As the football and baseball seasons draw to a close, basketball takes up a bit of the slack. Jen was busy at some conference thing so I had a walk down to the Jamsil Gymnasium by myself to see Samsung Thunders play the team from Changwon, LG Sakers.
There wasn’t a queue at the ticket office, so I ignored the granny touts and ended up with a seven thousand won seat in the third tier. Jamsil Gymnasium is small enough with its thirteen thousand capacity to give you a reasonable view from just about anywhere.
There’s been a change in the regulations for this season and each team is only allowed one foreigner rather than the two that they had last year. It seems a bit of an odd thing to do as the teams were still only permitted to have one non-Korean on court at a time last year, so limiting teams to one foreigner won’t give home-grown players any more opportunities, it just means that the single foreigner is expected to play the full forty minutes. I suppose it reduces the wage bill.
It means though that when selecting your overseas player you need someone who can play the entire game. Last season I’d enjoyed watching Nigel Dixon turning out as one of the Samsung imports, but ‘Big Jelly’ was never going to be the sort of player that would suit the new rules and he’s moved on somewhere new.
The overseas player at Samsung this season is Peter John Ramos, a Puerto Rican bloke who is 7’3″ tall.
It turns out that Ramos is one of the twenty tallest players ever to play in the NBA. He didn’t play very much in America, possibly because his height looks to be the only thing he has going for him. He’s got a really straight back and doesn’t look as if he’d be flexible enough to bend down and tie his own laces. He seemed a fairly stroppy sort of fella too, sounding off regularly at teammates, refs and anyone else in earshot.
The foreigner for the visiting team, LG Sakers, was Olumide Oyedeji. His name seemed familiar and when I later googled him it turned out that he’d played a season for Orlando Magic nine years ago. I used to go to Florida with my kids quite frequently in those days. I’d take them individually as they each liked doing different things. My daughter was happy for us to ride rollercoasters from the parks opening until closing time, whereas with my son I’d go bass fishing, play a bit of golf or we’d crash go-karts into walls or occasionally each other.
The one common interest though that both kids had was that they liked to go along and watch Orlando Magic. Olumedeji only played twenty-odd games in his season in Florida and as I can’t be arsed to check the dates of his matches against my holidays, I’ve no way of knowing if I’ve actually seen him play in the NBA. Still, I did recognise his name even if I doubt I could pronounce it.
Samsung, wearing the standard corporate Chelsea blue gear, took an early lead and by the end of a one-sided first quarter had extended it to 29-14. I’d been hoping for a closer game, but it looked like it was going to be a rout. Sakers, in white, improved a bit as time went on though and by the time we got to the end of the second quarter they had reduced the deficit to a more respectable eight points.
You get a twelve minute break at half time and most of it was taken up by a performance from the boy band Shinee. They were very popular, generating near hysteria from the crowd, mostly from the girls. A fair proportion of those watching seemed far more interested in Shinee than they had been in the basketball and were more than happy to delay their trips to the refreshment kiosks until after the dancing had finished and the third quarter was about to start.
LG continued their comeback after the break and at one point reduced the gap to four points before finishing the third quarter 58-52 down. I was rooting for the visitors by this time, as much to see a close game as anything else. The score in the final quarter ebbed and flowed until LG finally drew level with four minutes to go. They went on to take the lead with just ninety seconds left. Four of the Thunders players on the court had four fouls against their names and it looked likely that LG would go on to clinch the game.
Ten seconds later Olumide Oyedeji was fouled out, harshly in my opinion, and that should really have given the home side a reprieve. They didn’t take their chance though and with the Nigerian player cheering on his team from the sidelines, LG managed to extend their lead before eventually running out the clock for an 81-74 victory.