On a humid fall evening in Baltimore, ticket scalpers gather outside Baltimore Arena. While they would normally be selling concert tickets at this venue, tonight they're pushing tickets for the Knicks vs. Wizards game, the first NBA exhibition match in the city since 1999, and hometown hero Carmelo Anthony's first pro game in the city that raised him.
The Wizards started off in Chicago, and were known first as the Packers, then as the Zephyrs the very next season. After two years in the Windy City, they would move to Baltimore to become the Bullets, where they spent the next ten years, before moving to Landover, MD, just outside the nation's capital, to become the Capital Bullets, then the Washington Bullets, and eventually the Washington Wizards.
While in Baltimore, the Bullets had star players such as Earl Monroe, Wes Unseld, and Gus Johnson. Unfortunately for the city, the Bullets wouldn't win a title until 1978, after they had moved to D.C.
Most of the fans in attendance for Thursday night's game against the Knicks weren't even alive when Baltimore last hosted a meaningful NBA game. The sell-out crowd was made up of mostly kids clad in blue and orange Carmelo jerseys. Tonight, Baltimore was clearly paying tribute to one of their local stars. Fans cheered relentlessly every time Carmelo made a basket. Anthony finished with 22 points.
The arena is much smaller than a prototypical NBA arena, and has a stage at one end of the court, that was utilized last night as a makeshift dinner buffet. It was reminiscent of being at a college basketball game in Baltimore, but the players on the court were wearing NBA jerseys, adding to the novelty of the event.
When asked about possibility of professional basketball returning to Baltimore, mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told 98 Rock's morning show she would "love it." Rawlings admits "there would be obstacles but I have hope."
There has been talk of building a $500 million arena near Camden Yards, an area that already has a lot going on, at least over the summer. While the proposed arena would seat 18,500, the current Baltimore Arena only seats 14,000 and is an undesirable venue for an NBA expansion team.
As the packed house filed out of the arena, it was easy to imagine this being a great place for NBA basketball. If last night's contest between the Wizards and Knicks was any indication, pro basketball is sorely missed in Charm City.