Let me just be clear, I am a non-consensual basketball watcher. In fact, I’m not really a fan of team sports at all. My only involvement with basketball in high school was the time I was convinced to sign up as manager, and that was only so that I could go on awesome trips with my much more sporty friends, not out of any interest for the game.
Despite my aversion to team sports I somehow ended up with a guy who loves basketball. I’m pretty sure he hid this fact from me until I was in too deep to run away. In fact, when we first met I thought he was this smart, intense, skinny nerd… which was mostly true. What I didn’t know was that he was sick at the time, so later, after we had been dating a little while (and my mom had been feeding him extensively), he started getting back into sports and putting on a lot more muscle. So what’s a girl to do? In the end, I sacrificially chose to continue loving him in spite of his newly toned body.
Anyways, since we have been married I’ve somehow ended up watching a lot more basketball. I think part of this is because we are both students and we spend a fair bit of time doing this:
It’s not uncommon for me to get bored of whatever homework I am working on and look over at John’s computer only to discover he has something basketball-related playing in the corner of the screen while he works. My intense need to procrastinate has also led me to unplug his headphones so that I can listen in. Between watching over his shoulder to procrastinate, and having him watch 30 for 30 documentaries while he makes weekend breakfasts, I’ve started to realize that the NBA is actually… well… kinda cool.
The first time this occurred to me was while watching the 30 for 30 Documentary on Magic Johnson and Larry Bird . Even as a non-sporty person I found the documentary interesting because of the way it explores the socio-historical context, especially the racial tension that threatened the continuation of the NBA before the rivalry between the two players made it popular again. It was also fascinating to get a glimpse into the way relationships are built in the NBA, and how many of them are sustained for years afterwards. There’s also something really appealing about watching a bunch of massive guys sit down and giggle like little kids over the memories they’ve made together. The Magic and Bird documentary also explores Johnson’s experience of coming out as HIV positive, a decision that led to his position as an advocate for the HIV community even today.
After discovering his condition Magic immediately retired from basketball. He admits in the video above that he had a hard time even finding a friend to play him one-on-one during this period, probably out of a fear that HIV would be transmitted through the physical contact. Yet, about a year after his retirement the NBA welcomed him back for the 1992 NBA All-Star game in spite of a fair amount of controversy and resistance.
Magic Johnson isn’t the only major advocate for a suppressed group who continued to play in the NBA after their experience became public. This past year Jason Collins came out as gay, making him “the first male athlete who actively plays in a major American professional sports league to come out as gay.” Meanwhile Dwayne Wade and LeBron James have been using their fame to set an example as fathers, encouraging other men to “step up” to their role as dads.
It’s not just the guys in the NBA who have become more aware of the image they are promoting; the NBA has also been consciously working on its public image. While the introduction of the “no tolerance rule” in the NBA has caused a lot of controversy, veteran players like Larry Bird insist that tightening up on technical fouls has helped to make the NBA a safer, more professional game. The strict administration on technical fouls has helped to cut down on trash talk and harassment on the court and was probably done with the intention of setting a better example for young players.
As a woman, what makes me excited about the NBA is the WNBA. It’s exciting to see a women’s league that actually does decently, especially considering there is no women’s branch in the NHL and, while I found several different women’s leagues for football, the main one that show up when I started searching was, of course, the lingerie league.
I don’t want to get into the many things about the Lingerie League that really irk me, but I will at least compare the pay those girls receive, which is nothing, to the pay the women in the WNBA receive. While the WNBA salaries still don’t compare to the millions of dollars guys in the NBA can make, it’s nice to know these women can actually make a living doing what they love, unlike the lingerie ladies who risk their careers to play football for free.
Speaking of the millions made by players in the NBA, you’ve probably heard a lot about NBA players blowing their income. Now I wouldn’t say that this stereotype is entirely untrue, but it may not be as common as the public tends to think. The NBA also includes money management programs in their transition programs specifically to prevent this problem from happening.
So there’s my little look at the NBA. Even as someone who is not a sports fan I’ve learned to appreciate the players and the association they’re a part of in their attempt to be a positive example for their fans. Good job, guys.