This is not related to any current news with the Kings. This is a reflection on where I come from, in a basketball sense.
Last night I went to the park to shoot some hoops. I'm sadly out of shape these days, but I can still dribble and my shot hasn't left me entirely. But shooting that ball around for a few hours felt like I had gone home to a place I had long forgotten. It took me back to where I fell in love with basketball.
I remembered watching the '96 Finals, and then going out to my driveway to practice the way that Jordan wouldn't put his left hand on the ball when we went for a dunk or a lay-up. From dribbling to shooting in such a fluid motion. I spent two weeks working on that before I could do it smoothly, every time.
Or when Mike Bibby was on top of the world, and I spent hours in the driveway, curling around imaginary screens for pull-up jumpers. Or when I tried to learn to shoot 3-pointers with both arms over my head, a la Peja.
Last night at the park, I didn't spend my time trying to shoot from the hip like Kevin Martin. I no longer harbor those dreams of stumbling into a college program, or some NBA scout recognizing the skills that every high school coach chose to pass over. No, some dreams must come to end. But the ability to escape into the game shall always remain.
This is the reason why I've spent every day of the "offseason" tracking every slight movement on StR.
It's the sense of magic and wonder that I first experienced April 18th, 1991. I was 6, almost 7. The Kings were playing the Nuggets. Back then, of course, it was a true clash of the titans. The tickets cost $8 apiece. Those tickets are mounted on the wall in my kitchen.
It's remembering getting together with my friends in the middle of a cold Colorado winter. We didn't want to pay to get into the YMCA, so we brought our snow shovels to the park and cleared the court. And then we'd play as hard as we could so that we wouldn't need to keep our warm-up pants and jackets on.
This is the reason I'm so sad about what happened to the fans in Seattle. I know how much basketball means to me. How much a silly little game can mean. And I know that I am not alone. There are people out there that make me seem like a casual fan. I cannot imagine such a devastating rift in my basketball universe.
And it's why I love the summer Olympics. And I love the current incarnation of USA Basketball. They conjure memories, again from childhood, when the Olympics were an incredibly noble thing, and USA Basketball was an unstoppable force. I hope that this team doesn't let us down, and I think they have a good chance, but this team has certainly much to do before they may be even whispered as an unstoppable force.
Yes, this game is a wonderful thing. And although the words were bastardized by an NBA marketing campaign, I can still honestly say that I love this game. I believe that this game can rise above the Sterns and the Donaghys. It can transcend our wildest imaginations thanks to its pure simplicity and intricate complexity. This game can be fun again.
I know I said that this post doesn't have much to do with the current state of the Kings, but as I look back at these words that I have written, perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps the current Sacramento roster is an embodiment of these feelings. Bobby Jackson re-joins the team and fills us with nostalgia. Bibby and Artest leave and we are forced to recognize the ever-evolving view we have of the game, and the team. And the youngsters remind us that basketball can be fun, and full of optimism.
Maybe Bob Knight said it best when he said, "You don't play against opponents. You play against the game of basketball." Or maybe it was Edgar Allen Poe, "Man's real life is happy, chiefly because he is ever expecting that it soon will be so."
I do love this game. Go Kings.