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The Best Time to Get NBA Autographs on Game Day

Kevin Durant autographed picture with Matt RaymondMy basketball career began at the age of five when my parents signed me up for a local youth team. We were called the Cavaliers and my coach was a tomboy with a long braided ponytail that reached down to the small of her back. I was already a hoops fan, watching the Celtics championship teams on my father’s knee during the first half of the 80s. But playing the game transformed an interest into a passion and I would play twelve months a year through high school. (Incidentally, I was so convinced I was going to play in the NBA that I retired from baseball after Little League—even after hitting .600 my final season—to focus singularly on hoops. Yeah, that didn’t work out.) Though I didn’t have the chops to compete on the D1 level at UMass, my love for basketball persisted. So when I was introduced to in-person collecting I couldn’t wait to start graphing some of the stars I grew up watching.

Fortunately, of the four major sports basketball is the easiest to graph—they offer more opportunities and operate on an extremely predictable schedule. While hockey players are arguably better signers, there are many top-tier NBA players who are still generous with a pen, including Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Carmelo Anthony.

I’ve been getting a ton of emails from readers about when to head to the hotel for NBA teams, so I created this guide to give you the insight you need to graph in a smart, efficient way on game day.

Arrival (Evening Before the Game)
Your first opportunity to graph is upon arrival to the hotel. Typically, a team will travel on an off-day and you can expect them to check-in between 5-7 p.m. the evening before a game to give players enough time to have dinner, relax and get a good night’s rest. Because they come off the bus at once and the number of collectors is usually low, graphing multiple players can be a challenge. In this case having more collectors around actually helps because they can delay one player while you graph someone else. I’ve been in this situation many times and I wish I had another pair of arms to keep up with the flurry of activity.

In the event of a back-to-back game, you can estimate arrival time with the following equation:

Time game ends + 1.5 hours (postgame interviews/travel to airport) + duration of flight + travel time to hotel = Arrival time

It’s inexact but will get you in the ballpark so you can decide whether you want to invest your time. Regardless, in this scenario it’s going to be a late night.

Before Shootaround
On the morning of game day, visiting teams typically depart the hotel on a single bus between 9-9:30 a.m. for a 10 a.m. shootaround. Players stream out one at a time which is ideal for graphing and the early hour limits the number of collectors on site (ideal in this scenario since you’ll have plenty of time to identify individual players). While some players are strictly “game time signers”—they sign once on the trip, before boarding the bus to the game—many of my biggest successes have come during the less hectic time before shootaround (e.g., Kobe autographed mini ball, Dwyane Wade autographed jersey, Kevin Durant autographed jersey).

After Shootaround
The duration of shootaround can vary but teams typically return to the hotel between 12-12:30 p.m. Like arrival, you encounter the challenge of dealing with an entire team stepping off the bus at once. You also have to contend with the fact that players just signed a couple hours prior so they are less likely to stop again. While there are signatures to be had, this is my least favorite time to graph.

Pregame Bus
The opportunity to get autographs as the team boards the pregame buses—most commonly referred to as “game time”—is a mixed bag. Players come out individually (which, as I mentioned before, is a huge advantage) but you’ll encounter the biggest crowd of the day so competition can be fierce. The first of two game time buses leaves at 4:30 p.m. (for a 7:30 p.m. tip off) and typically carries the coaches and young players. The second “veteran” bus leaves at 5:30 p.m. Get to the hotel early (e.g., 3:45 p.m. to graph the first bus), grab a spot up front, and you’ll be in great shape to let the ink flow.

At the Game
Every arena configuration and security protocol is different but there is one rule that applies across the board—arrive as soon as possible! At the Boston Garden, for example, premium seating is admitted two hours before the game (ticket holders in the loge and balcony are admitted only an hour before). The best graphing can be had by the tunnels where some players will stop and sign on their way to and from the court during warm-ups. I have the least amount of experience graphing at the arena so please leave a comment and share your tips.

About the author: is the founder of Autograph University. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and two sons. Connect with him on Twitter at @mattraymond.

41 comments… add one

  • Lita March 4, 2015, 10:24 pm

    Hello Matt!

    Chesapeake Arena, have any tips on the easiest way to get autographs from some of the Thunder players before the game? We plan on being at the game vs. Timberwolves at 5:00pm, not really familiar w/ the arena and where we should be for their warm-ups? Any and all info would be greatly appreciated!!!!

