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Dalan Overstreet, Administrator
This wasn’t the piece I was originally going to write. I was going to do the “Obligatory NBA Preview”. I had planned to present it as a somewhat disinterested article of NBA predictions and story-lines that every sports media outlet was doing.
To prep, I did some research. I was looking up individual and team stats: Points per, rebounds per, assists per, PER, Point Diff. and other metrics to make myself seem more knowledgeable. I wanted to find some basis for answering my questions about this season. Who will win it all? Who will win MVP? Will my Pistons win a playoff game for sanity’s sake? However, while in the muck of all this data, I only had one question:
Is this what Basketball is to me?
I am 25 today. The 90’s were my formative years. I grew up with gaudy jersey designs and the occasional brawl. The days when the people actually bothered with NBA Live. My generation of fans first watched the NBA Finals on NBC, when oddly enough nothing got you more hyped for hoops than music from John Tesh.
This was the time I could not care less about a player’s Box Plus/Minus. Those days when all you needed was your personal bias to be a legitimate fan. For me and my fellow 20-somethings this time, and the players that are most emblematic of the age, are fading.
I have vivid memories of the 1997 NBA Draft. Well, not the draft itself because we didn’t have cable, more-so the memory of the local news coverage of the Draft. My interest was rooted in my loyalty to University of Kentucky Basketball and All-American Ron Mercer (Still one of my favorite UK players). I was certain Mercer would go 1st. He didn’t. He was picked 6th.
Instead Tim Duncan, some no-name from Wake Forest, was drafted 1st overall. My six year old mind could not fathom how he was drafted ahead of the best player from Kentucky. To make matters worse, he joined the Spurs, headed by one of my mother’s least favorite players David Robinson (her hatred for him is still inexplicable to this day). This led me to resent the Big Fundamental for the entirety of his career.
I know it seems like I missed out on one of the greatest careers of ever, but it is actually the complete opposite. My thoughts on Timmy were rooted in the purest part of fandom. I watched all of his games that I could, hoping he would lose, but I watched all that I could. I was often disappointed by the results, but I was emotionally involved in the performance.
I could tell you about my disdain for Kobe Bryant partially stems from the fact only one NBA Courtside was made. I could also tell you that my love for Kevin Garnett began when my mother surprised me with his away jersey after school in 3rd grade. I could even tell you that my Piston fan-hood started when they drafted Tayshaun Prince in 2002 in, after four years with the Big Blue Nation.
Yeah, we are witnessing some All-Time great basketball today, but the league is filled with players who I have always seen through an analytical lens. I remember watching Lebron’s mixtapes. I remember reading Kevin Durant’s Scouting Reports. I remember the talks with my friends about Steph’s closest NBA Comparison.
The difference is my views and opinions of these players have to make some kind of sense and be supported by some kind of logic. It’s true for today’s top guys, but not Duncan. Not Kobe. Not KG. Not Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady or Chris Webber.
These were the guys that were able to capture my imagination. The guys who I combined myself with to create my players in video games. The guys whose moves I used to try to copy when I played in my grandmother’s backyard or when I played H-O-R-S-E for dollar bills.
The NBA season begins today, but only five guys from the 90s remain: Dirk Nowtizki, Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Ron Artest. Once these guys hang it up, the Association will be like everything else. My understanding of the league will absolutely be based in reason. My arguments for who deserves to be on the All-Star team will surely include a guy’s Usage Percentage. My basis for the best player alive rooted in their win shares.
All the logic, all the numbers mean less to me than the jersey I got when I was in 3rd grade.