NBA basketball games came to a halt or had their starting times delayed Wednesday night during President Bush's speech announcing that the United States had launched a war against Iraq.
At the Rose Garden in Portland, a hush came over a crowd that had been buzzing in anticipation of the Trail Blazers' game against Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets.
There were a few outbursts during the speech by fans, although their shouts were unintelligible. Following the speech, most fans applauded, and they did so again after a message from the NBA was read assuring everyone the games would go on.
At Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the Clippers were playing the Denver Nuggets, many people were still making their way to their seats when Bush's speech began. Many sat expressionless with their arms folded, the people in the courtside seats straining their necks to watch the video board above midcourt.
When Bush finished, there was loud applause and some whistling -- but no booing.
Public address announcer Eric Smith told the crowd about the NBA's intention not to pre-empt the season, adding, ''We hope the games will provide a momentary diversion in these difficult times.''
The Knicks-Hornets and Cavaliers-Grizzlies games were interrupted by the speech. Players went to their locker rooms during Bush's speech, then returned to the court for warmups.
In Oakland, Calif., sporadic boos greeted Bush's message when it was shown on the Arena scoreboard. Though the building was nearly empty 20 minutes before the Golden State Warriors' game against Seattle, Bush's remarks were met with equal parts cheers and catcalls.
When Bush said the United States had ''no ambition in Iraq except to remove a threat,'' someone in the crowd shouted, ''Liar!''
When Bush finished, boos and cheers were roughly equal.
In Lubbock, fans at the Texas Tech-Nevada NIT game stayed in their seats during halftime to watch Bush's address on the overhead scoreboard above center court. Fans cheered as he announced the start of the attack and again when he finished his remarks.
The beginning of the war cast a somber shadow over many sporting events going on around the country.
''This is insignificant,'' said Virginia coach Pete Gillen, whose team beat Brown 89-73 in the first round of college basketball's National Invitation Tournament. ''I've been sick to my stomach the last day or two thinking about it. I have a son, 19, that could be in the service. It just breaks your heart. You hate to see any young man or woman die. A game means nothing compared to what is going on in the real world.''
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, a West Point graduate and a former Army captain, said: ''We wish Godspeed to our men and women who are preserving the right for us to play games, to be Americans, to be free.''
''Being in the military ... I know that knowing that good things are happening in my country helps me when I'm away from that country,'' said Krzyzewski, whose team opens the NCAA tournament against Colorado State on Thursday night in Salt Lake City. ''I think the tournament can serve as a good thing. That's how we'll look at it.''
In Tampa, Fla., the attack on Baghdad began just as the Cleveland Indians-New York Yankees spring training exhibition game was about to end.
''We have concerns for sure, but no control. We have to do what we do,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. ''We certainly have to play like there's not going to be any kind of delay. It's on everybody's mind. This is real life stuff. This is just a game.''
With war looming earlier in the evening Wednesday, fans entering NBA arenas were greeted with stringent new security guidelines.
At the two main entrances in Portland, uniformed security personnel screened all adult patrons with hand-held metal detectors or wands.
To help take some of the edge off the tension that can be caused by the increased security, clowns, face painters and other entertainers were stationed outside the Rose Garden, playing with children and kidding adults with phony wands made of balloons and other props.
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