I would qualify myself now as a casual NBA fan. It was much different in my younger days, where I could name every player, team and stat on command whether at school, at home or at a party.However, my love gravitated towards football, letting my knowledge of the hardwood fall by the wayside.
Yet now I have a new sense of enthusiasm to watch basketball. From the improvement of my local team, the Toronto Raptors, to being enamored with the style of play of PG Russell Westbrook, the historic rise of the Golden State Warriors and the continuity of LeBron James. I admire how the league showcases their stars, how each player is encouraged to show off their personality—or not, like the more reserved Kawhi Leonard.
One of the big talking points has been the evolution of ‘super teams’ across the league. Teams such as the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics have turned free agency on its head, picking the equivalent of an all-star team to play an 82-game season. Is this good for the game? I think that it is great for the league, and not just from the standpoint that it creates conversation. It helps the league from a financial standpoint at ticket gates, as well as with advertising and marketing indirectly. Plus, it’s always a big story regardless of whether the teams succeed or falter.
Last season was the first season that I took it upon myself to attend games on a regular basis. Each game independent of the last one, or the next. You could see fans who were thoroughly engaged (like myself), those who attended because it was simply something to do with friends or colleagues or those who wanted to taste the excitement in person. Whatever the reason, you rarely left the arena disappointed as you applauded a timely rebound to extend a possession or smiled at the hustle; the determination to come away with points or earn a trip to the free-throw line on each offensive possession. Rising out of your seat to see what a player does on a fast break. It genuinely felt like a home away from home, bonding with strangers over a game that you would play and watch as kid. It was an exhilarating feeling!
This season, I’m taking another step. I have signed up for my first season of fantasy basketball. To be honest, I only have a slight idea of what I’m doing. I assumed that the process would be similar to fantasy football, however there are subtle differences that one can imagine. The league is not for any big jellybeans, merely a group of people who love the sport. I will admit that I will be pumping my fist a bit harder when Demar DeRozan gets that and one, or when Russell Westbrook goes for a triple-double (double-digits in points, assists, rebounds or steals).
I still have that inner conflict of how far is too far when it comes to fandom. I adhere to the advice that wearing a jersey is ok when the game is going on, but you usually want to wear the jersey of someone who is older than you when you get past your twenties. So while I debate what jersey to put on, I smile, and ponder what will happen in a league that is chock-full of great stories.
Will Lonzo Ball win rookie of the year and bring the Los Angeles Lakers back to prominence? Is this the final season for LeBron James in Cleveland? Will Lavar Ball continue his social media dominance throughout the season? Will the Celtics be the best team in the East?
While we can speculate and foreshadow, the answer will be revealed gradually. Good enough reason to watch it unfold through an NBA season.