**blogger's note: For this post I am going to use capitalization because there are too many proper names not to do so. I might return to my previous caps-free style in the next post but now that I know someone is reading this I will consider writing properly from now on.
When I was a young'in, sports were my life. I watched SportsCenter religiously every morning. I collected sports cards, read sports magazines, and hoarded sports memorabilia. Baseball was always my first love, but by the time I was ten I had discovered football and basketball, and I was just getting introduced to hockey.
In seventh grade I was taller than most of my classmates, and so our gym teacher / basketball coach convinced me to try out for the school team. I was a backup to our best player and didn't get much playing time in games - which was good because I got so nervous being out on the court that I only made one basket all season. I had more fun messing around on my backyard hoop or going to the school gym at night for practice.
I can't remember the exact moment I became a basketball fan - though it must have been some time before Magic Johnson announced he had HIV, because I remember thinking "Oh my God. Magic's gonna die." But he didn't, obviously. In fact he was part of the 1992 US Olympic "Dream Team" along with ten other NBA superstars... and Christian Laettner.
I actually liked Christian Laettner though...I even bought his Timberwolves jersey at the Basketball Hall of Fame after his rookie season. Then I lent it to a friend who lent it to his friend...and I never saw it again.
I liked a lot of other players in the early-to-mid 1990's. Reggie Miller, who was so deadly against the Knicks he made Spike Lee sit down and shut up...Utah's nearly unstoppable duo of Karl Malone and John Stockton... Dikembe Mutombo and his finger wag... Dominique Wilkins, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, Kevin Johnson (who later became the mayor of Sacramento and helped save the city's NBA team) ...and Shaq, of course.
But my favorite player of the 90's was Houston Rockets center Hakeem "the Dream" Olajuwon
Hakeem led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA championships, beating Patrick Ewing's New York Knicks in 1994 and Shaq's Orlando Magic in 1995. (There's a pic of me sporting Hakeem's jersey while playing NBA Jam on my Super Nintendo somewhere but I cant seem to find it at the mo)
By the end of the 90's I had become obsessed with hockey, and lost interest in basketball.
I could go on and on about my one-sided and mentally abusive relationship with hockey, but that's another post for another day.
Then a few years ago I started reading Bill Simmons articles on ESPN. Even though I had little to no knowledge of the players and topics he was writing about, "the Sports Guy" had piqued my interest in coming back to basketball with his unfiltered opinions and seamless blend of pop culture references. (For instance, he called Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers "Super Nintendo" which is a fairly obscure Simpsons reference, and he referred to a trade of one good player for several decent players as a "pu pu platter.")
I still don't watch regular season basketball, and I can't say I'm a true hoop fan...but I might be at least a casual fan. For the past five or six years I've watched the NBA playoffs, starting with the second round or conference finals, and I must say it is so much more relaxing than watching hockey or baseball, the two sports I've had such a lifelong emotional investment in that an outcome of a game affects my mood for the next several days.
Last night I had Game One of the NBA Finals on in the background and I was surprised and impressed at the Warriors' team defense against Cleveland Cavaliers forward/savior/god of basketball LeBron James, but I can't say I watched it that intently. I can say that I haven't watched a second of the Stanley Cup Finals and have blocked them from my memory because I am so sick and tired of my favorite hockey teams/players losing to the same teams/players over and over and over and over and it's just boring, man. Seriously. Phuck Hawkey.
I don't have a favorite basketball team (unless you count the Hoopers) but I have begun to identify players I like, such as Warriors big man Draymond Green
and scrappy Aussie Matthew "Delly" Dellavedova of the Cleveland LeBrons
but my favorite basketball player has to this young superstar from Louisville:
I hear she's also a pretty decent actress ;-)