It’s not unusual to see Dorchester’s own Donnie Wahlberg sitting courtside at a Boston Celtics game chatting up Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown or Grant Williams during a stoppage of play.
But while the game is going on, Wahlberg can hear it all — the smack talk, the plays being called out by the coaches and, yes, a few mature-audience-only exchanges between players.
And here’s the thing: When the NBA returns, it’ll likely be without fans.
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But Wahlberg can envision how all of those interactions he normally has access to when attending games could be part of the NBA's “new normal” fan experience.
“If we can feel more a part of the game as opposed to we need the crowd to cheer and get momentum that way but actually be and feel like we’re part of what’s happening on the floor, I think that could be fascinating,” Wahlberg said on the Celtics Talk Podcast, “and really something to see.”
Wahlberg cites ESPN's 10-part documentary “The Last Dance” as an example of how engaging those on-the-floor exchanges can be for fans if they can’t attend games upon the league’s return to action.
“We’ve all been lucky to watch 'The Last Dance' during this quarantine,” Wahlberg said. “One of the best parts of it to watch is the practices, the Dream Team games and all the trash talking and all that stuff. I get to go to games and I sit courtside. The best part of it, is not necessarily that I could say 'Hi' to a player…
What's cool about courtside is you can hear things. You can hear a coach drawing up a play. You can hear Marcus Smart saying, ‘You gotta watch out for this.’ You can hear the guys communicating and talking. And, as we see in 'The Last Dance,' you can hear them talking trash.
With no fan noise, TV broadcasts could make it a lot easier for those moments to be captured.
“If we could do that with NBA games, I would love to hear what LeBron is saying after Jayson Tatum dunked on him a couple years ago,” Wahlberg said. “I would love to hear that. So if there’s a way to make it more of that, I think it not only could work, it could make it better, something that [could be] a treat that we may want more of in the future.”