The NBA Playoffs are in full gear. This is the time everyone calls, “the REAL season.” Rotations are shortened. The game slows down and gets tougher. Players flip a switch and find that extra gear, all for the chance to be the ones to raise the trophy in the end.
The Playoffs are also the time when fans are more engaged. Fans also bring their A-games. Whether it’s through analysis, memes or straight-up fanaticism, there’s always something to see outside the game.
That’s why SLAM PH is telling the stories of several playoff teams through the lens of some of their loyal Filipino fans. Distance, background and nationality don’t matter when it comes to NBA Playoff basketball. These Pinoy fans speak up and give their honest outlook for their respective teams in this year’s Playoffs.
When you tell people you like the Golden State Warriors, people assume one of three things:
– You’re a bandwagon fan who roots for whoever’s strong
– You’re lame because other people are out here suffering with their miserable teams
– You basic, there’s no real drama in supporting a team that good
Max Cruz has this to say to the haters: “It’s not our fault if Golden State wins most of their games!” She’s the kind of Warriors fan who will watch a game wearing a Steph Curry jersey but also wave around a Klay Thompson shirt so that the Splash Bros are equally represented. We became friends at a basketball game where she was working the sidelines a photographer, and it didn’t take long to realize we rooted for the same team in the NBA.
If the point of sport is to push the limits of what a human body can achieve, then what’s wrong with recognizing excellence? And anyway, she still remembers the days when the team had yet to establish themselves.
“I was rooting for the underdog,” Max says, remembering the days heading into the 2014-15 season. “Everyone else was a fan of LeBron. But Steph and Klay got my attention. I loved their connection on and off the court. Klay would steal the ball from the other side pass it to Steph from the corner and bangs a three, buzzer-beaters from Steph, quick release three pointers from Klay…” She could go on and on.
It’s true that these days, a Golden State winning streak no longer surprising and fans don’t worry about making the playoffs. So doesn’t it get boring when you know Warriors will dominate?
“It’s not true that Golden State fans are chill and confident with Golden State winning. Just like what happened on Game 2 against LA, for example, the Dubs fell off short and blew a 31-point lead,” Max says. “Even the ‘best’ fall sometimes and all teams have their weak side.”
And so Max stays glued to the team, as does her family—also Dubs fans through-and-through. Her cousin, Julius Asupardo, chimes in: “[Being dominant is] not an excuse for me to skip any of their games. It is actually better to watch all their games from round one because you can determine the whole characteristic of the team especially on how they adapt inside the court.”
Max has even taken to writing her own game recaps this season. They’re not on any blog and she doesn’t write them for anyone else to read. They’re just there so she can compile her observations and keep track of her team’s progress.
“As a Golden State fan, it’s exciting now with LeBron being out of the picture,” Max says. “Because for the past seasons it always felt like it was LeBron against the Dubs, so this time it will be different.” Even if we assume the Dubs go all the way to the Finals, they’ll be defending their throne against a different team.
New years bring new challenges too. One thing Max has been puzzling about this season is how DeMarcus Cousins will fit into the team. “[Even before he was injured], to be honest I couldn’t feel Cousins being with the Dubs yet. Or maybe he’s still adjusting with the new team?” she wonders.
The worry is still there, just on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s not underdog trying to climb the hill; it’s top dog trying to protect its spot. Upsets are upsets because you don’t see it coming. The thrill for Dubs fans like Max and Julius (and, well, me) is the question of constant improvement. How do you keep it going? How long can you stay on top?
Because of that mentality, the Dubs’ continued success doesn’t dim her celebrations either. If they win it all this year again, Max will celebrate as she always does: “I’ll go out, buy Golden State stuff or treat my friends are also Warriors fans,” she laughs.
“You can do your own thing, go speak for yourself,” says Max. “Our team will keep on balling and getting trophies.”
Photos from the author and Getty Images