After odd bench fellows LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant dumptrucked Team USA to Olympic gold, its tempting for NBA fans to forget that loyalties, boundaries and discord still loom somewhere over the rainbow.
But as we basketball Dorothys begin to hit Stub Hub, it all comes flooding back—the rivalries, the delicious antagonism.
So first, a confession.
Months ago, before LeBron James was socking nine points in four minutes to rally the Stars and Stripes through the medal rounds, I was dutifully heckling his team bus in snow-clotted Ugg boots.
It's complicated, NBA allegiance.
But let's set the scene:
Sinking my glutes courtside in Milwaukee last February, my gut flopping with the thrill of a maiden voyage. It was my first time, a girl at The Man’s Game.
The tickets had been a birthday shock and awe of 24 hours old. Camera, canteen, sand bucket, Jabbar jersey. Together with my hoops compatriot—my mom—we fishtailed east through the Valentine sleet to meet our destiny at the Bradley Center.
For a full recreation of events between the Bucks and the Heat that night on the shore of Lake Michigan, you can archive the newspaper.
You wouldn't though, because it was an ordinary game and the scoreboard predictable.
For me, though, an almost operatic (or is that Oprah-tic?) epiphany. To share the stage and the rhythms with the world's greatest competitors, there’s a thrum no Hi-Def can transmit.
Ersan Ilyasova cheek-boning for rebound after rebound; Mike Miller’s wrist creaking; Carlos Delfino, the Argentinian of Wisconsin, sweating in the paint. Chris Bosh—his resemblance to Jar Jar Binks remarkable in the flesh. D-Wade’s quiet tension, the envy of any LA yoga guru.
When we exited the Bradley Center we hovered for a few minutes with the tweens pressing at the parking lot gate. Even a team bus was a sight, carrying mortals of rare mixture. I hallooed with the best of them. When in Rome, though it was snowing.
And now, a fresh season dawning, we can sneer again. Dream Teams only exist every four years.