First Day of NBA League Pass, Rest of My Life

I’ve had NBA league pass before, mind you. Thanks to a good friend who works in the enclaves of The L, we got discounted service and up to “40 GAMES A NIGHT!” as the advertisement goes. But, it wasn’t until I became a remote jockey, voraciously consumed FreeDarko, and led a fantasy life entrenched in statistics that I truly understood my mental relationship to basketball. This past Wednesday evening, I fully realized myself as a writer who is also a hoops fan in Norman Mailer’s scope of self-actualized modern writers.

At first, I could easily view my life through Knick-colored spectacles, likening the nineties Knicks to my own upbringing. Patrick Ewing, for instance, is a born Jamaican like I am. He emigrated to the States at fourteen, and by 18, was the Georgetown Hoyas fearsome black threat. His transition from simple Caribbean boy to national star seemed natural to me in terms of the immigrant narrative I was seeing unfold before me. My mother, grandmother, aunts and uncles had all sprouted wings (in my view) by just being “American” when it was something they weren’t originally.

Pat and John

Patrick’s tenacious rebounding suggested a workman’s mind, while his body represented the exotic, unnatural proportions of a foreign black man, draining jumpers and blocking shots. Then there was John Starks. Since I was never tall, I related more to Starks’s presence on the court as a mean, single-minded defender and three-point specialist. His erratic style of play and irrepressible passion appealed to the underdog in me like no other. Charles Oakley was the kind of brute that reminded me of the Brooklyn stick-up kids I should keep an eye out for. Derek Harper had an offensive scheme for every furrow in his brow. Pat Riley’s slick cuff-linked suits and hair recalled mafioso stereotypes and Van Gundy after him had the permanent grimace of a dour city commuter. With them (and Jordan as their antithesis) I had the apotheosis of my personality: troubled, scrapping, hopeful, ambitious and deluded. With their peaks came my peaks; their lows, my lows.


Going forward to the cultural melange that is the NBA circa 2007, I see a league much more in tune with the elements of the human condition across nations. If Ewing, Mutombo, Petrovic and Kukoc were exemplars of global impact, then Nowitzki, Ginobili, Belinelli and Deng are their upgrades. They allow for a palette of basketball outcomes that ranges beyond the UNC-Larry-Brown-Dean-Smith Play Right standards or the Krzyzewski-Duke-White-Collar Play Right And Look Preppy Doing It Model.  They broaden the scope of music in the NBA from hip-hop and grounded black culture to German hip-hop and African diaspora. The great players of today will not be nonplussed by xenophobic announcers who mispronounce their names or domestic players who insist there is only one basketball: American-style, drive and dunk, pump fist, repeat. The same way that pre-Doctor J black athletes had to deal with the weight of (manifestly) “changing the game” with new styles, foreign players do much of the same.

And that’s me. I’m trying to change the game both with my Americanized understanding of language and culture AND my immigrant-based, no excuses, blind climb to some undefined bourgeois pinnacle. Not to get all high-winded (winks at those who peep references), but I have no qualms about saying I am hip-hop or I am basketball or I am black. Every one of these interests both creates identity and allows me to see identity for what it is, a hodgepodge of disparate beliefs/realities.

Kobe’s fist of fury

Kobe…guilty of fisting? 

Fists of Fury

If League Pass proves as revelatory as it did last season, I will see why Luol Deng and I have so much in common as people besides just sharing a birthday.  I will be able to experience sadness through A.I., KG, Steph, Kobe and a host of other great players who will never spy another championship series for all their potential. Or, I will forfeit reality to live in a world of millionaire black men with no true self-concept outside of an arena. Either way, seems like my $180 will go to good use.


1 Response to “First Day of NBA League Pass, Rest of My Life”

  1. 1 ameliasimone November 19, 2007 at 4:50 am

    u will def change the game, “player”….believe that!

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