    Thank,
    Lita

  • Raafay Abbas March 10, 2015, 2:32 am

    Hi Matt,
    Im going to the mavs and clippers game on march 13th. You’re article was really helpful. I’m in the 310 section I know (I know its high). I really want a picture with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Dirk, nate Robinson, and Parsons. Who do you think will take a picture with me? I don’t want to go to a hotel, or go really early, the game is at 7:30 and I can go like an hour earlier. I will really appreciate it if you reply!
    Thank you so much,
    Raafay Abbas

  • Michelle March 19, 2015, 12:01 pm

    Thanks for the article! I’m surprising my boyfriend with tickets to the Warriors v. Pelicans game for his birthday. I have Club level tickets and was just wondering if it would be easier to possibly get an autograph or photo with these tickets? Our game starts at 7 pm and I’d love the opportunity to get him some photos/autographs if possible.

    Thanks!

  • daniel July 23, 2015, 4:39 am

    How do you know exactly what hotel they are staying in ?

  • Derek January 5, 2016, 7:01 pm

    Old comment but typically teams stay at either 3-4 different hotels, usually Four Seasons in my experience. You have to know people who do it or try it yourself.

  • daniel August 11, 2015, 11:17 pm

    im going to watch the bulls at home and hopefully sitting right behind the bench what do you think the rules would be on asking for a signature while there resting on the bench either before after or during the game?

  • Colin August 16, 2015, 7:48 pm

    They will not sign during the game, but some of the nicer ones will sign during warm ups if you sit close to the sidelines!

  • izzy September 10, 2015, 5:06 pm

    Hey guys, just wanted to throw out that getting Steph Curry’s autograph is SUPER EASY.

    Get to Oracle before they open the parking gates, then when they let you in you have to wait outside the Arena entrance. Once they open those doors run straight for the court seating near the tunnel, the ushers don’t ask if you look confident that you sit in that section (although I printed a fake ticket in case they asked)

    Steph is usually the first one out there doing his pre game ritual/drills/warm ups. Then he’ll take his “tunnel shot” (when i went he made it on the first try). Right after he takes the shot he signs autographs, just make sure that you are not too high in the stands that he can’t reach your pen/memorabilia. He is such a nice dude and usually signs as many as he can.

    I’m going to see Kobe at staples for the home opener this year, I hope I can get his, but that might be tricky. We’ll see! Happy Graphing everyone!

  • Joe October 29, 2015, 1:42 am

    How did you print the fake ticket?

  • michael beach November 27, 2015, 12:08 pm

    im going to see the warriors in miami, where did you print your fake ticket at ? i found some websites but idk if they work

  • Matt Raymond January 20, 2016, 9:02 pm

    Awesome tip – thanks for sharing.

    Matt

  • DeLana September 14, 2015, 2:53 pm

    Taking my boyfriwnd to houston/cavaliers game in jan. Want to get him lebron james sjgnature or pic. How do u find out what hotel they will be staying n?

  • Bibi October 21, 2015, 8:15 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’m going to Philly for a Sixers game against the Warriors. It’s at 5pm. I have floor seats behind the baskets. I wanted to try to meet Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – possibly get pictures with them or autographs. Does the visiting team sign by their tunnel pregame? Would it also be possible to catch them when they’re leaving the arena postgame? Do you know their exit? Thanks!

  • Stephen November 10, 2015, 9:39 pm

    Hey matt love the site, just wondering if the times for graphing hockey at the hotel is similar. Like would morning skate for hockey also be around 9-9:30?
    Thanks

  • allison November 30, 2015, 1:38 am

    Hi! Very helpful article. I’m surprising my girlfriend with tickets to a game and actually have some personal reasons to trying to get her an autograph or picture. If you could get back to me then we could chat and I’d love to hear what you think would be our best option! Thank you!

  • Joe Cook November 30, 2015, 5:37 am

    Hey Matt,
    I was at a Blazers vs Pacers game last year and got George Hill and Wesley Matthews autograph and it was awesome! I’m going to a Blazers vs. Lakers game in January on the 23rd at the Moda Center in Portland. They’re coming from San Antonio on the 22nd. Would love to get Kobe’s autograph, do you know what his routine is or if he signs for a lot of fans? Recommendations? Get there early day of game to get some autographs? All the info helps thanks,

    Joe Cook

  • George February 15, 2016, 3:28 am

    Do you know what tunnel the visiting team comes out of at The Moda Center? I am contemplating going to UTAH @ POR 2/21/16 and am contemplating what seats i should purchase.

  • April Worley March 30, 2016, 12:25 pm

    Any luck on Kobe? I hope to catch in New Orleans 4/8?

  • Jon December 6, 2015, 10:19 pm

    I am going to Clippers Vs.TWolves on feb 3. I’m sitting in section 105 3rd row next to the rail. I’m a longtime KG fan and I’m hoping to get his autograph. what are my chances being that close and is KG autograph friendly?

