When Rachel and I were on honeymoon in New York in 2018 it was right in the middle of NBA playoff time. I had never paid much heed to basketball before, I knew who Michael Jordan was, who Kobe Bryant was, I knew who LeBron James was and a few others but I wouldn’t have called myself a fan. On that trip though I became fascinated and engrossed.
How romantic does that sound? On our first holiday as Wife and Husband I got hooked on the NBA and watched LeBron and the Cavs play the Pacers each night as we fell asleep. My wife is a very lucky woman.
It was such a free experience to watch a sport with absolutely no affiliations. I was able to watch it until I fell asleep and not worry if I was going to miss something because I didn’t care that much.
I didn’t care because I wasn’t rooting for anyone, I wasn’t upset to see anyone lose or overjoyed to see anyone win. There was a freedom in being an unattached fan of a sport. At the time I thought it was probably best to remain detached, to not get sucked in, to not ruin the enjoyment of the game by adding irrational fandom. I have enough of that in other sports. I decided that it was better to not love at all then to irrationally love and grow frustrated and harbour resentment against men I don’t know and have nothing in common with.
Normally when I watch a sport I watch it with an annoyingly smug superiority complex. Anyone who has watched sport with me will attest to this. I know more than this commentator, I understand these players better than their coach does, I’m a more informed and rational fan than everyone else who has the exact same opinions as me. I’m exhausting. But when I was watching the NBA I didn’t know anything. I mean I still assumed I knew stuff, but I at least had enough self awareness to know I shouldn’t go and write about my basketball opinions in a blog post.
I couldn’t write about basketball because I didn’t and still don’t speak the language. I still don’t know what boom shakalaka means…
I was making judgements in my mind about who I thought was a good player or not, who was showing up for their team in a big spot, who was shrinking in the playoff spotlight. Completely uninformed opinions for sure, I mean, I don’t even know the rules properly, but opinions that I still hold about certain players now and I’ll probably never let them go.
But now, something has changed. Maybe it’s the lockdown, maybe I need to compensate for the crushing, soul-destroying lack of live sport, maybe it’s just the right time. It’s actually mostly because of the Last Dance and listening to Bill Simmons talk about the Last Dance coupled with the possible bonanza of basketball around the corner but I feel like I’ve changed my mind.
I’m ready to be hurt again. I’m ready to pick a team and love them unconditionally for all time. I’m ready to hastily read a Wikipedia entry about a team, watch some quick YouTube highlights and start referring to them as ‘we’. But how do you inorganically pick a team to follow? I’m not from the same place as any of the teams. I don’t have a basketball loving father who passed on his love for the 76ers. I didn’t fall in love with a team when I was a kid.
I don’t want to pick the Bulls. That seems like the obvious choice right? I watched the Last Dance and hung on every word Michael Jordan said, Phil Jackson seems like a very nice man and Dennis Rodman hit Diamond Dallas Page with a chair on WCW Nitro…but that’s too obvious. I’m exhausting.
Steve Kerr was one of the highlights of the documentary, he spoke very well and his story is pretty much unbelievable. He’s gone on to be the coach of the Golden State Warriors so maybe I should follow them. But they’ve been too successful recently and the last thing I want to be labelled as is a glory hunter, a band wagoner, a fair weather fan. No one is actually going to call me any of those things because literally no one cares but I assume people are thinking about me and my choice of teams constantly even though I know that’s irrational and untrue. I’m exhausting.
I ran this idea past my wife who is probably the only person who will care because she’ll have to listen to me try to sound like I know what I’m talking about. I told her I was going to start following a team but I didn’t know how to pick one. Her suggestion was to pick the team with the nicest colours. After making many, many derisory comments and snickering to myself I realised she might be on to something. I mean it makes as much sense as anything else right? When I pick my team I’m going to want to get some of the gear to cement my fandom and I don’t want to pick a team with hideous jerseys do I?
This is where Golden State come back into the equation. They have an alternate jersey with ‘The Town’ written on it in really big letters. And you can get hats with ‘The Town’ emblazoned on them. I’m a man of simple pleasures and a proud man of the real town and it would please me no end to be able to wear my NBA team’s hat to a Dundalk FC game and have it double up as a showing of my love for two of my teams.
While we’re on the subject, I bought a Brooklyn Nets jersey while we were in New York because it was black and white. I bought a baseball cap because it was black and white and I thought it looked vaguely like a Dundalk FC cap. Maybe I’m not going about this the right way.
Are the Brooklyn Nets my team?
I mean we did go to Brooklyn. Brooklyn is a “cool” place. Am I that shallow? Would I pick a team because they play in a place that can confidently be described as a hipster haven? I think the Nets are the front runners…
I have to mention that I did attend a preseason NBA game in Madison Square Garden years ago. I saw the Knicks and the 76ers and it was odd. I didn’t really know what to expect from a preseason crowd at an NBA game because up until that point I had never watched an entire game of basketball never mind a preseason one. It was a fun experience, especially having one fan sat close to me who, on his own, in what can only be described as a booming voice bellowed “DEFENCE…DEFENCE…DEFENCE” when the Knicks didn’t have the ball.
But it didn’t make me love the Knicks. I was gifted a pair of Patrick Ewing New York Knicks socks one Christmas and they are a damn fine pair of socks so between the lone bellowing fan, the fact that I’ve actually been to a Knicks game and the superior quality of said socks, the Knicks are still in with a shout of becoming my NBA team.
Maybe what I should do is remain unaffiliated and wait for just one more sign from the NBA fan gods as to who I should become a supporter of. Maybe I shouldn’t stain or burden the burgeoning love I have for the NBA by aligning myself with anyone. Maybe I’m just a Nets fan and I don’t want to admit it. I’m exhausting.