Toyota Center by Rafeek Abdalla


1510 Polk Street

Houston, TX  77002

November 2010–The Toyota Center holds something that no other arena has, the engineering ability that allows all the fans to see everything no matter where you are sit in the arena – from the ten dollar tickets to the six courtside tickets. Dead center on the basketball arena is the new rockets logo that brightens up the entire arena from the light of above. Surrounding the court are 18,300 fans cheering the Rockets on to victories, successes, and triumphs against teams with great successful history such as theLA Lakers, LA Clippers, and Dallas Mavericks.

As a young person growing up in Los Angeles, California, the only two things that a kid did for fun was either go outdoors and enjoy the most beautiful weather, or just stay at home and watch T.V. shows over and over again. At that time, basketball was the game to play when you were young. You would watch television commercials about Michael Jordan, say “I Wanna Be like MIKE”. I remember it as if it was yesterday when I finally had enough courage to go up to my older brother and ask him if he would teach me the rules and regulations of the game of basketball. To my surprise, he took on the task and was pleased to have me as his very first customer, a young and eager student ready to do anything the teacher commanded. He took me outside to the backyard and held up a basketball with the words “Best Player” written all around it. He explained to me that I had made the right decision in asking him for help. All he could say was, “They don’t just give these balls out to everyone.” As time went on, I started improving and getting better and better; that’s when I started to see the bright sparkle in my brother’s eyes. To him, I guess I made him feel as if he accomplished something in life, but to me, it was something that I felt proud about. I could go up to my friends back at school and tell them that I am just not some cheerleader on the sidelines, but a true basketball player. To my surprise, that day was the starting point that began to turn me into the basketball player that I am now today.

But not just the engineering of the building makes it different from others; it is the outrageous choices of food that you can only imagine, making a regular basketball game different from the best basketball game. The lean cuisine of portabella mushrooms with the dirty rice and a side dish of mash potatoes really hit you hard when you are watching a game; it almost makes you feel like you actually made food at home and watching the game in 3-D. But not only has the Toyota Center been a great asset to our community, it has also made the downtown environment something more respectable and more exciting to see. On the other hand, the Compaq Center has also had its time for glory. Some of the most honorable basketball players have been able to win the championship title for the city of Houston . Just to name a few, Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, Clyde Drexler, Sam Cassell, and Hakeem Olajuawon have tested there skills to the next level. Another issue that has been a factor for the Toyota Center that the Compaq Center achieved was the ability to park in a parking garage. In the new arena, parking was up to you, or if you can’t find it, you can find it in your wallet. “They were paying for parking through their ticket prices at Compaq Center, and so it is going to be an adjustment for people to have to break out their wallets for parking before entering the building” (Manfull “Pick a Spot”).

In my basketball career, I was named MVP for two consecutive years, won four championships in a row, and best of all, I was the only person in my entire family – including relatives – to make my high school basketball team. However, before I go on about my career of basketball, I would like to take a moment and reflect on the greatest championship I earned over the years playing the sport that I love. It was my most recent championship; the championship in which, I believe tested all my skills and abilities that I learned from people whom I came across during my career playing basketball. I could never forget that day. It was February 25, 2003; the night was brisk and chilly. We got to Bellaire Recreation Center 30 minutes before the game to warm-up. We were in our routine starting formation like we do every game: we sat down in a circle and with the whole team talked about how we were going to beat the JCC Black Team. Throughout the whole season, the JCC Black team did not lose a single game. But, our record was 20-1; that one loss was to JCC Black.

The game started with its usual tip-off and later progressed into the longest stretch missed field goals for our team. If I can remember correctly, the score was 30-10 by the end of the first quarter. I promised myself and my teammates before the game that I wouldn’t be a loser to JCC Black again. I began to take the game into my own hands. People said after the game that I acted like a coach when I was on the bench and like a captain when I was on the court. With our successful comeback, we managed to tie the game to 81-81 with three seconds left. But without victory, we were unable to score the in the time that was left in regulation. Going into the first overtime, we had possession of the ball. We scored, and then they scored, we scored, and then they scored. This kept going back and forth until a player of the JCC Black managed to mess up one of their set plays and gave us the ball with enough time to run the clock down and have the very last shot. As I intercepted the pass from the opposing team, I ran down the court for an easy lay-up when as I was going up for the shot, I was pushed intentionally. I hit the floor face first and slammed straight into the wall. All of this happened in a flash, there was nothing for me to do. But as I looked up towards the rim, the ball bounced and bounced on the rim. It felt as if hours had gone by and nothing has happened yet. Finally, the ball managed to roll into the basket, which gave our team a two point lead. On that same play, we had a chance for an even greater lead with a free-throw and a technical foul shot.

