Let me go off for a little bit here.
I became a fan of basketball during the Michael Jordan era. I'd played basketball as a kid but never watched it on television. My first basketball game to actually watch was the Bull's run in 92. My cousin introduced me to them, making me watch their games. After that I also began to watch Spurs basketball, but you never forget your first basketball game.
My parents were casual Spurs fans. At the age of 13, 14 it was still a few years until their championship. I liked David Robinson though, and I began to turn onto the Spurs bvecause of his character. During his MVP year, I really became a fan of him and thus the Spurs, and really wanted him to win it. I was pissed when we lost to Houston, and at the time could not appreciate The Dream.
I remained a Bulls fan, and Jordan's return complicated my basketball fandom. I really enjoyed what David represented and what he meant to the Spurs and San Antonio; the Bulls were my first love though. I dreaded what woul happen if they met in the Finals. That never happened. FYI, those same years were what made me hate the Jazz utterly.
I didn't fall in love with the game completely, though, until we drafted Tim Duncan. Something about Duncan was, from the moment he came to our team, amazing. He wasn't Jordan, he wasn't David, but he would become my favorite player and has remained so since that day. Because of him, I became a deep fan of basketball. Not just of the Spurs, though I knew that from then on I would be a Spurs fan for life. No, I loved the game. Loved it.
The point of all this? I began to dig into all sorts of footage of games from the old days, learning about plays, options, the history of the game. I just fell in love with it. There's a reason I love Bill Walton so much; and I suppose because I never had to deal with the 80's, I never grew as deep a hate for L.A. as some older fans. I love Magic Johnson; I love Larry Bird.
I love Lenny Wilkens, Bob Cousy, Jerry West. Pistol Pete? Amazing. I was never a big Will Chamberlain fan, but I respected his game. I don't really like Kobe Bryant, but I respect his talent.
Artis Gilmore, Dr. J, George Gervin, Elgin Baylor, Robert Parish, Bob Pettit; amazing players. I'm not of the same opinion that fundamentals have decreased that dramatically or that shooting is down that much; I think we did move to an individual emphasis a bit too much, but I think we're moving away from that. Teams win, but really, they've always won. The Celtics and Lakers were good teams. The Spurs and Detroit are good teams. As great as Jordan was, he had a supporting cast not only of Pippen and Rodman, but guys like Kerr and Paxson. The Lakers in their first few years were superior to that of 2003 because their team functioned with guys like Horry on the outside, Kobe willing to play inside to Shaq, functioning as a group rather than as a battle of individuals to star.
I will always favor the post game. I've always felt that for the majority of the time, big men allow their wing players to function more smoothly. Guys like Tim Duncan bolster the defense and create space that lets guys do their work. As such, I will always favor the big men when it comes to who I like best. My favorite move? Timmy's bank shot, or the baby hook. I love inside foot work.
The great players who've helped establish the NBA and continue to make it grow are amazing. To watch some of those who've come before, to see their effort, their determination, to see how these teams rose together as one to claim championships and accolades; Honestly, to me, it's inspiring. People working as one for one goal. There will always be a face to that team, like Duncan is to the Spurs, but greatness is a reciprocal thing. Superstars make those around them better, but those around them help those great players be superstars.
At its heart, I think that message, of unity of purpose, of determination, of self betterment, can be found in the Game. The inspiration to push yourself a little harder, a little longer; to be able to unify with others to accomplish something rare; I can't help but love it. The NBA's fifty greatest are the face of all that, and it's why basketball is more than just a sport to me.
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