Pretenders to the Throne: My First Failed Choices of Fandom
This is Part 2 of a 3 part series. For Part One click HERE or just scroll down… you know… its whatever…
Yes, Charlotte was getting an expansion team. This seemed an absolutely perfect fit for me. I was a new NBA fan without a team but with a burgeoning love of the league [insert sex joke here… hehe… insert…] and here was a shiny new team for me to grow with and develop a true love of the league and the sport from the grassroots. I knew they wouldn’t be good to start off with (clearly only a mild understatement) but I had faith that I could stick with them through their eventual rise (which has still yet to come… thanks Michael Jordan!). In any event this seemed to me to be simply too splendid of a solution to pass up. I was a Charlotte Bobcats fan and could not have been happier about it.
(accurate depiction of me choosing the Bobcats, thinking everything will be fine. Oh whats that Brandon? Thought you were gonna toss that pass? Noooo… noooo.)
I absolutely devoured the expansion draft coverage with a voracity not unlike that with which small Japanese men consume hot dogs. I remember being absolutely shocked that we came away with Gerald Wallace. Here was the cornerstone of a franchise, an all star caliber player with inhuman athletic ability and we got him in the expansion draft before even adding the premier young talent we were sure to acquire in the actual draft! And I was especially ecstatic about Jason Kapono, a player I deemed to be a lights out shooter. And I didn’t know anything about Primož Brezec as a basketball player, nor did I know how to pronounce his name or why there was a little loopy thing over that z in his name, but NBA analysts at the time told me he was good so I was overjoyed to have the silly named Serbian on my new team!
“Hey guys, are you sure you want me to come to Charlotte? Cuz I’m cool staying here in.. oh.. oh… no no ok I’ll back my bags” ='[
Hey Gerald don’t look so sad! Things will pick up I promise!
And as for the rest of the expansion draft, I didn’t care so much about the rest of the guys because Charlotte made about a billion moves to acquire picks in upcoming NBA Drafts, allowing me to defer my excitement where I was sure we would build on this CLEARLY solid 3 player foundation of Kapono, Brezec, and Wallace. (again… have I mentioned that I was new to the sport of basketball at the time? I hope I have.)
Once the NBA draft rolled around I couldn’t have been more excited. Perhaps shaped by Bill Simmons I could not have been more enthralled by Emeka Okafor, the national title winning beast of a Forward out of UConn projected as the first pick in the 2004 draft. Unfortunately the first pick belonged to the Orlando Magic that year and my new love the Bobcats had to settle for the #2 pick which would most likely be Dwight Howard and I couldn’t have been more saddened by this. I knew enough about the NBA to know that there were far fewer Kevin Garnett’s than there were Kwame Brown’s when it came to prep to pro players and I was convinced the stick figure Dwight Howard would be just another bust. (Clearly 14 year old Rick was both prophetic and savant like when it came to his vast background of basketball knowledge)
BUT ANYWAY when the Orlando Magic made the imbecilic decision to take Howard over Okafor I was overjoyed. Not only were we adding an uber-talented young guy via the draft, we were grabbing a college senior with championship experience! It was like grabbing a veteran superstar with all the potential in the world! Clearly this would be the conerstone of the franchise. I was so ecstatic that I even asked my dad for an Emeka Okafor Jersey for my 15th birthday, which I still have today. Ohhh if only I knew…
“Hey guys… I don’t think this team is actually any good…”
In any event I watched the first season of Bobcats basketball and, in spite of lacking results, was not dismayed. I knew they wouldn’t be good right away, but felt they had a legitimate core to build from with guys like Okafor and Wallace, along with a continuing irrational love of guys like Kapono, Matt Carrol, Keith Bogans, and Brevin Knight. (known in some circles as the cathartic quadroped) More than anything, however, I was excited for the next draft. I just KNEW with a little injection of youthful talent Charlotte would be on the rise! They had the #5 and #13 picks in the draft and good things would be forthcoming!
