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NBA Free Agency 2009: Sports at Its Best

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NBA Free Agency 2009: Sports at Its Best
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

What makes a sport?

If no one showed up to NFL games, would they mean anything more than the Thanksgiving Day games my family plays in the backyard?

If the gladiators fought in a field instead of the Colosseum, wouldn't it just be murder?

What turns a hobby into a sport is us—the fans.

And when a hobby becomes a sport, it becomes a battle—sometimes hyperbolized by players from Miami University; yeah, you Kellen Winslow.

In a battle, you always have an enemy to compete against, and the greatest victories stem from Goliath obliterating everything in his path or David rising up against him.

As a fan, recall your favorite season in sports.

My personal two are the 2000-2001 NBA seasons and the 2003 NFL season.

What made these seasons stand out were the emergence of a single or a few dominant teams at the top.

(The NBA had the Lakers and the NFL had the Patriots/Steelers/Eagles)

As a Lakers fan, I cheered on my Goliath as they steam-rolled through the playoffs without losing a game until the NBA Finals.

Everyone else subsequently developed an un-Earthly loathing for them that wouldn't allow them to miss a single game.

That is sports at its finest. Three to four teams at the top, most of the league in the middle, and a three to four teams you are just embarrassed to watch. 

Baseball is nothing without the Yankees.

Soccer is nothing without the Manchester Uniteds and Real Madrids of the world.

My proudest day of the year came recently when the middle-of-the-road United States defeated the Spanish side that hadn't lost in three years, a world record.

The 2009 NBA Free Agency has brought this joy back into the world of basketball; just take a look at the following:

Vince Carter to the Magic.

Shaquille O'Neal to the Cavaliers.

Richard Jefferson to San Antonio.

Charlie Villenueva and Ben Gordon to the Pistons.

Rasheed Wallace most likely going to the Celtics.

And finally, Ron Artest going to the world-champion Lakers.

I don't know if it is because of the recession or because people finally care more about winning than money, but big-time athletes are actually taking less money to win.

Artest is the league's premiere perimeter defender, with his only competition coming from former teammate Shane Battier.

Toss in his ability to drop 25 points on any given night, and you have a gifted athlete worth three times what the Lakers will be paying him.

He doesn't care. He wants to win.

As fans, we have been clamoring for this from our athletes for years now, and now that we're getting it, I hope we appreciate it.

After the mediocrity we saw from this year's finals—I'll be the first to admit this Lakers team was a dwarf among midgets—I hope we as fans are ready for what the NBA is supposed to look like.

For fans of the 24 "other" teams in the NBA: Don't be disappointed or upset.

Cherish the chances you have at upsetting these teams, even though you know deep down chances of a repeat performance in the playoffs are about as likely as me knowing when to stop rambling and cut my articles short.

Enjoy the Lakers and Spurs banging through the Western Conference like convenience stores, dotted along trucker pit stops like dandelions, on their way to the destiny that is the conference finals.

Enjoy the Celtics, Magic, Cavaliers, and Pistons giving you enough stars to make Florentino Perez jealous.

(If that one slips by you just go to the FIFA section and search his name. He's like the Bizarro World Mike Dunleavy, spending money to make his team better, not worse.)

Enjoy it while it lasts because, soon enough, the recession will be over and athletes will once again clamor for the highest paycheck.

Enjoy it because we thought free agency wouldn't allow such great moments.

Enjoy it because this is what sports is supposed to be like.

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