Suh: Saying an Early Goodbye to a Legend

Clevelan Browns v Detroit Lions

Last weekend it leaked that the Lions had lost Ndamukong Suh, a future hall of famer and hands down the best player on their team the last 2 seasons to the Miami Dolphins. Suh would reportedly sign a 6 year, $114 million deal with the Dolphins, and end his time with the Detroit Lions. And by the time the Free Agency window actually opened on Tuesday it was all over.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

This is the lowest I think I’ve ever felt as a Lions fan. I know I know… I watched every game of an 0-16 season, and over a 10 year span I watched them go 39-121. You’d think there were some sadder moments in there. Saying I’m sadder about this moment then any of those makes it sound like I’m not a fan of the team at all, but rather just a fan of 1 player on that team (well… who USED to be on that team…).

But here’s the deal. During that 10 year, 39-121 stretch between 2001 and 2010 everything surrounding the Lions was hopeless. I was certainly sad and despondent, but that was all I knew when it came to the Lions. (Come to think of it I have no idea why I stuck with them through all that?) But that all started to chang in the 2010 draft when the Lions selected Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh with the 2nd overall selection in the draft.

Ndamukong-Suh (1)

With Suh came hope. Everything was different. The Lions certainly began the rebuilding process by adding franchise cornerstones Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford, but nothing really changed until Suh became a part of the team. And then EVERYTHING changed.

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It was a revelation. In 2010 Suh won pretty much every award in front of him (Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Lineman of the Year, and like 4 different Rookie of the Year awards). Moreover, while the Lions only went 6-10 his Rookie year it was a lot better than 2 or 0 (their win totals from the previous 2 seasons). And then it happened. Suddenly the Lions were winning. In Suh’s second season in the NFL the Lions went 10-6, came in second in the NFC North, and made the playoffs for the first time in twelve seasons.

This was completely unheard of. The Lions hadn’t been in the playoffs since the Barry Sanders Era. But what was even more impressive was how much of this credit Suh himself deserved. The Lions secondary was atrocious, their linebacking corps wasn’t quite where it needed to be, but their Defensive Line was the best in football and that was more or less all thanks to Suh. There were certainly other good players on that like (Nick Fairley, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Willie Young) but Suh was the centerpiece. That’s the best thing about his play on the field. He makes EVERYONE around him better, and he was (and is) so dominant that he even made our secondary seem compitent simply because our pass rush was so dominant. All of a sudden, in the Suh Era there was always hope.

The rebuild process started with the drafting of Calvin Johnson. Continued with the firing of Matt Millen, hiring of Jim Schwartz, and drafting of Matthew Stafford, but after none of those moves did the Lions achieve any success. It wasn’t until Suh was with the team that the winning really started. He changed everything and brought hope back to the franchise. However, it wasn’t always a perfectly smooth road.

(Photo Credit: Andrew Weber, USA Today Sports)

(Photo Credit: Andrew Weber, USA Today Sports)

Suh was universally reviled outside of Detroit for his on the field actions. However, I’m not naive enough to think Football is as clean a game as the NFL wants us to believe. Theres dirty play constantly. Just watch any cornerback twist Calvin Johnson’s leg, throw an extra kidney punch at Matthew Stafford, or kick Larry Warford while he’s down. This is the way the game works. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that guys were doing things just as bad to Suh on the field. They just were smart enough not to get caught on camera. And whereas some of these guys make themselves look clean on the field, but are scum off of it, Suh couldn’t have been a better off the field guy.

(Photo Credit: AP)

(Photo Credit: AP)

In 2011 Suh donated some $2.6 million to charity, more than any other athlete that year. In a destitude and struggling city like Detroit a guy like Suh couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only did he give the city of Detroit something to hope for and feel good about on the field, he went out into the community and helped try to rebuild it from the inside. This is a guy who had no ties to the city of Detroit or the State of Michigan before coming to the Lions, but almost immediately after arriving starting working his ass off to help out. If that’s the kind of guy I’m dealing with off the field, rather than someone accused of domestic violence or animal abuse, I don’t particularly care what he does on a football field where violence is accepted.

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(Photo Credit: Ndamukong Suh Family Foundation)

I’d much rather have a guy like Suh than someone like Greg Hardy or Ray Rice. No matter what anyone says He gives back to sick kids, donates to the poor, and even sponsors classes at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit. He is EXACTLY the kind of star the Detroit Lions needed, and exactly the kind of person the city of Detroit needed. Perfect in every way and right on time.

