How to Date Someone Who Doesn’t Watch Basketball

You don’t.

Just kidding! It is a well-established fact that I have no right to be a snob about basketball because I used to date a sportswriter back when I knew jack shit about the sport in 2009.

Define jack shit: Our friends would make bets on whether I could name 10 active NBA players. (I could, but it was torture.) Over the course of that relationship, I came to fall in love with basketball, began working as a sports reporter, became a producer at a sports show. I like to think I’ve come a long way—also, we gotta trust that SLAM isn’t hiring dumdums—but I’ve never forgotten that my journey to appreciating basketball is less “since day one” and more “started from the bottom, now we here.”

Now, it’s my turn to date someone who doesn’t follow basketball. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my experiences, it’s that sustaining a relationship isn’t about sharing the exact same interests, but being willing to teach and learn about each other’s passions in equal amounts. You ever see those married couples at UAAP games where one is from Ateneo and the other’s from La Salle? If they can make it, so can we!

1. Start slow.

I’ll go ahead and assume you want to ease them into the basketball world. As tempting as it is to share every bit you know, a wall of stats isn’t the best way to go. It’s much easier to get to know teams based on their storylines—the emotions associated with their success and struggles.

Trivia is always fun, and showing the human side of players is the equivalent of mnemonic tricks for remembering technical terms in school. My trick to introducing him to PBA stars? We watched the 2016 PBA All-Star Dance-Off, the one with Tatlong Bibe, and each time the camera would focus on an awkwardly dancing player, I’d tell him about their roles and their strengths. Even if they remember nothing else, they’ll remember that Joe DeVance is “the big guy from Ginebra who can actually dance…and twerk while doing a headstand.”

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2. Teach them about your favorite team.

Even the closest friends disagree over favorite teams. This will not happen BECAUSE YOU HAVE A BLANK SLATE. Guys, that’s the dream right there. This is extra-fun if you root for a hipster-pick team. Congrats, may kakampi ka na.

3. Play 2K together. (And other pop culture things.)

So maybe they hadn’t followed the basketball scene, but they love playing video games. Maybe you like basketball but are terrible at NBA 2K. You can play together and get better at the same time.

If they’re into podcasts, put together a playlist of episodes that present sports beyond the box scores. The 30 For 30 “Hoodies Up” episode about how Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat planned the hoodie photo after Trayvon Martin’s episode will appeal to anyone who appreciates good storytelling. 99 Percent Invisible’s “The Yin and Yang of Basketball” talks about the development of the sport from a design perspective. Looking for something faster? Put the basketball metaphor love song “Game Winner” by Vulfpeck on during your next drive.

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4. Watch a game.

The fun part of dating is taking someone into your world, and entering into theirs. Foodies will bring you to new restos. Artsy types will invite you to an all-day museum marathon. Music lovers will get you tickets for gigs you hadn’t even heard of. Return the favor and take them to a basketball game. (Need help picking one? Here’s SLAM’s guide to the games to watch for in the ongoing PBA conference.)

Some things to consider when picking tickets: Patron seats get them the best look at the players, which will help put a face to the name and jersey number. But depending on the team, the lower box has a rowdier crowd—it’s my belief that everyone should watch a Ginebra game in the lower box at least once in their lives.

Gen ad? Don’t take them to gen ad.

A lot of basketball fans like to say that liking the sport was in their DNA, that it was there from the start. But if you think about it, that just refers to whether we grew up exposed to the sport or not. Every fan knows the moment they truly fell in love with basketball, whether it’s a basketball camp their parents sent them to as kids, a record-breaking game that gave them their first favorite player, or (as in my own case) hanging out with a bunch of sportswriters as a twenty-year old and simply being infected by their enthusiasm for the game. It could happen when you’re a child, or when you’re grown.

We can’t knock the people we care about for not knowing basketball the way we do. But if you share it with them, with excitement rather than judgment, they just might fall in love with the sport as well—and maybe with you, too.

Photos from USA Today and FIBA.com

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