  • Chris December 26, 2015, 9:08 pm

    I tried getting autographs from players on the Chicago Bulls at 4:00 pm today in Dallas but security outside the hotel near the busses said we had to leave.

  • James December 28, 2015, 4:26 pm

    Chris – which hotel in Dallas was the one where the Chicago Bulls were staying?

  • Elex December 28, 2015, 9:54 pm

    Matt,
    I really enjoy the website and this article in particular. Heading to Boston in a couple of days to catch Kobe’s last game in town. Obviously, hoping to get his him to sign something. Any advice at the local venues? I’ve already planned to try before shoot around. Is it best to try and catch them in the lobby or outside the hotel?
    Thanks again for the information in the article
    Elex

  • Connor December 29, 2015, 6:31 pm

    Elex, I am trying to get Kobe too. Do you know what hotel they are staying at tomorrow? I would greatly appreciate it.

  • Naomi December 28, 2015, 11:00 pm

    I’m sitting in section 101 row M do u think I would be able to get a autograph? Is it easy?

  • ron January 1, 2016, 8:10 pm

    Im going to the sacramento vs lakers game January 7th. Im trying to get kobe bryants autograph before he retires. What hotel will the lakers be staying at to get his autograph at the pre game bus?

  • Luke January 11, 2016, 7:59 pm

    Hello,
    I was wondering if anyone knows what hotel the Bulls stay in when in Cleveland. I have heard rumors that it’s the Ritz Carlton but I just wanted to confirm those rumors.
    Would appreciate any help.

  • Pidio January 15, 2016, 6:21 pm

    Hi there, I’m attending the lakers@portland at the moda center on January 23. Would you know what seat section number the visiting team comes out from. Thanks a bunch!
    Also what section the visiting team sits at?

  • Carlos January 19, 2016, 5:03 am

    Pidio, I would love to know what your plan is for the game because I’ll be attending that game as well and want to get Kobe’s autograph more than anything in the world!

  • Cynthia February 2, 2016, 2:19 pm

    I am taking my 10 year old daughter to the Spurs and Bulls game on March 10th. We have balcony seats so getting autographs during warm up is I’m sure out of the question. Can anyone give me any insight on how to get autographs from the Bulls team?

  • Andy February 6, 2016, 1:46 pm

    We are attending Kobe’s (we hope) game at Bankers Life in Indianapolis. Really want to get a jersey signed.

  • Moriah February 7, 2016, 12:08 am

    We are going as well. Getting to Indy around 3 pm monday, wanting to surprise my husband by finding out where they are staying!

  • Kimberly Cota February 8, 2016, 8:48 pm

    Hello,
    I was wondering if you can give me a few tips on getting Stephen Curry’s autograph. I am going to a suns game vs the warriors and sitting in section 103 row 4. Would I be able to get an autograph by going early to the game or how does that work?

  • Zeb February 18, 2016, 9:55 pm

    Hello, I’m going the Hornets at Bucks game in Milwaukee Tomorrow 2/19. I have box suite level seats and I was wondering when to go to the game to get autographs? I know where to go just not when. Thanks in advance

  • Jason February 21, 2016, 8:51 pm

    My son wants to get a Derrick Rose autograph. The Bulls play in Orlando in March and I was wondering if you know what hotel the Bulls stay at in Orlando?

    Thanks for the help

  • Joanna February 28, 2016, 10:30 am

    I’m taking my son for his 12th bday to see Spurs vs Thunder 3/12/16. We want autographs from one of the top 3 Spurs & KD. We arrive San Antonio that morning and can hang at the hotel like you suggested. I’m wondering how can I find out which hotel the Spurs & Thunder stay. I live in Austin so not many connections.

  • Me March 21, 2016, 9:28 pm

    How do you know what hotel they are staying at ?

  • Me March 21, 2016, 9:31 pm

    Oh oops i didnt see you already addressed the hotel question

  • Jason Cooke March 26, 2016, 8:17 pm

    Hey, I might go to a celtics game at the garden and do I have a chance of getting autographs 1 hour before the game? Thanks!

  • Jonathan March 28, 2016, 11:42 pm

    Kobe is coming to town vs Pelicans next Friday. They have an off day before Friday nights game. Anyone have success at the hotel with Kobe? Do y’all think team arrives the day before?

  • April March 30, 2016, 12:29 pm

    Me too… hoping to obtain any info possible as well.

  • JOSEPH GASPARD March 30, 2016, 8:24 pm

    I am going to the warriors and spurs game on april 10
    I was thinking where do players shoot for the before shootaround
    do they go to the main stadium or a practice stadium

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