But now the team has cut ties with the source of that hope. Why would they let this happen? Someone who was NOTHING but positive for the city of Detroit, and helped transform a moribund franchise into a playoff team. Well… I guess there were 114 million reasons why… Not that the Lions weren’t willing to give up the dollars to Suh. He obviously deserves that money (and then-some) and everybody knows it. But the Lions, unfortunately, could not fit him under their salary cap.

Let’s stop there for a second though. This is an excuse that comes up a lot in American sports, and it is always a miserable and miserly answer. Teams imply that its not their fault and that the system is preventing them from doing right by their players and their fans, but in truth teams have only themselves to blame. Everyone could see this disaster coming a mile away. Martin Mayhew has done a miserable job managing Detroit’s cap situation from day 1, just like Matt Millen did before him (oh… jeez… I wonder if we could have predicted this considering MAYHEW WAS MILLENS RIGHT HAND FREAKING MAN). Stafford and Calvin are very important to this team. Don’t get me wrong. But Suh is the single most important player on it. He is either the best or second best defensive player in the NFL (behind JJ Watt in Houston) and is the best player on Detroit’s team. So it only makes sense that the team should have known, as far back as that first playoff run in 2011, that they should do the best they can to lock him up. They did not, and they used the Salary Cap as their excuse. So let’s take a quick look at this upcoming season’s highest plaid Lions.

Lions 2015 cap hits

Image via sportrac.com 

The Lions have already paid Johnson and Stafford boatloads of money. They decided they couldn’t afford a third boatload or the whole ship would go down. They gave out huge dollars to Johnson and Stafford, which, again, I understand and can get behind, but here’s the problem. Suh is very much in his prime, and I’m not even certain that he’s halfway done with his prime yet. While Stafford, though in his prime, has probably peaked, and certainly has quirks that limit the team’s performance (although I have no interest in cutting ties with him) and I’m very worried that Calvin is actually on the back half of his prime.

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Injuries are finally beginning to catch up to him through absolutely no fault of his own. He is far and away the greatest wide receiver to ever play in the NFL. Jerry Rice can shove it. But for his entire career there was absolutely NO way any defender could LEGALLY slow him down or stop him. So what did they do? Twist his ankles. Throw late hits and cheap shots. Basically do anything illegal that the refs would let them get away with. Which as it turns out was A LOT. The NFL created unfair rules to try to limit Calvin’s impact on the game (which came back to bite them this post-season as it screwed over Dez Bryant and the Cowboys) and refs refused to give him the benefit of the doubt EVER as defenders took cheap shots at him constantly.

Well… all these extra hits and extra miles were bound to take their toll, and Calvin has undeniably slowed down this year. He missed large chunks of the season last year, and that wasn’t the only problem. The whole offense was sluggish and disappointing all last year. Detroit was 22nd in scoring in a year where they had Stafford, Johnson, and new high paid receiver option Golden Tate. In only 3 games last year did the Lions exceed 24 points (and half the time the defense was scoring at least 7, but up to 14 of those 24 anyway) and in 10 games they were held to 20 or fewer points. So the first question is, how much could those 3 guys REALLY be worth if for well over half the season they only account for 20 points? And the next question is, how did that team even make the playoffs? The answer to the first question is no and the answer to the second, of course, is Suh.

Mayhew has allocated $43,629,250 of cap space to Johnson, Stafford, and Tate. $38,279,250 to Stafford and Johnson alone, and has therefore decided that he cannot afford another $20,000,000 for Suh. Makes sense if Suh weren’t an all time great, but if my only options were to lose Suh (a surefire Hall of Famer and ALL TIME GREAT at his position who BY ALL ACCOUNTS should have retired with his original team) or overpay all three of them, I’m picking the overpay 1,000 times out of 1,000. It’s too late to take the money away from Johnson, Stafford, and Tate, and in truth I don’t really want to, but off all those guys if I can only have one I pick Suh every. Single. Time. We’re paying 35% of our cap to 3 guys accounting for maaaaaybe 15% of last season’s success and “unable” to pay 15% of the cap to 1 guy who accounts for something like 40% of our wins. Sounds like wise business planning to me. Keep up the good work Mayhew…

No, I'm not quite sure why I got the job either. I'm also not sure why I haven't been fired. Really I just keep cashing checks... (Photo Credit - Daniel Mears)

No, I’m not quite sure why I got the job either. I’m also not sure why I haven’t been fired. Really I just keep cashing checks… (Photo Credit – Daniel Mears)

I’d rather keep Suh at whatever his asking price was and be bad for the rest of his career WITH him than let him go and embrace whatever debacle is about to be inflicted on me for the next 5 years.

