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 Basketball Commentary,
I still remember the last thing you said before you left.
It was over two months ago, a totally normal day, and I was ready to put on League Pass to tune in to what was supposed to be a classic division rivalry game between Oklahoma City and Utah. I tried so hard to forget your last words. It wasn’t your best hour, but alas, the pain in the form of OKC’s PA announcer Mario Nanni declaring that “The game tonight has been postponed. You are all safe. Take your time in leaving the arena,” stung, as if I was reliving the nightmare of, let’s say, the 2011 Mavericks winning in the Heat’s house.
Speaking of Heat versus Mavs, I still remember the first time I heard your voice.
Dad had kept the TV volume on full during the waning minutes of Game 6 of the 2006 NBA Finals while he was speaking with someone on the phone. Frankly, it wasn’t love at first listen. You were loud, to the point where I threw internal tantrums because I couldn’t focus enough on my Pokémon game. It appeared that the game had just ended when some cool looking dude donning a shiny red MIAMI jersey with the number three on his back threw the ball upwards.
I remember hearing the voice of Mike Breen, whom I obviously did not know at the time, scream at the top of his lungs: “THE MIAMI HEAT! THEY’VE DONE IT! THEY’VE WON THEIR FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP IN FRANCHISE HISTORY!”, the very words superimposed on the auditory dismay of the Dallas faithful.
You were irritating, you were rowdy, you were… fascinating. I don’t exactly know what hit me, but I felt like I had to close my GameBoy shut to understand you more. Breen would go on to shower Dwyane Wade and the Heat with praises, in strangely delightful harmony with the men in red celebrating and the sea of white shirts booing in the background.
In the same splendor as Wade getting 97 free throw attempts in that Finals, I was magically entranced by Mike Breen, by Wade, by the Heat, by basketball, and by you. Had my dad muted the TV that time, I wouldn’t have met you. I would have just gone on with my Pokémon game and I wouldn’t have been writing this very piece.
You made me a full on basketball nerd. When I wasn’t begrudgingly answering my school work, I would have my eyes glued to Wikipedia to study the game. I bought a Class A Spalding ball near my school because I wanted one just like what I saw when Wade threw that ball high up the rafters. Hell, I even downloaded an illegal copy of NBA 2K12, and Kevin Harlan’s in-game commentary became music to my ears.
Most importantly, though, you made me watch basketball. My favorite games would be the ones on ESPN, because the crystal clear, sports-appropriate voice of Mike Breen had become my favorite part of you. For every iconic three that Ray Allen hit in that Heat-Celtics series in 2012, came an equally iconic “Bang!” from Mike. Even sans an ESPN broadcast, I would tune in to almost every game, eyes glued to the court and ears glued to the anticipation of hearing you, and you never disappoint.
I remember the first time I heard you speak in Tagalog. Passing the Filipino basketball fandom litmus test meant listening to local icons Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc talk about what they had for breakfast in a localized broadcast of the NBA, and needless to say, I enjoyed every second of it. Be it Mico Halili’s “YESSIR!” and Magoo Marjon’s “May kasama pang foul!” in the PBA, or Nikko Ramos’ “Ringless but not the good kind!” and Boom Gonzales’ “Gets it to go!” in the UAAP, I didn’t know it was possible to love you even more, but I did. A whole nation did.
In a period where it seems as though the bad news never ends, I miss you badly. I’ve been holding up on my own ever since that Thunder-Jazz almost-game. In this dystopian time lacking of sports, heroes with microphones who miss you just as much as I do have stepped up to their respective makeshift recording studios to talk about the game in your honor.
Between the No Dunks’ (formerly The Starters) JE Skeets greeting the sweet world a good morning and Bill Simmons bringing in his friends from Pearl Jam, podcasts have taken over my ears in your absence. They’ve all managed to keep me sane during these times, but it’s not just the same without your voice.
In the meantime, I’ll go on listening to podcasts and reruns of highlights on YouTube from past games because after all, you left the basketball world with earfuls of memories. I’ll be waiting for the day that I hear from you again, and I sure as hell know you’re raring to get back out there and give the game we all dearly miss its voice back.