Since becoming an NBA fan, David DeLooper noticed that it’s not only the game on the court that can affect the mood of an arena, but also the hype game brought by fans who get their big moment on the Jumbotron.
“Whether your team is winning by 20 or losing by 20, you see that one person that gets on the Jumbotron and acts a fool and it changes the whole atmosphere of the arena positively,” DeLooper said. “That’s where this idea kind of came from.”
On Christmas Day, DeLooper, 28, of Fishtown, set off on an epic quest crisscrossing North America to see all 30 NBA teams play at home in 30 days. His goal: to get on every NBA arena’s Jumbotron.
As of Thursday, DeLooper had 29 very successful and very silly Jumbotron appearances under his belt, with just one more to go Thursday night.
His strategy, he said, is all about location, costumes, and “subpar dance moves.”
“It’s definitely taught me a lot about myself," DeLooper said of his odd odyssey. “Be open to new things and put out good energy and good energy should return.”
DeLooper didn’t really start following the NBA until after college, when he began playing pickup basketball. Though he was a New York Knicks fan as a kid growing up in Central Jersey, since living in Philly he’s also become a fan of the 76ers.
The idea for his Jumbotron journey — which he calls “30 for 30 for 30” — began percolating more than a year ago, but the real planning didn’t start until August, when the NBA schedule was released. Only then could DeLooper map out his route, which would sometimes take him from cities like Sacramento, Calif., to Cleveland, Ohio, in a day.
But first, he had to broach the subject of a Jumbotron sabbatical with his employer, Red Bull.
The company gave DeLooper, senior communications manager for the mid-Atlantic region, its blessing but in no way sponsored his pet project, he said.
DeLooper then asked his friend, Colin Kerrigan, a freelance Philly filmmaker (and former photographer for the Inquirer’s then Philly.com website), to come along and document his journey.
“I believe in interesting characters with weird ideas,” Kerrigan said. “It didn’t take that much convincing.”
Before they started, DeLooper formulated a very unscientific method for Jumbotron stardom. It is, as follows:
Wear a wacky costume that relates to the home team. If possible, also incorporate the home team’s apparel. For example, at the Oklahoma City Thunder game, DeLooper dressed up as Thor, the god of Thunder, and he wore a Thunder jersey.
Sit in the lower level of the arena, the closer to court the better. Corners are best because the “cameramen are tethered to the corners,” DeLooper said. Also — if possible and in a totally non-creepy way — try to make eye contact with a cameramen and wave.
Stand up and show off your “subpar dance moves.”
DeLooper said he bought most of his costumes the day after Halloween at a steep discount, though he has had to scrape a few together last minute.
He tried out his Jumbotron formula first at a Sixers game in early December, where he dressed as Benjamin Franklin (though some might argue he looked more like George Washington).
When he began his journey in earnest on Dec. 25, it was again at a Sixers home game as Ben Franklin. But the whole expedition was nearly derailed on the second day when DeLooper dressed as a hot dog for a Brooklyn Nets game. He didn’t make it on the Jumbotron until there was just five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
From there, he and Kerrigan crisscrossed North America, sometimes driving and sometimes flying to games. To save money, often they’d stay with friends.
“It’s been pretty scrappy putting it together,” DeLooper said.
One of DeLooper’s favorite experiences so far was Jan. 5, when they saw the L.A. Lakers and the L.A. Clippers play on the same day hours apart at the Staples Center.
“Seeing two powerhouse teams that have so much history within seven or eight hours of each other was awesome,” he said. “It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
When the Instagram account Kerrigan started to document DeLooper’s journey was featured by the House of Highlights — a sports fan account with 15 million followers — more than 20,000 people from as far away as Spain and Australia began following DeLooper’s quest.
On Wednesday, DeLooper checked Jumbotron #29 — belonging to the Phoenix Suns — off his list. He got on the big screen by dressing in a smiley-face emoji costume that vaguely resembled the sun.
On Thursday, the final day of DeLooper and Kerrigan’s expedition, they’ll be in Portland, Ore., for the Blazers game against the Dallas Mavericks.
When it’s all over, DeLooper knows just how he plans to celebrate.
“I get home on the 25th and I’m going to a Sixers-Lakers game that night,” he said.