I got myself up and looked into the eyes of the opposing player that committed this foul against me. He was instructed by the referee to walk off the court for committing such an act of unsportsmanlike conduct. The only thing that I kept running through my mind at that time was a vivid flashback…the time after time that I practiced with my older brother. He was the one who taught me how to make those shots that we called “CTS” or Clutch Time Shots. With four seconds left on the clock, I went to shoot my free-throws. When the referee gave me the basketball all I did was look into the “face” of the basketball and tell myself that this shot is nothing different from all those other shots that I used to hit in practice. I raised the ball up to my shoulders and looked over and saw my mother and older brother, the only two people out of the five in our family, who were free enough to come to see my game. They were giving me the biggest smile and I could tell by the expression on their faces, that I could do it and clutch the win for our team. I shot the first free-throw and made a swish sound with the net. I stood there at the end of the shot perfectly still as if nothing had just entered the basket at all. This point brought our team to a three point lead. The second shot was something else. Excitement went through my body; I felt like I needed to try something new, something different. But the feeling from my coach and fellow players on my team was, “What the heck is this boy trying to do?” The shot was a unique one. I put the basketball in my hands and stood sideways on the free-throw line, facing the opposing team. I pointed at every player on the bench and said in a loud voice, “MINORITY REPORT SHALL NEVER LOSE TO JCC BLACK AGAIN!” I put the ball in one hand while still facing JCC Black and launched the ball into the air as if I was doing a “granny-shot”. The ball looked as if it was floating in super slow motion in the air just like you see on NBA basketball games when they replay shots for the audience to see the beauty of the previous play. The ball went up and up and straight into the net, scoring the point that put us up by four. That point placed us in our comfort zone, and eventually those points guaranteed us the title of champions.

Finishing this basketball season with a blast, I thought about going for it all…the NBA. I came to realize that, to me, nothing was better than playing basketball. Then later I realized that playing basketball was not the only thing that I wanted to do with my life. At that point, I chose to continue with my education first and foremost.

The one thing that I can honestly say is going to games and watching the professions NBA pros play seems to be just as exciting as me playing with my friends and teammates. As you know, basketball is one of America ’s and maybe even the world’s most favorite sport to play and watch (Masin, Herman “Basketball’s Most Unforgettable Game”). It is for this reason that most major cities have basketball arena for their fans to watch their home team play other rival teams. In the city of Houston , we have the blessing of having a great basketball team, the Houston Rockets. This team is unique. Within the last year, the Houston Rockets have played in two different arenas, the Compaq Center and the Toyota Center . The Compaq center has been the home of the Houston Rockets for many years and has gotten Houston two NBA Championships two years in a row. But what is also unique to the Rockets is that the Toyota Center is that the new arena that is well up to date and has been an asset to our community. It has provides us with new, soft chairs, more seating, more club seats, and best of all, there are now more concession stands (Manfull “One For All”). Fans that come to the Rockets game have also said “I Think our seats are the nicest seats in the league!” (Manfull “Comfort Level”).

So moving from one arena to another is kind of hard, but all those good memories of those championships and the retirement of those NBA legends will always be in our minds and hearts. But for now it’s a time to move on and a time to let the past stay in the past. I guess the only thing for us to do is just hope and wish that one day the Rockets will have the ability to finish the season with a win and manage to pull the NBA title once again, but in the new arena, the Toyota Center . The love of basketball has brought people together, and I can say personally that these games have done a lot to the people of this nation in many ways. By building better and better arenas such as the Toyota Center for the  Houston Rockets will make the dream of winning a championship come true to the individuals of this sport.


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