It's been said before, but it warrants saying again as we enter another NBA season: I don't have a team.
I know, shocking. Even the most grizzled NBA writers will, under duress, admit that they grew up somewhere, watching someone, and likely learned to love the game of basketball that way. Not me. Well, rewind on that. I am human, and I did grow up with a television, watching NBA games. There was no pro team in Chapel Hill, NC but I certainly had former Tar Heels that I followed into the pros. But at the end of the day, none of them, not even Michael Jordan, instilled in me a rooting pro interest. The Charlotte Hornets never quite seemed real to me. And so when I approach a new NBA season, it's always with a blank slate.
That said, it's not like I only pull for individual players and could care less about outcomes. I don't worship box scores; if I did, it wouldn't have been so hard for my friends to rope me into our annual fantasy league. It's more that, as someone who has moved around a fair amount and never really felt that much of a special bond with an NBA city, I have that luxury. I can afford to not "root for laundry." It's like being single must be for famous, rich, powerful people (as opposed to us mere mortals, who are made miserable by it). The season is my oyster.
However, in a lot of ways, this makes my NBA season more complicated. It's a drawn-out courting process, like something from a BBC mini-series, that may or may not carry over from the spring before. I like combinations of players and what they can realize when brought together. Check the wording: There's room for coach and GM in there but little regard for fanbase or civic pride. Sorry, I have none. I am lost and empty. And yet I am unspeakably alive.
I guess I'm an agnostic. I almost always end up rooting for some teams over others, even if occasionally I find myself rooting for both sides. I understand what it feels like to live and die, however synthetically, with each possession. But a team has to earn my affections. You know how players sign those mini-max deals for try to hold ownership accountable? Similarly, I keep them on a short leash. The counter, of course, is that those deals—and presumably, my fandom—are fickle and need to be instilled with the value of loyalty and perseverance. Whatever. I'll care as long as I'm given reason to. I guess this is an ugly, postmodern understanding of the individual and society, one where community is reducible to a physical place and the people one happens to interact with. That said, I still manage to feel a lot over the course of an NBA season, and I have plenty of fun.
Like I said, I'm an agnostic. I know people who care only for the beauty of the game. They're the heretics out there, the ones who deserve to be chased around with pitchforks. Ask me about how strongly I felt about the Steve Nash/Amar'e Stoudemire Phoenix Suns teams, even once they blundered into the Shaquille O'Neal trade. When Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes joined forces on the Wizards, I watched all of their games. I loved the Paul Pierce-Antoine Walker Celtics. The Atlanta Hawks that season they took the Celtics seven games in the opening round. Or the Thunder their first year in the playoffs, when it looked like they might have something to say about the Lakers' title defense. These were teams I had followed religiously that year, the year before, and usually, the year before that. Could I care less about the Suns or Hawks now? No. Do I consider myself a full-fledged Thunder fan? No, and it's not just because I live in Seattle.
I want to keep my options open. I need that flexibility. Maybe this means I have a wandering eye. Or maybe I want to make sure I'm being honest and true in whatever team I choose to root for. I do care about the beauty of the game; I'm just willing to invest in teams that seem to consistently offer up basketball, or personality, that's to my liking. Unfaithful, maybe. Or maybe I'm just being honest.
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