Nothing strange about hoops outdoors

Okay, maybe it is a bit strange when the players are multimillionaires playing on a beautiful court with thousands of people watching but still…

Last week the Phoenix Suns held its second outdoor pre-season game at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California. While it wasn’t a sellout, almost 15,000 folks came to enjoy the rare opportunity to see these guys in a different setting.  In a world where shooting t-shirts out of an air cannon passes for creativity, it is nice to see some teams trying to generate new ways to market their product and connect with fans.

Richard Heckmann, an investor in the Suns, sees this outdoor basketball game being part of a larger community and fundraising event involving local high schools and residents. Now that is a great idea (and you can still shoot t-shirts into the stands)

You can read more about the game and the ideas for making this a yearly tradition at Larry Bohannan from The Desert Sun at, with an excerpt provided below and at Paul Coro’s article at The Arizona Republic at

All signs point to outdoor game being new desert tradition

Larry Bohannan • The Desert Sun • October 11, 2009

It was another big night Saturday at the Open, a desert tradition dating back to 2008.

OK, so playing an NBA exhibition game in the Coachella Valley two years in a row might not constitute a tradition.

The Coachella Valley’s NBA connection, at least to the outdoor game at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, barely registers on the tradition scale compared to the Bob Hope Classic, the Kraft Nabisco Championship or the tennis event played in the same stadium, the PNB Paribas Open.

But tradition has to start somewhere. Heck, the Hope tournament barely survived its first year in the desert, and now it’s starting its second half-century. So as fledgling traditions go, the NBA under the stars is off to a good start. At least that’s the way desert resident and minority Phoenix owner Richard Heckmann sees it.

As a resident of the desert, Heckmann has seen what works in the desert and what doesn’t. In just the last 20 years, the desert has seen plenty of short-term sporting events, like the NFL Fastest Man Contest, the Pepsi All-Star Softball game or even some short-term golf tournaments such as the Lexus Challenge or the Diners Club Matches. They were events that rolled into town, sold tickets and rolled back out without having much of a connection to the desert.

Heckman, the rest of the Suns organization, the city of Indian Wells and the folks who run the Tennis Garden believe they found a way to grow roots in the desert sands Thursday night with a high school basketball game on the same court the Suns and Warriors played on Saturday. The event featured high school bands and the teams from Palm Desert and La Quinta high schools. It was a fund-raiser for the schools, and Heckmann said it was as if a light went on for everyone involved with the game. Make the outdoor game the crown jewel of a three- or four-day festival featuring more high schools, more bands and more money for the schools. Make the outdoor game something the desert looks forward to each year by getting the desert involved.

(The article continues at