Watching basketball is a fairly common activity among Filipinos, which makes it strange that I should sometimes feel ashamed of liking the game. Maybe because I suck in it so bad (although I do have some Milo Best moves like dribbling between the legs and behind the back, I just cannot jump). As a kid, I liked basketball so much I would make trump cards (“A1! Cylinder: 12!”) out of cut-out cardboards pasted with pictures of NBA players that I got from magazines and newspapers. I’d play the cards with my more anatomically-advantaged classmates in between classes. I’d talk basketball with them, and boast of a broad knowledge of statistics, from players’ height to points per game, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. But outside, in the playground, I’d get trumped.
And so, in college, finally accepting the fact that I will never get to play for the NBA (never mind PBA, UAAP, or heck, even barangay pa-liga), I slowly forgot basketball. Only around five years ago did I rekindle a love for the game. I was “assigned” to cover sports for Pinoy Weekly. I was to monitor UAAP and PBA games, and even had to have myself accredited. As soon as I entered Araneta Coliseum one warm day that year, all repressed emotions came back: the joy of watching sweaty men fight for a single ball, their sheer acrobatic skill, the thrill of competition. In an instant, I was in familiar territory once again. I was the kid ten, fifteen years ago, in front of the television, unblinking, as Magic Johnson and the Lakers outhassle the Pistons during game 7 of the 1988 Finals. It was an overwhelming feeling.
Only a handful of my friends actually know me to be such a basketball fan (until now, if they read this). I guess, everybody deserves a guilty pleasure.
Recently, however, I have been watching the NBA playoffs with much keener interest than I should be having. Its the elections, and we may be witnessing the dirtiest election in history, bar none. And yet I can’t help myself — I have to watch NBA. The drama is so real. And though, I am aware that what is at stake in these games are not much more than its players’ manly pride or the playoff bonuses, I am compelled nonetheless to watch.
What has specifically caught my attention was the just concluded contest between the Phoenix Suns and the San Antonio Spurs. The media, with so much narratives to play up, from Amare Stoudemire’s comments of Spurs being a dirty team, Steve Nash’s leadership and stamina, to the mental toughness of Tim Duncan, has rightly projected the series to be one for the books. One of the most compelling sagas in basketball history.
Like many basketball fans today, I am awed by the running game style of the Suns. I have cheered for them throughout their campaign. Their game is a feast for the eyes: a Nash no-look pass here, a Marion alley-oop there; a Bell steal here, an Amare slam there. To top it off, Steve Nash is such a great sports hero. A wonderful athlete and competitor, he is also tough and driven. Taking on the defense of Bruce Bowen is one thing, but being thrown by Robert Horry across the scorers’ table and standing up and proceeding to make a game-winning play for Stoudemire in Game 4 was just inspiring. Plus, he has great politics too. He courageously denounced the US war on Iraq during a time when it was unpopular, even dangerous for his career, to do so, and while the likes of San Antonio’s David Robinson encouraged fans to support Bush.
That, I guess, is what sports is all about — hero-making. The ability to transcend limitations, whatever they may be.