I love basketball so much. My first love was baseball, but that died out. Then I loved tennis. I still love tennis. Even if the US Davis Cup team continues to suffer without some of the best players ever wanting to take part in patriotic play. (I think I ranted about this in '96, weird how this shit comes back) But basketball is my main squeeze now.
The NBA lockout of 1999 seems so long ago, when the players and the league were at odds regarding salaries and benefits so they stopped playing for most of the season.
I also wrote some stuff about the lockout a long time ago in '99, and it's, quite frankly, some scary shit man!
I mean, I picked UTAH and INDIANA to win. I must've been smoking a mad blunt, because those are two of my biggest HATE teams now. Karl Malone makes me ill, and Reggie Miller and the Pacers leave a bitter taste in my mouth, even though there's little reason to not like Austin Croshere and Jalen Rose.
I also commented on the Lakers being undisciplined but talented enough to do some serious damage. Never thought they'd win the championship they would just a year later. Now it seems like they're back to the same lack of chemistry as they had before the championship run. What a headfake! Or can they pull it back together for the playoffs?
Vince Carter is huge...he almost looks like a guard sometimes, but he's too big to pull it off. But when he does things like windmill dunks, or dunking the ball after jumping over a 7'3" Frenchman, you just HAVE to watch. Plus he can shoot the long ball.
I still love Iverson. The guy is simply amazing. His relentless style is the reason I tend to like guards more than any other position. You have to reward the most active ballhandlers on the court with praise.
This year there's a ton of basketball on TV, with TNT/TBS televising three nights of basketball a week, with NBC usually picking up some weekend action. It's glorious. Great games all the time, so it makes it much easier to follow how different teams in the league are developing day to day.
And it's damn good basketball too. I pretty much love to watch every team. The exceptions, like Utah and Indiana, are only there because the teams are just soooo boring that you fall asleep. I'm talking about teams like the Rockets and the Suns. I can't stand watching them. But I'll watch struggling teams like Vancouver and Washington though...
For the most part, the teams are competitive. The Bucks' Ray Allen is highly underrated by most people, but him being the rock for the US Olympic team should've been a clue, plus his "He Got Game" movie was better than all the other NBA players' films put together. Although "Blue Chips" was okay. The Kings are a big surprise. I saw them play Dallas (the white wonders!) and they blew Dallas off the court with great passing and shooting. It must be demoralizing playing them. Still though, I feel they could crack at any time, even with the way they're playing so far. I'd love to see them get far in the playoffs, but they're an (exciting) joker in the pack.
I don't have team loyalties. I mean, I love the Knicks now, even though I hated them when they played Chicago (still a hater of Ewing), and they started off the season playing like trash. Not only would I like to see them at Madison Square Garden, I'd like to see them take it strong in the playoffs. Bottom line is that I'll appreciate anyone who plays hardcore basketball. If a team misses a bunch of free throws and shoots too many perimeter shots, I can't stand them. Maybe I'm biased by the ex-players-now-commentators who always emphasize cutting and slashing to the basket. Perimeter teams are more prone to losses on nights when they're shooting cold and they can't get easy fouls/layups/penetration to free up other players from their defenders. Watching penetration teams vs. perimeter teams shows how big the difference is between a team that can weather bad play and one that can't.
It's gotta be 76'ers and Kings going into the late playoff rounds, purely on excitement level alone. The two are just explosive. Can you imagine Webber tearing up the paint and Iverson finding a way to win on the other end?
On top of the basketball, you got the personality back in the game. A good example is Mark Cuban, who's brought life and vigor back to Dallas ball. He's always there, cheering for the Mavs, and he's been well-publicized for not only defending his players, but pampering them as well. A real player's owner.
Everyone's made a big deal of how you can write Mark Cuban and he'll respond to you. Well, always the skeptic, I wrote to him, and here's his response for your own edification:
To: ":benturner: [Big Bad Ben]"
The current commercials are great! Allen and Jerome are without a doubt the maddest ballers there are (watch all four commercials with them) and there's the Michael Finley/Eddie Jones Nike commercials demanding a love and respect for the game. And the special appearance by Michael Jordan is ultra cool. Kevin Garnett has commercials preaching teamwork, not individual play, and that's all good, even if his rhymes are kinda corny. Where'd he get that bigass fur coat? Puff Daddy?
Then there's the hidden gem of basketball and television, "Inside the NBA", the show that appears at the end of the TNT/TBS bball nights and has Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson, and Kenny Smith wrapping up the evening of hoops. I could listen to them chat all day; they're either ragging on each other or ragging on players in the highlights. And they know what they're talking about too. They promote love for the game. It's just goddamn hilarious when they show footage of Martha Stewart answering a bball question on Celebrity Jeopardy before Barkley rings in. Or when they weigh Barkley to see how less fat he is from last week. Funny thing is, I hated Barkley as a player. But he's a goddamn riot as a commentator.
Inside the NBA...gotta watch it, it's high quality shit right there.
I'm dying to go to a playoff game...the Mavs are almost certainly going to make it. To see Dirk Shouldabeenattheallstargame Nowitzski, Steve IneedahaircutafterthehaircutIjustgot Nash, and allstarbadass Michael Finley play is a treat. It's gotta be nice being Cuban, travelling to personally see every single Mavs game.
I think right now, basketball is THE most exciting reasonably popular American sport out there. Baseball is pretty dead, and football is struggling so much that Vince McMahon is trying to fragment it more with his XFL (which is just like NFL to me, except with bad college and Euro players), golf is resting solely on the talent of Tiger, and soccer's not really shown here. Tennis is the closest thing to it, but it has a different kind of excitement to it. To see the Americans doing so well is a great thing. To see people I like win, and people I hate lose, on a consistent basis, is inwardly satisfying. :)
But I can't get enough of the crossovers, the baby hooks, the in yo face blocks, the nailbiter free throws. It's such a treat to play, and to watch. Try to watch Kevin ultra leet Garnett, Allen ankle breaker Iverson, Latrell you can't outplay me Sprewell, and Half-Man, Half-Amazing Vince Carter.
Good to see Shaq's still mumbling incoherently. ("I'm seeing a foot doctor...a podiatrist? yeah, sure, if that's what they're called...") And I still hate Bill Walton. :)
It amuses me how everyone's complaining about NBA ratings are down. They complain about a lack of all-star players and exciting play. Even after that great all-star game finish. This smacks of people behind the curve. Wait a year or two, they will change their tune. Basketball's huge right now. This is the delayed effect, the same effect that SNL underwent when it had the great cast of the last few years and everyone badmouthed it for the cast it had 7 years ago. Oh well.
There's plenty of info online. nba.com is pretty cool in that it has a lot of info which answers most questions I have... The great discussion sites are onhoops.com (insert picture of Larry Johnson grinning) and NBAtalk. Got more that I don't know about? E-mail me...
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