(Often at this stage I am left to lament some amazing performance that I have missed. Not this week! Just the opposite. Man United had its worst home lost in over 65 years, going down 6-1 to Man City, their derby rival, and I ‘missed’ an ‘enthralling’ Rugby World Cup Final between France and New Zealand; with an amazing final score of 8-7. What excitement… All in all, a great week to be away from sport.
And by the way – New Zealanders – there is no point in ‘rubbing it in’ to Victorians, South and West Australians or Taswegians; sure we’d prefer it if Australia won, but know this one thing, these are AFL States.)
A group of the elite NBA players may be coming to Australia next month.
If so, they will play in Melbourne.
To cut a very long story short, the current pay negotiations between the NBA players and management makes the AFL ‘dispute’ look like two old people motioning for the other to go through the door first. If you want an in-depth take on it, click here for a link by the best sports writer on the planet. It has resulted in a ‘lockout’ – players can have no contact with their teams, nor can they use the team facilities until a collective bargaining agreement is agreed upon. The season is already cut short and may be cancelled altogether.
[For the record, I take no joy in this. Sure I’d miss most of the season, regardless of what happens, but I do not begrudge those people and my friends for whom the NBA season is an entertaining and beloved part of November to June. And yes, the season is that long!]
So they’ll play here…
In order to stay in game shape, and of course earn a couple of dollars, a group of NBA stars have come together to play exhibition games overseas. It looks like there will be two games in Melbourne! Good Lord…
Believe me, if this happens, it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I have seen the Lakers play live in LA during the Kobe and Shaq era, and it was phenomenal. Seeing their skills, speed and size in person in a meaningful contest was like nothing else.
Like many, I was also lucky enough to see the build up game to the 2000 Olympics, when the USA with Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett and Vince Carter (watch the dunk, I beg of you…) destroyed Australia in a warm up game on their way to gold in Sydney.
And now, Lebron James could be in my city. Sure he’s a tool, but he’s also an athletic freak and the one player I would travel across the world to see play in person. The best player in the world today. Add to that Dwyane Wade, the NBA’s current MVP Derrick Rose, Chris Paul + Kobe Bryant again and you have an irrepressible lineup. The fact that Kobe, the ‘Black Mamba’ would be involved, as well as Lebron, gives credence to the possibility that the games will be taken somewhat seriously.
And look, I get it, as a basketball fan, that these games will be nowhere near the intensity of a meaningful regular season or playoff game. There will probably be next to no defence played and it could be a glorified in-game dunk contest.
I don’t care!
One of my biggest regrets was that I never got to see Michael Jordan play in person. He started winning titles when I was 15 and stopped when I was 22. Not a regular international traveller then, it never crossed my mind to get over there. I made up for it by getting to LA to see my Lakers; Kobe and Shaq. But to not see Lebron when he’s on my doorstep – it is the ultimate test to this year without sport.
Two contrasting themes keep coming into my head – sacrifice and ‘don’t be stupid!’ This year was always going to be hard but some of the actual sacrifices have been far greater than what I anticipated. That said, another part of me can’t help but hear the inner voice, saying ‘It’s a once in a lifetime event. You would be mad to miss it on a technicality.’
Until the tour becomes official and tickets go on sale, I honestly am not sure which way I lean.
This demonstrates to me that, 5 months in, my mind is still sports-centred; no pun intended. While I have tried to immerse myself in other agendas, I am yet to truly withdraw. I may never actually do so. Every moment of the next 7 months will be needed, if not more, to be truly freed from the gravitational pull that is the world of sport.
All this could simply be a tactic by the players to show the NBA that they’re willing to ‘wait out’ management and are in this for the long haul – ‘Look, we’re prepared to go to freaking Puerto Rico and Aus-tralia to play ball; we’re not caving to your demands’. It would not surprise me one bit.
In so many ways, I hope that’s what it is, because this would be the hardest integrity test of this year yet; dwarfing the AFL Grand Final.
I hope the decision is made for me.