We believe it. We try to believe it. We want it. We wish for it. We pray for it. We scream for it. We think itās there. We know itās there. We arenāt sure if itās there. And we will never stop searching for it.
You know what the strangest NBA phenomenon is? The elite player, and the misinterpretation everyone has of what actually makes an āeliteā player. People have it in their mind that being elite doesnāt necessarily mean winning. To a lot of people ā actually, to most people ā an elite player averages 25 a night or hits the glass as hard as anyone or puts together All-NBA seasons or makes All-Star teams. They could do that. But hereās the kicker: statistics donāt matter. They really donāt.
We spend years watching and absorbing basketball, and yet itās a constant mirage. The more hoops we watch, the more often players deceive us. Killers are fleeting. For every 40 miles in the jungle, you might find 450 spider monkeys, 346 cranes, 114 tapirs and one tiger. Thereās a reason for all that.
Russell. Bird. Magic. Isiah. MJ. Hakeem. Duncan. Shaq. D-Wade. Kobe. And now Dirk (that felt a little weird). Killers.
Sometimes, you hit the perfect storm of events: a great player that feels underappreciated or pissed off at a career of first round exits or trades. Then the front office catches a couple of breaks, like say landing Rasheed Wallace midseason for nothing, after āSheed endured years of playoff failures. You end up with teams that are completely united, if for only one season, hell bent on a championship, their motives so centered that talent canāt slow them, consumed by trust (Should we put the 2011 Mavs here? Iām torn.).
Normally, a championship is decided by a team, convinced losing is an impossibility, that they are destined to win it all. And it all starts with one leader and one trust.
The best game I was ever a part of, the best game I ever played in, was a season-ending, dream-killing, body-torturing, state tournament, should’ve-been overtime loss my junior year in high school. We were the No. 2 seed, the favorites, probably had the biggest upside of any team in the field (seven of us were legitimate college athletes). We had the home court, had the size inside, had a 16-point halftime lead, had everything you needed to win. We shouldāve WALKED away with a W.
But then it all started to unravel. The tempo changed. We were warned all week about the refs ā supposedly, one of them was āin the pocketā of the opposing coach. They went way back, had incentives to see each other do well. Up 16, we shouldāve known. It was predictable. So the calls started rolling, our coach got into it with first the refs and then some parents (there was about a 20-minute delay where no one was sure what was going on except that people were coming down from out of the stands to throw down). This ended up costing him his job. Our leading scorers hit foul trouble; our younger players were caught up in mental games with the same parents who felt the need to interject themselves into the game (you know the ones Iām talking about…the rich ones who enjoy bullying young teenagers). And I didnāt step up, didn’t really do much of anything.