Faces In The Crowd On Opening Night

By: Lorne Chan Spurs.com

The excitement that filled the AT&T Center for the Spurs home opener surrounded all that is new. A new start, new faces, and new hope for what lies ahead.

For Spurs Season Ticket Member Sally Miller, Saturday’s home opener represents a little bit of the old. Old friends and old family, reunited in Section 200.

“Everybody’s family where we sit, and I haven’t seen them in months,” Miller said. “That’s why there’s nothing better than opening night.”

A new season of moments and memories tipped off on Saturday with the Spurs beating New Orleans 98-79.

For the 18,418 fans at Friday’s game, it was their chance to welcome back familiar favorites Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, catch veterans Pau Gasol and David Lee in a Spurs uniform, and get a glimpse of rookies like Nico Laprovittola and Davis Bertans making their home debut.

Just before tipoff, Patty Mills started the night by taking the microphone and thanking Spurs fans and San Antonio for the support. He went on to score 18 points starting the game in place of Tony Parker, while Leonard led all players with 20.

It was the Spurs’ eighth straight win in a home opener, improving to 18-2 in home openers under coach Gregg Popovich to the delight of the fans in Silver & Black.

Miller bought her first Spurs tickets more than 23 years ago when she got her husband and son a pair as a Christmas gift. Her son got sick, she went instead and she was hooked. Miller has been a Season Ticket Member ever since, often wearing a Spurs fishing hat covered with pins and autographs.

Joe Campeon remembers the first night he was hooked on the Spurs. He was in the back row of HemisFair Arena when he saw George Gervin play for the first time. Now, he guesses this is his 30th opening night.

He’s filled one wall of his garage with banners and another wall with newspapers from big wins.

At the age of 75, Campeon is a San Antonian born and raised, and said there’s nothing that brings the city together like the Spurs.

“It’s electric to be in here,” Campeon said. “You’re never going to doze off at halftime when you’re in the arena. Every season gets more exciting than the last.”

Rudy Reyna, at the AT&T Center for his 22nd season opener, said he remembers watching Gervin, his kids grew up with Tim Duncan and now his grandkids have fallen in love with Kawhi. For the Reynas, the Spurs are a constant throughout generations.

 “When I come to games, I always think of family,” Reyna said. “I have a son, Bryan, who we lost to cancer in 2010. He was the biggest Spurs fan, and so many of our memories together are at Spurs games. They bring us together.”

Felipe and Letty Gonzalez said the Spurs helped bring them together as well.

Felipe was watching his 29th opening night on Saturday, while this was the 22nd for Letty, his wife of 22 years, She wasn’t a basketball fan before they began dating, and now Letty has a tattoo of the Spurs logo on her right ankle.

“I fell in love with him, and I fell in love with the Spurs,” Letty said. “I don’t know which came first. They were a package deal.”