Moreover, my hopes were realized once again on draft day. I remember excitedly rushing into my dad’s office the night of the draft to explain my utter euphoria at the Bobcats having landed not only Raymond Felton, but Sean May as well! Two more veteran young guys off of another national championship winning team in UNC! (in retrospect I can practically see his eyes glazing over just by recalling it (I also had him take me to Minneapolis so I could watch Bobcats preseason basketball against the T-Wolves… I’m not entirely sure why he put up with this…) I thought this team could flirt with an 8 seed in the dreadful Eastern conference and couldn’t wait for the season!….
… so then came the 2006 draft… #3 overall pick and Adam Morrison. I remember hearing people say big things were expected of him but honestly my faith in the Bobcats had already been shaken when I discovered that Dwight Howard was in fact much better than Okafor and that Sean May was in fact a fatty fat fat.
Whoaaaa Sean… Buddy… keep the jersey on…
Hey! Sean! Have you lost weight?!
Oh… oh no nevermind… still a fatass…
I was barely hanging on when the 2006-7 season began, having gotten what I now believe is an adequate taste of the terrible management that is such a large part of the NBA and was probably out on the team before Morrison even lost his starting spot…
Thanks for the memories guys
However, though down I wasn’t out yet. The 2007 season reinvigorated me, watching Kevin Durant light it up as a rookie and that epic Boston LA finals was enough to reinvigorate me in a mercenary sense. I had dropped the Bobcats but I still liked watching the league as a whole. However, I had started to have a passing fancy in the Rockets after their 22 game winning streak that season led by Tracy McGrady. I really liked watching McGrady, and, much like Karl Malone before him, I wanted to root for this underdog reclamation project. Also, again because of Bill Simmons I had decided that Daryl Morrey was one of the coolest nerds around, and after my experience with atrocious management in Charlotte I thought watching a competent GM would be a welcome change. Plus, I had always really liked Yao Ming, and once the Rockets brought in Ron Artest (my personal favorite crazy man in sports) the temptation to root for Houston was just too strong to pass up. I didn’t really dive into the Rockets in an “uncalled for but obligatory use of the 1st person singular” kind of way but I really wanted to watch Yao, Artest, and T-Mac win a title. So when the playoffs rolled around in the 2008/9 season I was all in on them.
Although it didn’t really work out I really liked this rockets team. Then in 2009 I decided to really hop back into the NBA for a second time. I was in the midst of watching John Wall and Demarcus Cousins destroy various bitches at Kentucky and once that season ended I desperately needed more basketball. So I decided to call myself a Rocket’s fan and throw myself in it again. The real turning point probably came when Rockets drafted Patrick Patterson in the first round of the 2010 draft. Patterson was a favorite of mine and for many Kentucky fans on the 2009/10 team because he, like us, had suffered through the Gillispie years and was redeemed with the coming of Saint Calipari. So I felt like I could use him as a bridge back into the NBA. I was hoping I could follow P Pat into the world of NBA basketball the same way I had with college basketball. I already liked the Rockets and Patterson was just the icing on the cake.
However, I was still in my formative basketball loving years, and college was my true mistress. I was not yet prepared to enter the world of a basketball bigamist. There just wasn’t enough of me to go around. (You may not know this about me but I am approximately the size of Frodo Baggins, and as such am not easily split between two paths.)
“Ahhh yes!!! I can’t believe Gandalf didn’t realize I’m too small to ride in the big boy cart! Best. Day. Ever.”
My lackadaisical Rockets “fandom” began to wane with the departure of Yao Ming and was long dead by the time PPatt was moved to Sacramento to rejoin my beloved Demarcus Cousins.
So once again I was teamless in the NBA. I knew I like basketball, but the NBA just hadn’t stuck with me yet. And then, last seasons playoffs happened. The 2013 NBA playoffs were absolutely stupendous. Some of the best, most dramatic competition I can remember. And I have once again been encouraged to attempt to life the weighty mantle of NBA fandom upon my shoulders, except this time I am determined to make it stick.