Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How I Started Loving Basketball

I am familiar with all major sports, and among them, I prefer team sports.  And among these team sports, I love basketball most.  I find that among team sports, basketball is the most mental, most complex, most exciting, most fast-paced, and most teamwork-y among them.

So, how I started loving basketball?  It started with the one considered by many as the Greatest Of All Time in basketball…

Now, I don’t think that MJ should be a landslide undisputed choice for G.O.A.T. (even if he is indeed the best).  But though I think that way, it can’t be denied that he’s the biggest basketball icon that ever played the game.  In fact, he was even bigger than basketball (or at least the NBA) itself.  He was more than a basketballer, he was a pop culture icon.  Thus, back then, even if you don’t know anything about basketball, you know about Michael Jordan.  I never saw his games, but I saw plenty of his highlights.  And based on those highlights, he was the god of basketball.  Watching him was a joy.  And Michael Jordan cards are the only basketball cards worth collecting. 

And then he teamed-up with Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes to make the greatest basketball movie ever…

Michael Jordan’s status as a basketball superhero was greatly elevated after receiving the greatest alley-oop pass ever made from Bugs Bunny.

As a kid, I was more of a fan of cartoons than of professional sports (the only sport I really followed back then was the World Wrestling Federation).  And I was a big fan of the Looney Tunes (in fact, I enjoyed Bugs and Friends more than Mickey and Friends during those days), so “Space Jam” was a major reason why I started to like basketball.

The first time I actually watched NBA games was during the 1998 season – MJ’s last championship season.  I never really watched the game with understanding.  But just watched for the sake of seeing MJ in action.  I was into the Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls bandwagon, thus, most of the games I watched were Chicago Bulls games.  And I rooted for that team to win.  And they did. 

But I was still not yet a full NBA or basketball fan.  I just found a sport to like.  I still hadn’t understood yet how the game fully works.  In fact, during those days, I thought that a half court short was worth 5 points (I can’t remember how I got that idea).  I was naïve.  Michael Jordan, the greatest, didn’t have any flaws.  Scoring was all that matters in the game.  Half court shots were worth five points.  Such were my naïve thoughts at that time.

Another major reason why I started to get interested in basketball was an anime called Slam Dunk.

It’s one of the greatest anime series I have ever encountered.  Through its entertaining story and characters, I started to learn more about the game of basketball.  For instance, I learned that there are actually different positions in basketball.  Prior to the anime, I thought all 5 guys in a team just did the same stuff. 

I missed the 1998-1999 NBA season (I don’t know why).  When I started watching again – the 1999-2000 – Michael Jordan was already retired.  Pippen and Rodman were no longer in the Bulls. I needed a new “favorite team”. And I ended up with the Lost Angeles Lakers.  Which would be the biggest reason why I love basketball the way I do now. 

How did I decide to be a Laker fan?  It started with the two major reasons why the Lakers dominated the NBA early in 21st Century.

Kobe and Shaq were a delight to watch. 

Well, during the days that I was an MJ fan (and believed he was indeed the greatest) solely because he was a major pop culture icon (and the hero of “Space Jam”), the player that probably is second to Jordan as an icon (at least in my eyes) that was not a Bull was Shaquille O’Neal.  By then, he was in the Orlando Magic.

When I got to start watching some NBA games (97-98 season), he was already out of the Magic and was now a Laker.  So, I started to watch some Laker games.  Then, eventually the Lakers become my “second favorite team”.  It was because with Shaq were three other stars – Kobe Bryant, Nick Van Exel, and Eddie Jones.  I was like, “Oh, the Bulls have 3 stars (Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman) but the Lakers have 4!”  As a basketball noob, I measured a team’s greatness by the stars they have.  I mean the Lakers had 4 players in the West All-Star squad!!!  

But among them, Kobe stood out in my eyes.  Initially, I liked Kobe because he was being dubbed as the “Next Jordan”.  Later on, Kobe Bryant would eventually become my favorite basketball player.  And not because I have joined a bandwagon like I did with Michael Jordan.  In the case of Kobe, I grew up watching him play, through the eyes of someone who finally understood basketball.  While, in the case of Jordan, I watch him through the eyes of a kid who was a fan of “Space Jam” and thought of a half-court shot as 5 points.  I maintain the opinion that Kobe is in the same page as Michael Jordan – that if they switched eras, Kobe would have been considered as the best.  It was all a matter of circumstance.  I could be wrong in my assessment, but I stand by this opinion. 

So when that 1999-2000 season begun, with no MJ anymore, I became a Laker fan.  Of course, at first, I became a “fan” by just picking out a team because it had prominent stars and it was a popular team, like what I did before when I picked Bulls as my “favorite team”.  But as I gained more knowledge and understanding of basketball, the NBA, and history, I truly saw how great and special the Lakers really are.  So though, at the start, I became a “Laker fan” for the reason of just needing a team to root for, in the end, I actually become a true Laker fan; the Los Angeles Lakers became a real favorite team of mine, and not because for the mere sake of just having a “favorite team”. 

From that point on, I was able to truly – from my heart – declare the slogan: “I love this game.”

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