In Search Of…
A British NBA fan begins his quest for a favorite team.
by Ben Taylor / @benitaylor
Like a lot of fans who live outside of the US, it was the Dream Team of ’92 that got me hooked on basketball. I’ve watched (and played) for 19 years, during which time the game here in the UK has had a few ups and downs—mainstream media coverage came and went, the British league struggled to satisfy anyone brought up on the NBA, and we didn’t have a star of our own to get behind. Recently though, it would be fair to say a resurgence has taken place. The NBA has gotten more accessible thanks to the internet, and there’s a buzz around the game here again, helped by the prospect of seeing Luol Deng lead Team GB at the Olympics in London next summer (if any of us can actually get tickets…but that’s another post entirely).
So, things are looking good. The only thing that’s missing, the one thing that would complete me in a basketball sense (other than being able to perfect Dirk’s one-legged fade-away jumpshot), is having a team to support.
Most of us get into sport because we get sat down as kids by our dads to watch our team stick it to another team. We have a team drummed into us from birth. Team colors to wear. History and tradition to learn. Players to idolize. Rivals to hate. Growing up in the UK, I had that experience with football (I’m a Tottenham fan), but I’ve never had it with an NBA team.
International fans are fed on the stars, not the teams. If you ask me, David Stern wants us all to be loyal to the League and it’s ‘products’: LeBron, Kobe, DRose and the marquee players, rather than the Heat, Lakers or Bulls. From a business and marketing point of view, it kind of makes sense—it doesn’t matter which team wins or loses, he can move them around whenever he likes, and we’ll all buy more jerseys because we won’t see anything wrong with rocking a Celtics jersey one day and a Lakers one the next.
But, growing up with football, that’s a hard concept to get my head around. Football has always had big stars, names like Beckham, Messi, and Ronaldo who stole the spotlight, but it’s the clubs that actually mean something. Players come and go (us Tottenham fans are in for a particularly messy breakup this summer with our star man, Luka Modric, who is desperate to join Chelsea), but the club will always be there.
The obvious solution is to go with whoever’s winning, but the thought of it doesn’t agree with me, and never has. Where’s the fun in supporting the team who wins all the time? The depressing lows are what make the dizzying highs so special. In my lifetime, Tottenham’s record has been embarrassing. Every time we looked like we were getting somewhere, something went wrong—players deserted us to play for bigger teams, we fired our coach for no reason, or our team got food poisoning the night before the game that could have seen us finish above our hated rivals (Arsenal). But then November 2, 2010 happened. In a game that still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, we destroyed the reigning Champions League winners, Inter Milan. Played them off the park. And just like that, the previous 26 years were totally worth it.
I want that feeling from basketball, and in the absence of 26 years of history, I’m starting from scratch. My aim is to find a team and stick with them for a whole season (lockout allowing).
To make sure it works, I’ve got a few requirements. My new team needs to have good fans. I’m not getting stuck with fair-weather bandwagon jumpers; I want a squad with real fans who show up when the team is losing and still scream the place down. It would also help if they’re the type of fans that if you were traveling and bumped into them watching the game in a bar, you’d want to join them for a beer (no disrespect Miami Heat fans, but this kind of rules you out).
On the subject of traveling, I don’t get to come over too often, so they need to play in a city that would be fun to visit on vacation.
Last, but by no means least, the team needs at least one player worth the price of a single ticket. He doesn’t have to be superstar level, just good enough in relation to the cost of the ticket.
Over the next few weeks I’ll do my best to document the search here. If you want to throw your team into the mix, or if you are another international fan without a home, hit me up in the comments below. It would be great to hear from you.