And the worst part? Cutting him doesn’t even solve any of Detroit’s cap woes. That money tied up in an under-performing offense is still there. We’re still paying big money to two tight ends, neither of whom are performing at the level we need them to. And the real kicker is this. Check this one out. Bill Barnwell brought this up last week on the Grantland NFL Podcast, and it is a hilariously depressing point. This is a list of the 5 highest paid DTs in the NFL next year based on average salary.

Top 5 DTs Salarys

Image via sportrac.com

But there is one name missing from this list. Ndamukong Suh. “But wait!” You exclaim. “He’s not missing! He’s right there at the top!” Yes he is friend, but you are forgetting the ghost of Ndamukong Suh. Because of the way the Lions restructured his deal when he was still with the team, Detroit still has exactly $9,737,500 worth of Ndamukong Suh on the books for this coming season. And yes, that means Ndamukong Suh is technically both the highest paid DT in football with his Miami figure as well as the 5th highest paid DT in football with his Detroit figure… If he was going to be eating up $10,000,000 of cap space either way, HOW could you not re-sign him??? The whole excuse was that we needed to move on for cap related purposes!!! Well we moved on and it sure doesn’t look like the cap is fixed!!! Moreover, refer back to that earlier image of the Lions 10 highest paid payers for next season… SUH IS STILL THE THIRD HIGHEST PAID PLAYER ON THE LIONS!!! Add that number to Detroit’s replacement for Suh (Haloti Ngata) and his $8,500,000 figure, and essentially you’re still paying $18,237,500 to your number 1 DT tackle…only $810,000 more than Suh’s figure anyway… so don’t feed me this cap crap Mayhew…

And Mayhew’s plan for replacing Suh? That was a real gem. We brought in Haloti Ngata who is a very good NFL player.

(Photo Credit: Tanya Moutzalias, MLive Detroit)

(Photo Credit: Tanya Moutzalias, MLive Detroit)

Used to be better, but his prime ended a couple years ago so what are you gonna do. He’s still very good, just not at the top of his game like Suh is. But that’s ok. We’ll take him off your hands Baltimore. We’ll give you a 4th and a 5th round pick for him because cap starved teams NEVER rebuild through the draft right? That would be stupid. Teams with cap problems don’t draft rookies on cap controlled deals, they trade those draft picks for old veterans with massive salary cap hits. That’s what smart GMs do, right Martin? Nevermind the fact that Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome is the best GM in football who knows exactly when to cut ties with his own players, and nearly EVERY player Baltimore ever let’s go has a nearly immediate dropoff in production on their new team.

(Photo via NFL.com)

(Photo via NFL.com)

Haloti Ngata is still a very good player. Detroit needed some star power on the defensive line to plug the gap left behind by Suh. And Ngata will do that. For the next year… maybe two… but trading draft picks for him feels horrendously short sighted to me and seems akin to cutting off your right hand, and trying to duct tape it back together… it just isn’t enough.

Ndamukong Suh is one of the greatest defensive tackles to every play football. He’s one of the best players I have ever watched in my entire life. And he was on my team. He was my guy. I didn’t care about all the on field incidents of aggression, mainly because he was such a spectacular guy off the field. He came to Detroit at one of its lowest points in years (and let me tell you, there have been a lot of low points for the city of Detroit this past decade) and he helped put together something to be proud of and something fun to be a part of when the Lions and being a Lions fan has been anything but for for… ohhh… idk… my entire life.

Suh should have been allowed to retire a lion. When you have one of the best to ever play the game. When he is a first round draft pick for your team and turns out to be even more than you ever hoped for. When he is an ambassador and a pillar for your struggling community. When you have a guy like that playing for your franchise you do your best to make sure he becomes a lifelong member of your organization. You make sure he becomes a part of your family and stays a member of your family for life because invariably its those kinds of players who become ambassadors for the sport and your franchise for many years into the future. When Suh came to Detroit it felt like the franchise had FINALLY turned a corner. They finally had pieces in place with Stafford, Johnson, and especially Suh to be winners on and off the field. It felt like they had finally moved on from the Matt Millen debacle era, and learned how a great organization thinks. But clearly this is the same old Detroit with the some old ignorance and losing ways.

