The Best of the West
A British NBA fan continues his quest for a favorite team.
by Ben Taylor / @benitaylor
So last night I had a couple of hours to kill while on my train from London to Manchester, and decided it was the perfect time to finally get around to watching Sonics Gate. As well as being a pretty damning look at the way Sonics fans and the people of Seattle got screwed, the passion that those guys have for their team hammered home what it means to be a fan and exactly why I’m doing this search.
A quick Sonics related story – the only time a major British football team has been moved to a completely different town was when Wimbledon (once a Premier League team, rich history, great fans) got new owners who moved them to Milton Keynes (a small city 50 miles north of London that didn’t have a professional team).
Just like the Sonics fans, Wimbledon supporters fought against the move, but they couldn’t stop it happening. So, they started their own team from scratch. AFC Wimbledon started out in the bottom rung of regional semi-professional non-league football and fought their way up through six leagues. This year, they made it to the Football League, just a couple of tiers below the Premier League. For anyone who loves sports it was a big moral middle finger at the guys who stole the team in the first place.
Anyway, back to basketball. This is the third installment of the search to find a team, and we’re onto the Western Conference. Last time out, despite the best efforts of Atlanta’s fine lap dancing establishments, I picked the Knicks, Celtics, Bulls, and Sixers as my top four from the East.
It has to be said; picking four teams from the West was tougher than the East. There are a lot of teams that I’ve enjoyed watching at some point over the last 19 years, which meant a lot of teams felt right. At one point I had a ‘shortlist’ of eleven (basically the whole conference).
There were some practical choices – San Antonio I ruled out because one Spurs is definitely more than enough, and I left Dallas out because I didn’t want to jump on the champs’ bandwagon. Both great teams with awesome fans, though.
Arguably, the biggest name missing was the Lakers. I love the history of the team – the Showtime Era, Shaq and Kobe, the Celtics rivalry, and all of that stuff, but they just don’t feel like my team. I couldn’t see myself as a Laker fan.
Quite a few people mentioned Phoenix, which I put down to the Steve Nash/Tottenham link. One thing I really liked about the Suns is that historically, the owners seem to do a lot for the fans. My big worry was what would happen post-Nash. That, and the internet describing Phoenix as having “the quietness of a sleepy town in Wyoming, the business accommodations of New York City, the cleanliness of Singapore.” Sorry Phoenix.
It’s hard to imagine a few years ago that the Los Angeles Clippers would be the first name in the mix for many people’s favorite team, but hey, this is the Blake Griffin era. Without a shadow of a doubt, I’d fly 5456 miles to see The Blake champShow slam down one of those ferocious dunks in the flesh. Another big upside for the Clippers – ideally I’d like my new team will have a big local rival for me to hate. The Lakers can be that rival.
Memphis seemed like my kind of team. Scrappy, gutsy, and something of an underdog. It was a real battle between the Grizzlies, Denver, and Portland. I loved watching the post-Carmelo Nuggets, and Colorado sounds like an epic place to visit. Eventually, after much deliberation and a couple of last minute changes, I went with Portland. Great fans, seems like a cool place, and an up-and-down team with some good young players. This week’s tenuous British link – Portland drafted GB’s Joel Freeland in 2006.
One of the things I’ve loved about going through this process with you guys has been listening to what you all have to say about your teams, and who you’d pick. Based on the suggestions you guys threw in the comments over the last two weeks, there were two teams that clearly stood out – Golden State and Sacramento. Based on that alone, I couldn’t leave them out of the final four.
So, we’re nearly there. Thirty teams down to the last eight. From the East: New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. From the West: Golden State, Sacramento, Portland, and the Clippers.
Keep the comments coming, let me know what you think about the last eight teams. Next week: The Decision.