About 15 years ago, I was tired of my friends talking about hockey and basketball. One second we'd be talking words that rhyme with Incaviglia, and the next thing I knew, everyone else was talking about line changes, power plays, or Latrell Sprewell. I knew that I had time to get into another sport, so I decided to follow either hockey or basketball.
I flipped a coin.
The coin came up Warriors, and you can read more about it in my forthcoming memoirs, The Asshole Coin, which will be published soon by Bantam. Because that coin was most certainly an asshole. That coin was a magic way to transform a normal human being into somebody who cared about Ike Diogu. You wouldn't wish that kind of dystopian nonsense on a murderous dictator.
So for the past 15 years, I've formed opinions on the following players:
- Ike Diogu
- Mike Dunleavy
- Kwame Brown
- Acie Law
- Corey Maggette
- Anthony Randolph
- Bobby Sura
- Troy Murphy
- Vonteego Cummings
I don't remember what those opinions are because I'm an alcoholic now. And because I'm a casual fan, I had no context for how good those players really were. Like, I'd watch Diogu play, and he would do a couple of nice things. He'd grab a tough rebound, or complete a three-point play with a bizarre, side-loaded motion from the line. And I'd think, yeah, this guy might be something some day. I'd do that with just about every young player on the Warriors.
And when the Warriors finally developed an exciting, nationally known player (Monta Ellis), all the smart kids made it a point to tell me why he wasn't really that good. That's not right.
The Warriors made the playoffs exactly once in the 15 years I was following them. In a league where half the teams make the playoffs every year, that takes a breathtaking amount of incompetence.
Tired of it. Which brings us to the Thunder. They represent something that doesn't come along very often, and you kind of have a limited time to get in on this offer. The Thunder are a way to be a frontrunner without being an obvious frontrunner. They will be good for a long, long time. You can start following them now and reap the rewards of watching a good basketball team do good basketball things.
I mean, why do we really care why our teams do well? Is it some weird, esteem-building exercise on a subconscious level? I don't understand that. Most of us choose our teams based on where we (or our parents) grew up. How should that arbitrary selection affect our emotions, or our enjoyment of any sort of sports-related entertainment?
It does, though. Oh, man, how it does. Rooting for a winning team is so damned nice. It makes you feel like you've made some good decisions for once in your life, even if that's patently stupid. Don't think too much about it. Just roll with it and accept the endorphins.
Except … you don't want to be that guy. You know that guy. You want to think he's a myth, but he (or she) is out there. Lakers jersey. Yankees hat. Cowboys sweatshirt. When the subject of soccer comes up, you notice their ears perk up at the sound of Manchester United. Nobody likes that guy, even as he/she is completely oblivious to that fact.
The Thunder are perfect for under-the-radar front-running, though. They don't play in some sexy metropolis. They have one of the biggest stars in the game, but he isn't one your mom could name. And while I might be a casual NBA fan, I'm well aware of how hypnotizing and magnificent it is to watch Kevin Durant play basketball. He's a create-a-player made after entering the Konami code, and he's reason enough to follow the team. He's exciting enough to justify frontrunning. Just like watching Durant play, man. That's all you have to say.
After that … let's see … Russell Westbrook is someone I've heard of. He's probably like the Monta Ellis of the Thunder, so I like him already. And Kevin Martin I've heard of … he doesn't have the fade anymore, but his shot still reminds me of a mama bird regurgitating food for her chicks, and that's always entertaining. And, let's see … whoa, Derek Fisher is still active? I used to have opinions on him, too!
It's an easy team to root for. And they'll win a lot and make you feel better about yourself. On the off chance that they shock the world and upset the Heat in the Finals? Hoo boy, that alone will justify your existence. I'm going all in. For example, the Thunder play at Chesapeake Energy Arena, and Chesapeake is the only place I'm buying my energy from now on. I'm going to invent a fake uncle and say that he lives in a suburb of Oklahoma City, which justifies my selection. I'm also going to go on the Internet and do research to find the name of a suburb of Oklahoma City.
I flipped a coin for my last team, but this feels much more satisfying. When my teams win, it reflects on me as a person. The Thunder should win quite a bit. Therefore I'm a good person making good decisions. That's all I ever wanted from the Warriors, and that's something they could never provide.
When the Warriors are good again, I'll quietly switch my allegiance back over. No one will suspect a thing. Until then, I'm not ashamed. I'm going to listen to "Thunderstruck" on repeat and do a little Angus Young/Chuck Berry dance around the room to get fired up before every game of the playoffs. Thunder, baby. Thunder. Na-aaaah-aaaaauh-aaaaah-aaah.
wait the warriors are what now?