Thirty five years after the NBA played its last game outdoors, next season the Phoenix Suns will face the Denver Nuggets in the fresh air at Indian Wells, CA. The Oct. 11 preseason game will feature some of basketball’s biggest stars with Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony and take place at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
“Very few facilities in the world could match what I describe as a NBA quality facility with no roof on it,” Suns President Rick Welts said of the venue, which also plays host to tennis’ Pacific Life Open, at the recent press conference announcing the game.
The NBA is following the lead of NHL, which played a regular season game outside between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres in front of more than 70,000 fans. The Indian Wells Tennis Garden only holds 16,000, but game organizers expect the place to be buzzing.
“We got a fabulous opportunity,” Suns Part-Owner Dick Heckmann said at the press conference. “As well as the NHL did, to showcase a sport that for everybody starts outside.”
On September 24, 1972 the NBA had its first venture into the outdoors when Connie Hawkins and the Suns defeated Oscar Robertson and the Milwaukee Bucks on a make-shift court constructed on a baseball field in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While the weather for that day was no doubt beautiful, Welts says he has been promised that Indian Wells will be “75 degrees and cloudless skies at game-time” on Oct. 11.
The game is sure to bring in plenty of media attention, and game organizers were able to negotiate during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend in New Orleans to have the outdoor game broadcast nationally on TNT.
“We hope it’s the beginning of a real fun event every year in Indian Wells,” Heckmann said.
Tickets for the event went on sale Feb. 23 and carry a face value that range from $10 to $500.
(The image accompanying this story is from Streetball.co.uk)