- Location: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH 44115, USA

- Event: NBA Finals Game 4

- Date: Friday June 8, 2018

I arrived at the Q—as the Quicken Loans Arena is popularly called—at about 1.30pm local time and spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out where to pick up my media credential. Where I come from, locating places is not particularly difficult, and you cannot blame me either because my Uber driver was as confused as I was. Eventually, I found myself in front of the media trailer and duly picked up my media pass as well as a little purse as a gift from the NBA to media personnel from all over the world. That gift though was nothing compared to what I was about to experience as I made my way into the arena.

Making my way through security at the media entrance was not much of a “prayer point,” after all, I was not guilty of anything, and so, I proceeded to locate the media room where journalists and their accessories would be located. I took notice of the members of staff of the Q and the Cleveland Cavaliers who were moving up and down with huge smiles on their faces and I was wondering whether the smiling was because they loved their jobs or because they were about to host thousands of basketball fans and visitors from around the world. One thing I knew for sure was they were not smiling because their team had a chance against the eventual finals winners, the Golden State Warriors.

Yes, I was in Cleveland to work—to cover the finals for BballNaija, but trust me, I was also there to soak in the experience, after all, it was my first time ever in America. Do not make fun of me now. The security personnel at the entrance told me that I could not enter the main bowl just yet. Nevertheless, as a sharp Naija guy, I made into the arena nonetheless and the intensity of the air conditioning system that greeted me was humbling, to say the least, and as such, I climbed up to one level and duly took a seat. The next few minutes and events were going to be quite pivotal in my experience that day.

I witnessed a rehearsal of the trophy presentation just in case the Warriors won Game 4 of the finals and swept the home team. Of course, the Q staff who took part in the rehearsal were not excited about the prospect of setting up a stage for the visiting team who were quite likely to win the ultimate prize on their floor. More annoying for them was the fact that they had to do the rehearsal twice to ensure much attention was paid to the very minute details of the arrangement. This rehearsal did not quite come to me as a surprise to be honest, because at that point, the Cavs’ backs were against the wall and the inevitable was becoming quite the reality. Take note that the game would not start until 9pm local time and about this time it was just a few minutes past 2pm.

The PA announcer of the Cavs, Sean Peebles, spent some time rehearsing his lines. I also had the chance to hear the voice of the man behind the Cavs player intros Ahmaad Crump do his thing. The dance groups of the Cavs—the Cavalier Girls and the Scream Team also hit the floor. Whoever operated the Jumbotron (large screen attached to the roof of the arena, showing video clips, scores, stats and several information) also had their time to make sure everything was in order. Technical Sergeant Freddie Garza rehearsed the Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States. At some point, it appeared as though there was a near-chronological rehearsal of events leading up tip-off of the game proper.

After carefully observing all of these rehearsals and attention paid to detail leading up to the game proper, I proceeded to take a personal tour of other areas of The Q. I walked outside the main bowl and saw business owners setting up their various stalls ahead of the arrival and patronage of right about 20,000 fans who would watch the game. I made sure I entered every single general restroom around the arena. I climbed every single escalator up and down and checked out portions of the media section created for media personnel from all over the world to use as their workspace. I walked into the backrooms and entered the home and away dressing rooms, beholding sneakers players would eventually wear for the game, saw the referees room, entered a room set apart for some senior officials of the NBA, including the Commissioner Adam Silver and took note of the neatness and meticulous way those rooms were setup.

Let me sum it all up by saying every single area of the Quicken Loans Arena prior to the start of Game 4 of the NBA finals was magnificent in appearance and very cleanly setup.

Now, here is why my tour of the Q and observance of all the activities and rehearsals shocked me and got me really in awe and wonder. If the game were a one-off, one-time event like a concert or a conference or a town-hall meeting (whatever that means), I would not have been so surprised at the amount of effort put into setups, rehearsals, gadgets, and decorations. Some of the actors may have been entering the venue of the event perhaps for the very first time in their existence, and many other variables.

Cleveland Cavaliers played forty-two home games during the regular season alone and a further eleven home games during the playoffs. This means a whole lot of the activities they rehearsed prior to Game 4 were already done right about 53 times before that day! For goodness sake, I’m wondering why Mr Crump would have to rehearse, “Cle-cle-cle-cle-cleeeeeveland, time now to meet the starting five of the Cleeeeeveland Cavaleeeeeeeuuurs!” so many times!

This simply made me realise that in an atmosphere of excellence, mistakes rarely happen, and should they happen, there is going to be quick fixes such that you probably would not notice anything went wrong except you are told.

Bringing it back home to Africa, it should be a consensus of some sort that if one thing is lacking in our everyday lives, it is the consciousness of excellence. We tend to rush into holding events without carefully spending time to plan and even rehearse key parts of our various functions. That is why a speaker can stutter several times while reading from a teleprompter; why a radio presenter can use foul language to the hearing of several thousands of listeners simply because they forgot to turn off their microphone during an advert break; why the shot/game clock operator in an arena can struggle to operate his gadgets while a game is going on.

It is said that the NBA is the biggest basketball league in the world while many of the very important events in Africa do not even get as much recognition and talk-time outside our shores. The reason could not possibly be farfetched: the apparent lack of excellence. The truth is – we can only attain excellence through constant rehearsal, practice, and possession of an all-in attitude, and if Africa could imbibe this culture of excellence, the change we so earnestly desire will become an achievable reality.

- Ayotunde Onabolu


  1. Olufunke P. Otemolu

    Ayo ni ooooo!!! Thumbs up bro🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌👏👏👏👏This is the beginning of many great things to come. Your love for basketball is paying off💃🏽💃🏽💃🏽#ayotundeonabolu#media#mediapersonality#sportjournalist#sportpresenter#

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