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The Relief of Mediocrity and Why I Won’t Turn on Matthew Stafford

(Image via Leon Halip/Getty Images)

(Image via Leon Halip/Getty Images)

At 4:40 PM Eastern time today the Detroit Lions will play the Dallas Cowboys in what will be only the second Lions playoff game I’ve seen in my entire lifetime. So needless to say this should be a pretty big deal for me. However, it isn’t. I don’t have much confidence in the Lions pulling this one out. Even in spite of the fact that Dallas in the Tony Romo era has earned a reputation as post season or late season chokers. Now, part of this is because I think that reputation is undeserved, and Tony Romo is underrated, but part of it is also that I lack faith in this particular Lions squad.

In spite of their 11-5 record, the Lions are somewhat of a paper tiger. The Lions played 5 regular season games against playoff teams this season (Green Bay twice, Carolina, New England, and Arizona). They are 1-4 in those games, with their only win coming in week 2 against the Packers, so its not like their exactly building momentum off that one. In fact, the Lions have only even played 6 games all year against teams which ended the season with a winning record. In those six games they are 2-4 (adding a win against 9-7 Miami to their week 2 Green Bay win).

So, the Lions haven’t exactly been world beaters this year, and in truth they’ve barely even been tested. And what few tests they took were mostly failures. I’m not saying all this to be critical, but am instead trying to temper my own expectations for the second Lions playoff game I have ever watched, since the first one (a 45-28 route against Saints in 2011) didn’t exactly end the way I wanted it to. Now, the Lions definitely can beat the Cowboys. Dallas is a spectacularly beatable team this year. Tony Romo has nursed various injuries (especially to his back) all year,and could easily be knocked out of the game by Detroit’s stellar defensive line. Moreover, Dallas’s stud running back Demarco Murray has been great all year, but Detroit has the #1 Rush Defense in the NFL, allowing only 69 yards per game, so it wouldn’t be a shock if Detroit shut Murray down. More importantly, Dallas’s defense has been put together with Elmer’s glue and bubble-gum so there is no reason to think that Calvin Johnson shouldn’t be able to eat them alive. However, with the way Detroit’s offense has been playing of late that is extremely unlikely. And heeeeere is where we get to the crux of the article.

Detroit’s offense has been a colossal disappointment all season long. Part of that was because Calvin was hurt most of the year and missed a substantial chunk of the season due to injury, but many sports fans and reporters alike have put the blame squarely on Matthew Stafford’s shoulders. They claim that Detroit has seen enough to know that their former #1 overall pick is not cut from the Championship cloth which swaddled Bart Starr in his infancy. They get really excited to bring up the fact that he is 0-17 on the road against teams with winning records. Stafford, they claim, will never be a clutch quarterback, and Detroit should cut ties with the Stafford experiment immediately and move on. I disagree.

Missing Calvin Johnson really crippled the Lions all year.

Missing Calvin Johnson really crippled the Lions all year.

Now, I don’t deny that the offense has disappointed this year. They average only 20 points per game, and were held to 20 points or fewer in 10 different games this year. That doesn’t exactly sound like a team that has the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game on it. Furthermore, its incredibly frustrating to have an offense letting the team down like that when we have one of the best defenses in the NFL this year. I also understand why it would makes sense for Stafford’s numbers to spike this year considering Detroit blew their entire free agency wad bringing in Golden Tate to be a #2 receiver behind Calvin, overpaid to keep TE Brandon Pettigrew, and wasted their first round pick on an offensively minded TE in Eric Ebron (all while they already had red zone threat Joseph Fauria on the roster). That sounds like a lot of weapons. That doesn’t sound like a team that scores 20 points per game. Seems like it should be more like 28-31ppg. And that isn’t what happened.

Maybe that means all these dissenters are right. Maybe that means I’m supposed to abandon ship on the USS Stafford, but I’m not sold.

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To be completely honest, I couldn’t care less if Stafford is underperforming based on his contract right now. I couldn’t care less if the offense isn’t as explosive as it should or needs to be. And I assure you this is entirely irrational, and motivated by my own scarred sporting past. I started following the NFL in 1998 when I was 8 years old, but didn’t choose to adopt my Dad’s beloved Lions until the 2000 season. As it turns out this was the worst possible time I could have picked. I remember my dad trying to make me watch football with him years earlier because he wanted me to experience the Barry Sanders years before they were gone. Welp, I hopped on the bandwagon about 16 months late, and it was all downhill after that.

