We all miss basketball.
The sound of the ball as it goes through the hoop. The squeak of the sneakers on the hardwood. The roar of the crowd. Mike Breen’s “Bang!” or Boom Gonzales’ “Gets it to go!”
What’s the best way to cope when you miss something you can’t have at the moment? You write it a love letter.
Dear Father Time,
To this day, nobody has been able to defeat you. The greatest players the basketball world has ever known have fallen to your many, creative traps. Unfortunately, your most common methods are also your most cruel ones – saddling players with injury and making the game leave them behind. I hope Brandon Roy and Monta Ellis are safe in your clutches.
On that note, I’d like to remind you that you may be undefeated, but you are not invincible. And I miss seeing great players of the past prove that fact.
In the past couple of months without basketball, we’ve all missed out on seeing the future of the NBA turn into the present. Giannis had the Bucks primed to win the East. Luka Doncic continued to dazzle. Trae Young has been left to shoot socks into a hamper and cross up his dog.
We’ve also lost the chance to see the NBAs most compelling narratives run its course. No more Battle of LA in the Conference Finals. No chance to see if the Sixers and Celtics can find a magic solution, or if Houston’s bold Morey experiment will blow up in their faces. Trades, free agency plans, and rebuild timelines all go straight into the shredder.
As difficult as this is to swallow, we know that the next basketball season will bring these back. Young players will continue to take steps forward and new storylines will emerge. The Circus isn’t over, just postponed.
It’s the old dogs I’m worried about, and you are lucky, Father Time, that they can’t put dents in your armor anymore. Every season, some of the most magical moments come from great players of the past – the same players on the brink of defeat at your hands.
When they deliver a vintage performance or step into a mini renaissance, you become an afterthought. We forget the inevitable and our old heroes become immortal again. Kobe defied you in his last time on an NBA floor, throwing 60 F-Yous in your face, much to our delight. Last April, Dirk dropped a 30-piece for the final time in Dallas. Dwyane Wade proved it’s still his house. Tim, Tony, and Manu were always good; they even managed to snatch a title way past their bedtime. Vince Carter was next in line, but now we’ve lost the chance to see him get on his bike one last time.
This NBA season, the old guard has thrown their fair share of punches while they still could. LeBron James, perhaps your greatest nemesis up to this point, was an MVP frontrunner on the best team in the West at age 35. You’ve taken away some of his godly athleticism so he’s become even more cerebral, averaging roughly 26-8-11 through 60 games. He can also still do bad things to defenders, like this.
You couldn’t control Chris Paul, also age 35, who was in the middle of a renaissance season. Amidst all the doubts surrounding his health and effectiveness, he transformed his body and turned in an All-Star season with the Thunder, who were one of the biggest surprises of the season. He led the league in scoring in the clutch and was an integral part of OKC’s top-ten defense. 15 years in the league also means he knows all the rules.
Melo found his way back into the league and proved he can still provide some signature scoring punch. After a year without setting foot on an NBA floor and a mess of buyouts and waivers, he’s put up 15 points and 6 boards to help Portland tread water. For good measure, he even called you out, saying, “This ain’t a damn farewell tour” before playing a single game.
Players don’t even have to be future hall-of-famers to land their parting shots at you. They don’t need to be great for an entire game, week, or the whole season. It can be a single sequence – those “He’s still got it!” plays – be it LaMarcus Aldridge leaning into a fadeaway, Lou Williams going left, or Andre Iguodala jamming up a passing lane and finishing on the break. Dogs don’t need new tricks as long as the old ones still work.
What frustrates me the most is that you now have free reign to set all your traps. Maybe you’ll make them too excited to play and they’ll end up injuring themselves. Maybe you’ll use all this uncertainty to convince them this is the perfect time to hang it up. With everything going on right now, the inevitability of it all only sets in deeper.
I know this won’t come across as a traditional love letter, but know that I still respect you. You usher in new generations of talent and challenge the way the game is played. You allow parents to see their children grow up with idols of their own. Without you, the game simply cannot move forward.
Please take this letter as a request for restraint. Whenever play resumes, give basketball fans a proper chance to say goodbye to those on your doorstep and to witness the final steps of those on their way.
I know you’ll win in the end, I just miss forgetting about you for a while.