headed in the other direction with an eight-second clock to pass halfcourt and a 24-second shot clock driving the action.
There are moments when the game takes short pauses, but there also are moments when a team hits a 3-pointer, gets a steal moments later for a breakaway dunk and then tops off an 8-0 run with another triple.
Once a team hits a burst like this and the crowd is into the action, the momentum of a game can shift and an 8-0 run can become a turning point in a game.
Driving this action is a the public address announcer and the Kings have one of the best in the league in Scott Moak.
During the latest episode of the Purple Talk podcast, Moak was asked what it would be like to call a game with no fans in the building -- an option that has been floated due to the coronavirus pandemic -- and whether he would even be needed to help keep the game on track.
“I can make the case both ways, that if they do a fanless game, I guess making players aware of fouls and things,” Moak said of whether he would be needed. “It’s super weird to think ... and I don’t think I would go full-bore, ‘and now, let’s meet the starting five …,’ I think they’d go straight into the tip.”
Since taking over the job in 2002, Moak has been on the mic for plenty of incredible moments. He worked playoff games from 2002-2006, Tyreke Evans’ halfcourt buzzer-beater at Arco Arena and even a game where DeMarcus Cousins was thrown out and then summoned back from the locker room to score his 55th point of the night in a Kings win.
How would he handle sitting courtside alone without the power of 17,608 fans at his beck and call?
“I would probably turn into more of a narrator/informer meets NPR,” Moak said. “I think I would have to go to more of my NPR voice than my announcer voice.”
This is a reality that the league may have to face if they hope to get the season back on track. The Warriors already had intended to play a game against the Brooklyn Nets without fans in the Chase Center before the league was paused due to the coronavirus outbreak, so the possibility is real.
Like most announcers, Moak started his career in much smaller venues. While it would be a difficult transition, he can draw from his former experiences to get through the change if it becomes necessary.
“I was announcing American River College women’s basketball in Beaver Stadium or whatever they called it, with 12 parents, a couple of trainers and the teams,” Moak recalled. “So I think I’ll kind of channel those experiences.”
We have no idea when the NBA will return and what it will look like when it does, but the stoppage could change the way we experience a game, at least in the short-term.
People like Moak are part of the fabric of the game who often go unnoticed. They add to the experience and, like everyone else, he can’t wait to get back to simpler times and the game he loves.