The Matt Millen Era was one of the worst attempts to run a sports franchise in history, and it was particularly hard on the quarterback position. When I first hopped on the Detroit bandwagon they rolled out the cavalcade of Charlie Batch, Gus Frerotte, Stoney Case (I’m gonna be honest I don’t even remember who this is) and Ty Detmer (6 years after he was already known as a universal bust). Not exactly a star studded cast. In 2002, however, 12 year old Rick had hope for the future because the Lions spent their first round draft pick on Oregon’s star quarterback… Joey Harrington.Now, I’m not sure if you know this but during my childhood Harrington was thought to be the biggest bust behind only Tim Couch… ouch…

"O" for Oregon or 0 for the number of games I intend to win in the NFL. Who knows? (Image via Bruce Ely/The Oregonian)

“O” for Oregon or 0 for the number of games I intend to win in the NFL. Who knows? (Image via Bruce Ely/The Oregonian)

So that didn’t work out. But its ok… Detroit had other… uhh… plans… they had the veritable ace up the sleeve that is Mike McMahon (I distinctly remember arguing with me dad that all Detroit needed to do in the 2004 season in order to start winning was start Mike McMahon and we could easily win 8 games. The funniest part of this story to me is not that I thought McMahon would be a success [laughable in its own right] but that I thought “successful” meant going 8-8).

In 2005 they rented 5 games of Jeff Garcia, they put the serviceable Jon Kitna out to pasture (I loved the Kitna years. Kitna won 10 total games for us in the 2 years he started, and I still believe that the reason we went win-less in 2008 is because we went away from him). Then all hell broke loose as we decided to move on to the Dan Orlovsky era which lasted 7 games before we decided to trot out Dante Culpepper AFTER he had that devastating knee injury…

Dan Orlovsky... he of the self forced safety...

Dan Orlovsky… he of the self forced safety…

In 2009 we finally drafted Stafford, but his career didn’t really start until 2011 because he was hurt so often. Instead we spiced things up with a little Drew Stanton / Shaun Hill combo [the two QBs responsible for that beautiful 12-6 field goal clinic on Thursday night football earlier this season] until finally in 2011 we were squarely planted in the Matthew Stafford era.

Stafford has started every game for Detroit the last 4 straight seasons *knockonwood* and if my little narrative showed you anything it should be that, regardless of his faults, he is very clearly a sight for sore eyes. In those 4 years Detroit has won 32 games and made the playoffs twice. That is 2 more playoff games than I had seen in the rest of my lifetime and only 5 less losses than Detroit had in the 9 seasons before that (starting with the drafting of Joey Harrington).

Stafford has clearly been the best quarterback I’ve ever watch on Detroit in my years as a Lions fan. As such I’m willing to give him absolute mountains of slack. We very well could lose this playoff game tonight. And the talking heads and armchair GM’s of the world will be gleefully calling for the Lions to move on from Stafford. But I for one am entirely unconvinced. Even if this is the best Stafford can do, who cares? This is the best era of Lions football I have ever seen. Why risk moving on from Stafford if only to wind up back in the death spiral of has been’s, never were’s, and never will be’s that I spend my formative years watching?

Instead I’d rather just treat this Stafford/Calvin Johnson era as a better version of the Barry Sanders years my dad remembers. The Lions made a couple playoff games out of Barry’s sheer will, and the guy solidified himself as the greatest running back of all time in my opinion,. With the way Stafford forces the ball to Calvin we’ll have the same scenario with Johnson now. Make a few playoff games. Have a few chances to do something, and watch one of the greatest football players ever born prove his worth among the games elite. Dumping Stafford is the kind of thing franchises with Superbowl aspirations might do, but that isn’t this Detroit team. We could definitely win a Superbowl with this group because the NFL playoffs are so random (Carolina beat Arizona last night for instance) but no-one will ever call this group the favorites. And that’s enough for me. It’s January. We’re still playing football. And Matthew Stafford got us there. Enough with the rest of it. I just want to enjoy the success that I’m fortunate enough to see right now.

Go get'm big guy. Go get'm.

Go get’m big guy. Go get’m.

My Foray into Basketball Bigamy: Part Two

Pretenders to the Throne: My First Failed Choices of Fandom

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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.

Brandon+Weeden+Cleveland+Browns+v+Detroit+ypG-nUFCWjql

(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!

Jason_Kapono

“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” ='[

Gerald_Wallace

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…

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“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.

sean_may_UNC

Whoaaaa Sean… Buddy… keep the jersey on…

profile_may

Hey! Sean! Have you lost weight?!

may-fat

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.

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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.

2009-10 NBA Press Conferences

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.)

gandalf_frodo_02

“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.