This is the greatest time of the season for the NBA.
Why? It’s the law of large numbers. It’s The Witching Hourand The Doldrums. It’s the time of the year when so many games have been played, so many blowouts, lucky shots, and spectacular plays have already happened, and yet the end of the season still seems so ridiculously far away.
It’s here where the magic lies in NBA basketball, when you will see some of the purest battles this sport can offer. Mid-December is why I’m an NBA fan.
I’m sorry, let me explain: Basketball is very Zen. (Yes, this is why Phil does so well in this sport.)
Teams are constantly striving to achieve a “happy stasis” of high-level performance. They want to produce, to score, to win, and to do so relatively easily and with minimal effort. They want to create a vibe of success, something ‘60’s hipsters and Bill Walton could definitely understand.
That’s the essence of the sport, right there. The happy stasis, the success vibe.
Well, at this point in the season, the players and the teams are so damn weary of traveling, living
out of strange hotels, eating hit-or-miss room service, and getting themselves “up” for a high-level performance every other night that they reach this delirium, an NBA coma.
All they see is the court, all they know is basketball, because that’s the only thing familiar to them.
It’s a miserable and tedious process for the players….it's almost like war, what with the bunkering down and the constant time spent atpeak ability. And yes, sometimes teams just don’t show up for games. (
, I’m looking at you.) New Orleans
But other times, you turn on the TV and two mid- or lower-level teams are just flowing. In a game that absolutely no one is watching,the two teams are passing fluidly, playing smart D, and hitting their shots cleanly. Every cut, every decision is the right one, and each bucket is countered, back and forth, until the tension is so constant and heavy that you can’t even feel it anymore. No one argues, no whistles blow. There are only attacks, counters, adjustments, and competition of the highest caliber. And everything else just fades away.
At that precise moment, it’s basketball euphoria. It’s beautiful.
Because we forget sometimes that these players in the NBA -the Vince Carters, the Charlie Villanuevas, and the other names we’ve heard repeatedly - they are more than multimillionaire personalities. They were, for a majority of their lives, better at basketball than anyone else they ever faced. And it’s not like basketball only took up alittle of their time growing up. They were constantly superior to everyone for most of their lives at the sole activity they participated in. I mean, imagine what that
does to someone psychologically!
Furthermore, these cream-of-the-crop players, their only job right now is to stay as fit as possible. And they get paid to do that. (Sometimes I wonder, what if someone gave me truckloads of money to get as fit as possible, rather than to work at a gym and write columns. I’d look like a completely different person. Hell, I’d be a completely different person. Where you punch in and out at your job, sitting and saturating in your cubicle, they are working out. Constantly. It blows themind.)
And in addition to getting in incredible shape, these human Megatrons practice and fine-tune over and over again, perfecting basketball. Striving to get better at something they were the best in the world in doing. Yes, I’m a paying customer, why do you ask?
And – this is my point – this is the time in the season when all the going-out, the parties, the family drama, the diaper-changing and vacuuming fades away, and these players are left with no distractions other than simply to do what they do best. They are currently living in a snow-globe of competition, of trying to be better. It encompasses their entire world. I would almost feel bad for them, if not for the fact that it’s absolutely amazing to watch.
And the rediculous amounts of money we throw at them.
But for a couple games in mid-December, all the production, all the glamour of television advertisements, Laker Girls and halftime shows just fades. It’s all meaningless.