Maine isn’t exactly known for its basketball. Not a single player in the history of the state has ever even suited up for an NBA squad; not one. Consequently, growing up as an avid basketball fan in Central Maine wasn’t always that thrilling. There wasn’t anybody from my state who I could model my skills after while playing with my brothers in the driveway, because in the grand scheme of things my state didn’t produce any good talent. Likewise, as a New England sports fan I didn’t have a pro team I could call my own; instead I had to share that pleasure with five other states. Until recently, the representation of basketball in Maine, outside of Maine, was essentially nonexistent.
A few years ago this all changed. Portland was granted an expansion franchise in the NBDL, the minor leagues of the NBA. They were made an affiliate of the Boston Celtics, and after a “name-the-team” contest, became known as the Maine Red Claws. Despite a muscle-bound lobster as their foremost marketing ploy, the concept of professional basketball in Maine soon took hold throughout the State. Shortly after the deal was announced, the Claws opened up a tryout for Maine-born players, and a Central Mainer made the final cut. Naturally, this sparked a marked increase in interest for the franchise from young ballers like myself.
Shortly into the commencement of their inaugural season, I stepped into the Portland Exposition Building to watch the Maine Red Claws play basketball. I had seen the Boston Celtics several times before, so I wasn’t caught off guard by the talent at display. The atmosphere, however, was certainly something to behold. The city and the organization wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity to treat Maine sports fans with an experience very few had ever had the privilege to enjoy. The parquet court was modeled after that in which the Celtics of the 80s made their championship runs, the big screen display dangled over center court just as it does in hundreds of professional arenas throughout the country, and the players were marveled at by all, pestered by young and old for high fives and autographs. The Red Claws have ignited what should be a bright and exciting future for hopeful young athletes throughout the state of Maine.