No matter where I’ve ever been in my life, I’ve always found solace on the basketball court. In fact, when life hits me hardest, one of the first things I always do is lace up my sneakers, grab my ball, and head to the nearest court just to shoot around. Something about stepping between those lines is so… peaceful.
Basketball, like most sports, is the ultimate meritocracy. If you’re good, you get to play. I doesn’t matter if you’re tall or short, black or white, man or woman, rich or poor. If you can hang with the game being played at the moment, you’re in. I always loved that about ball. And growing up in a less-than-affluent neighborhood, I found out quickly that the game earned you respect when other social influences might have prevented you from ever having that chance.
Basketball has been there for me. In high school, in college, and even beyond. It has taken me around the country and around the world. And now, basketball keeps giving back to me by fueling a passion that fills these, and other pages. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, the squeak of sneakers on hardwood is a siren song that demands my attention. Games on television turn me into Abed watching “Cougar Town”. Enthralled. Entranced. And watching plays develop is like watching a choreographed dance.
It’s just too beautiful for me to ignore.
Now we’re here. In a dark, ugly place where the game is being sullied by greed and arrogance. This game is so beautiful, that this one league alone is bringing in four billion dollars. That doesn’t even count the endorsement money players make, the revenue of other professional leagues around the world, or the money the NCAA makes off of basketball. The game generates un-Godly sums of cash, which inherently brings out the worst in people.
And we’re seeing the worst. Owners who begged taxpayers to build them their stadiums now say they don’t make enough money, despite their residence in the top 1% of America’s wealthiest people Players who less than a decade ago didn’t even have enough money to use a payphone say getting a couple of billion dollars isn’t enough. Agents who have suckled millions from players because of their soulless ability to double talk their way into insane contracts are drawing lines in the sand even though they should be spectators in this fight.
These people lack the perspective to calmly settle their differences, and in turn disrespect the game of basketball. They don’t deserve the game. It’s too beautiful for them. But the sad fact is they are necessary. The game needs these ungrateful oafs. It needs the money to create the venues, and it needs the talent to push it to unfathomable levels.
It’s why I watch.
Sure, the college game is, at least at the player level, untainted by greed and, to some extent, individuality. But it’s just not as good. The NBA, for all its faults, features the best players in the world doing things that Dr. James Naismith never could have even imagined when he nailed those peach baskets to the YMCA walls. The plays, when they are executed to perfection, are jaw-droppingly elegant. The individual “take over” performances are so sublime, I feel like someone MUST have CGI’d what I just saw.
I’m addicted to the game, and the NBA is basketball at its purest. I’m in love with this game. And even though I will forever hate the culprits who have cost this game its dignity over the past few months, the game remains as beautiful as ever. I can never leave it. I know that’s what some of these un-caring, un-feeling philistines are counting on as they drag this game through miles of mud. They depend on addicts like me to keep coming back. They will spit on my fandom knowing it will not be extinguished.
I make no apologies for that.
It reminds me of Common’s “I Used To Love H.E.R.” These lines in particular.
I did her, not just to say that I did it
But I’m committed, but so many n—- hit it
That she’s just not the same lettin all these groupies do her
I see n—- slammin her, and takin her to the sewer
But I’ma take her back hopin that the s— stop
Cause who I’m talkin bout y’all is hip-hop
I love basketball for what it is and what it will be. I love it for what it has given, and continues to give, me and countless others. I love the game in spite of what these people have done to it.
I will move on from this summer. I will move on from what these people have put the game through. But I will neither forgive them for it nor forget what they’ve done. I will go back to the NBA because its what I love more than most things, but I will go back saddened by the scars this summer will have forever left on it.