Brent Barry broke form for Thursday's Rockets-Blazers game, giving his tickets to two specific—rather than random—fans: Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam and architect Curtis Names.
The reason: Ament and Names are grieving Sonics' fans who Barry befriended during his five seasons in Seattle. Ament angrily passed on a chance to attend the Sonics' last home game. "Brent told me I'd regret it," Ament said, "and I did. I just don't buy that Key Arena is that bad. We've played 2/3s of the NBA arenas, so I've seen 'em. Some are much worse."
An accomplished point guard at Big Sandy (Mont.) High School, Ament says growing up he hooped "as much as I played music" and still plays pick-up three times a week. Names is the son of the late Clint Names, an All-Conference point guard and All-American golfer at the University of Washington who later ran a Seattle sporting goods store that regularly hosted Sonics' autograph sessions. Clint died of Parkinson's disease a year ago. "He taught me everything about basketball," his son said.
Ament's favorite Sonics' memory: sitting with a friend behind courtside reporters for their Game 7 win over the Utah Jazz to reach the 1996 Finals. They leaped over the press table onto the court at the buzzer, expecting other fans to do the same. "We looked around and we were the only ones on the floor who weren't on the team," he said, grinning.
Ament and Names had sworn off the NBA but couldn't resist Barry's invitation and by halftime were toasting beers to "their first 'road' home game," Names said. After the lead changed three times in the final two seconds, capped by Brandon Roy's game-winning 30-foot turnaround prayer at the buzzer, Ament texted: "I'm a little less pissed at the NBA. What a great game."