“Sports is a metaphor for life. Everything is black and white on the surface. You win, you lose, you laugh, you cry, you cheer, you boo, and most of all, you care. Lurking underneath that surface, that’s where all the good stuff is — the memories, the connections, the love, the fans, the layers that make sports what they are. It’s not about watching your team win the Cup as much as that moment when you wake up thinking, In 12 hours, I might watch my team win the Cup. It’s black and white, but it’s not.”
-An excerpt from Bill Simmons’ latest piece “The Consequences of Caring”
Ever since my early years, I’ve had a bad habit of over caring about the result of sports games played on television despite having no correlation to the players whatsoever. Unlike most people, I didn’t grow up watching a lot of television, just the odd episode of Recess here and there. I gradually replaced Sunday mass with NBA on ABC specials, and I would organize my social schedule around when the Los Angeles Lakers played; on most games nights I didn’t join the family at the dinner table, electing to stay in the living room to watch Kobe and Shaq dominate.
As a result of my dull childhood habits, I missed out on a lot of things. Case in point: One of my close friends growing up recently observed that I’d much rather sit at home and watch a NBA game then join the rest of my friends at a club, which is true. And subconsciously, I started deriving meaning in my life from the results of these sports games. Now that I’m 20, I’ve now learned that doing so is semi-foolish. A little too much of my happiness in life relied on how the Lakers finished their season.
Normally once the Lakers are eliminated from the playoffs, I crawl up in my man cave, sulk about it for a couple days in solitude before spending the rest of my summer doing normal people things. But over the past two years I’ve realized that in order to be a knowledgeable professional basketball journalist in the future, I’d have to broaden my horizons in order to become a basketball encyclopedia and that meant I was forced to watch the rest of the playoffs for educational purposes. Ugh.
That being said, this year’s playoffs have near torturous to watch since the Lakers have been ousted akin to the helpless feeling I had when I sat in Math class absolutely clueless through my high school years (what’s a logarithm, is that the staple log ride at all amusement parks?).
The NBA’s final four read as follows: the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the San Antonio Spurs and the Boston Celtics.
I hate the two young teams as they’ve gradually become better than my beloved Lakers; while through the years I’ve developed a hatred for the two older teams as they’ve been the Lakers main roadblocks on their quest for championships.
In order to make things interesting, I talked myself into cheering for the Celtics and the Spurs to meet one more time in the finals. The logic being that while Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Tim Duncan were three of Kobe’s biggest adversaries, in a way they’re like the Avengers (Kobe being Captain America of course) fending off this new cocky, horribly-dressed (see: Westbrook, Russell), AAU, buddy system era of basketball.
On Twitter, I compared the possibility of KG and Timmy meeting in the final to the Undertaker and Triple H’s match at Wrestlemania. The WWE advertised that match as the end of an era, if the Celtics and Spurs would’ve advanced, it would’ve been the same concept with the myriad of aging stars gifted the opportunity to finish as a champion one final champion. As we all know now, that fantasy didn’t exactly come to fruition.
Quick tangent: recently to prove my stubbornness, my friend asked me whom my favourite five players in the league are (Lakers excluded). My answers were Paul Pierce, Manu Ginobili, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd and Tracy McGrady.
As talented as this new era is, I didn’t have to accept them yet as they’ve combined for zero championships (besides Dwyane Wade but he needed Shaq for his chip in 2006). As much as I disdained watching Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd hoist their first championship together, it was sweeter to watch LeBron James, the self-proclaimed chosen one, crumble repeatedly in the fourth quarter (insert your own joke here).
But as they say all good things must come to an end and it appears this is the year that the new era begins their era. Kevin Durant led his Oklahoma City Thunder past the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers (still trying to erase that from my memory) and the San Antonio Spurs in succession. Those three teams Durant’s Thunder cruised eliminated had represented the Western Conference in the finals for the past thirteen years, count em’ THIRTEEN.
The more I watch Durant and LeBron’s greatness, the harder it is to hate them. I mean what have they really done wrong besides devote themselves to become better and better at the game they love, the same way Kobe did oh so many years ago.
Even the biggest Kobe homers must accept the fact that the torch has been passed from the Black Mamba to the King. Look no further than his defining performances against the Celtics in closeout games the past two years: last year, he scored the last 10 points of Game 5 and this year with his Heat down 3-2, he scored 45 points in Game 6 while shooting a whopping 73 per cent.
Yet the truth still remains, LeBron will never be Kobe to his generation of fans akin to how Kobe will never be Jordan to the past generation. Kobe never had to join his best friend to win a championship. Kobe never had to throw powder into the air before the game to showboat. Kobe certainly never said “all the people that were rooting for me to fail, at the end of the day have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before” in response to his critics; instead he delivers gems like “losing is losing, there are different degrees of it but the result is the same.”
With the Thunder and the Heat meeting in the 2012 final, there’s no more old guys to cheer for (besides Derek Fisher). It’s guaranteed that between these two teams, when the dust is cleared and the debris is swept off either Kevin Durant or LeBron James will win their first NBA championship.
My friend followed up his initial question by informing me that these guys (LeBron, Wade, Durant) will be the old guys I’m cheering for in five more years. When he put it in perspective, I decided it may finally be time to embrace this new wave of talent, unless Kobe flies to Germany annually to get that magical procedure so he can play until he’s 45.
If sports is really a metaphor for life as Mr. Simmons suggests, and because it means the world to me, it became evident that I was unwilling to accept not only a new era of basketball stars but the new era of life that is looming. A new era of life that includes being financially responsible, mortgages, meaningful relationships and all that other stuff adults have to deal with.
We’ll see where my head’s at when Game 1 tips off tomorrow night, but for now my hate for LeBron James is at an all-time low. And if I out of all people can accept LeBron’s undeniable talent then so can you. I might become a “witness” over the next two weeks or I might just re-direct all my attention to the European soccer championships to avoid the reality that the NBA and life is slowly becoming what it’s always been: a world dictated by the young and the able who inevitably supplant their predecessors.
It’s your stage now young fellas, please put on a show and don’t forget to take a bow after you’re done.