I love this game!

The basketball season is underway. And I’m excited. It’s my sport – the one I follow religiously for the longest amount of time – usually all the way until the All-Star break, at which time the Pacers are out of it and I just sit idly by and wonder why the season is so damned long.

Football and baseball are more popular. Hockey is more “cult-ishly” followed. Golf is better respected, while tennis and soccer have international appeal. Basketball is the thug cousin in the family of sport, bucking tradition and constantly fighting to be noticed. It’s hungry, ready to break back into the mainstream after years of floundering ratings and negative publicity, freshly stocked with young stars that are quickly becoming as noticeable as Jordan, Bird, and Magic.

Basketball, to me, is a game of fluidity; of streaks and accuracy; of pure athletic prowess. You can’t be out of shape and be successful in basketball. It’s a constantly moving game, the shuttle run to football’s stop-and-go traffic, or baseball’s leisurely stroll. It’s the ultimate in teamwork – with five wildly moving bodies coordinating their actions at top speed in order to score, while at the same time being completely individual, allowing four of the moving bodies to slowly fade into the court, experiencing a time stoppage as they watch a majestic drive, a thundering dunk, a beautiful thread-the-needle pass.

Brazilian soccer is widely accepted as the “beautiful game.” But that gives no credit to a run-and-gun team firing on all cylinders. Watching a playoff battle between the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns last year was a thousand times more beautiful than any Brazilian World Cup game I’ve witnessed. There’s a flow to basketball, both offensively and defensively, that cannot be matched.

I love the momentum that comes from a series of long threes, or a block sent down to the opposite end for an easy lay-up. I love that it can take just seconds to get back into a game, and that it can also take seconds to completely lose one. I love the movement, the physicality, the weaving and intuition. The squeak of sneakers and the thump of a dribbled ball.

I love the emotion. I love that I can see the players’ faces, can learn to live with and love my team’s opponents; in fact, it’s easy to revile and revere simultaneously – ask Shaquille O’Neal, or Charles Barkley. I love that a greasy Canadian can be the best player in his sport without mentioning hockey.

Basketball season is on. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier.

This was lovingly handwritten on November 1st, 2006