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If The NBA Ever Holds Crowdless Games, Teams Should Still Pump Sound Into Them

Abstract representation of what the 2019 NBA Finals would’ve looked like in an empty arena with music still being played in the background

I miss the sounds of sports: the crack of the bat, the loud check into the boards, the roar after a late game-winning goal. I even almost miss the sound of an unthinkable four-bounce shot.

But, in recent weeks, I also miss the sound effects of sports. I miss when the Sixers play Mr. Burns saying “excellent” after they make two consecutive free throws, or when the Carson Wentz-lookin’ guy instructing a local celebrity to ring the bell as they play pre-recorded bell sounds over the PA system. I even miss watching the Sixers bungle another possession as I hear “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check” by Busta Rhymes playing in the arena. If the NBA actually ends up playing games in empty arenas, they should still play the music and sound effects.

I did not think this way before the total shutdown of sports. Basketball is my favorite sport to see in-person; I attend multiple pro, college, and high school games a year. I will stop to watch pick-up games. I love live basketball.

Generally, I prefer the presentation at the lower levels. I like watching a college game where the only instrumentation is from a marching band cramped into the stands. I like the aural quality of a high school game, with just the floor squeaks and ref whistles, even more.

But, spurred on by Barry’s blog earlier this week, I’ve been watching a bit of Taiwanese baseball recently. It is a weird experience. There are no fans. But, occasionally, they play music and other sound effects.

I love it! Hearing what I assume is the regular instrumentation of Chinese Professional Baseball League makes it feel like more of a game. And I think the NBA should do this, too.

I was thinking about the music played during NBA games this week because of a clever article by Kyle Neubeck at Philly Voice. Neubeck, a Sixers beat guy, tracked the Sixers offense at home games based on what music was played. It turns out the Sixers play really well when they play “Candy Shop” or “Fire” by 50 Cent. (They also do well when Erik B. & Rakim plays, because how could you not be inspired by “Paid in Full”?)

They also play like shit when “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check” plays. They play so poorly that Joel Embiid told Neubeck: “They better stop playing it. I’m not kidding — they better stop playing it.” Former Sixers guard T.J. McConnell said this of Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang,” another clunker: “They better not play that fucking song ever again. That shit’s gotta go.” (Philly Voice censored “fucking” but not “shit.” Here at UTSB, I figure our audience can handle the profanity.)

So even though the Sixers struggle during certain songs, I want to hear them if the NBA ever returns again and plays empty-arena games. In order to figure out what might happen, I asked the NBA about it.

The NBA’s Tim Frank actually fielded my question over email, despite the inquiry coming from an outlet named Unnamed Temporary Sports Blog. “Just way too premature to answer,” he wrote. “We’ll have to see what options are available as we go on and then make decisions at that point on how everything would be executed.”

You heard it here first: Maybe.