The thing about covering the NBA that’s hard to explain is that the way you root for teams and players changes. At least, it did for me. As the regular season approaches, I’ve been thinking about how different my approach to the league is today to my first few games I covered with a media credential. It’s been a fun journey thus far.

Growing up in Nova Scotia, I didn’t have a team. People usually think I grew up a Raptors fan, but that’s not true. I fell for the game because of the Lakers and really, really fell into I’m-going-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-with-you-or-at-least-writing-about-you love in 1996, with the draft class that’s still dazzling us today (what’s up, Kob’). I’d been a purple and gold girl for as long as I could remember and I swore that wouldn’t change.

It has.

Everyone told me that writing about the game, being in the locker room, sitting on press row and needing things to go a certain way for the story you had in mind would change the nature of your fanhood. I didn’t believe them, but now I’m proof. Instead of living and dying by the Lakers box scores and postgame interviews, I’m hoping for another player to score a career-high, for rookies to get triple-doubles, for history to be made and records to be broken, regardless of who is or isn’t playing. A lot of writers tell me this is because I just want a good story to tell, a reason for more eyes to look at my writing, but I’m not entirely sold on that.

Sure, I’m all for increasing exposure of my work and gaining new readers, but I think the reason things have changed for me is just because I’m able to watch the game up close and see the best in the business doing what they do each night. Covering the game, especially covering a team every day, you are able to relate to players in a way that isn’t possible when you’re watching through your television screen. You learn about their families, see children and cousins and friends, hear stories of athletes being normal people doing normal people things, and these superstars become humanized. That humanity makes their incredible feats accomplished within those 94 feet even more remarkable

It also makes it impossible — at least, in my eyes — to root for only one team or player. There’s just too much to love about this game, and I’m glad that witnessing it up close has enabled me to appreciate all of it.

I’ve attended just one game solely as an NBA fan, a game where the Lakers lost to the Raptors by four. I went with a friend who was among the Raptor faithful, but I was one of those annoying fans who sported a Lakers jersey in Toronto. I was the kind of fan that Chris Bosh chastised last season. While I was on cloud nine during the experience, I truly believed Kobe Bryant would hit a game winner. He had to. It was my first game. My only NBA game live. It could have been my only opportunity to see him play in person.

That was what prompted the trip in the first place. I was working at the campus gym in the summer going into my senior year of university and it hit me: Kobe wasn’t getting any younger. What if I didn’t get to see my favorite player play live? The NBA schedule was searched on Google, I called my mother at 7am on a Saturday (yeah … I spent my weekends as a university student working the morning shifts at the gym. Baller, right?) and put the plan in motion. The trip to Toronto to watch Kobe and the Lakers was a graduation gift of sorts and it will forever remain one of the best memories of my life. Regardless, while my friend and the rest of the Air Canada Centre crowd celebrated in victory after the game’s final buzzer, I was crushed. Crushed until later that night, when I cried my eyes out in happiness over finally seeing a real, live NBA game. Yes, basketball makes me cry.

A year later, I was still living in Nova Scotia, but somehow managed to convince SLAM Magazine to allow me to be their intern. I was working on a project involving Lakers’ rookie Javaris Crittenton so I was flying to Toronto to cover the Lakers/Raptors game. In reality, I could have just called Javaris, but, shoot, another opportunity to see the best in the game and the chance to cover the team as media? Yeah, you wouldn’t have passed that up, either. Just getting to the game was a challenge. There was a ridiculous snow storm, almost every flight was canceled, but luckily, thankfully, mine was still a go.

Sometime during the two hours and change to Toronto, the Lakers made their move, sending Crittenton and Kwame Brown to the Memphis Grizzlies for Pau Gasol. I get off the plane and my phone goes nuts with texts from anywhere and everywhere telling me the news. So, I’m sitting in the Toronto Airport wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do when my story — and only real reason for flying to Toronto — was just traded to Memphis. This will always serve as my first memory of wishing I could change the outcome of something about the league for the benefit of my own work. It didn’t matter that the Lakers just became significantly better, my story was dead.

The rest of that game was a blur. I thanked my lucky stars more times than I can remember when I was standing in the visiting locker room, after a game that the Lakers won easily, thanks to Kobe’s 46-point, seven-rebound, five-assist performance. I didn’t have a Crittenton story, but I did have a convo with Kobe about the acquisition of Gasol and that worked out just fine.

Two years later, as a member of the media covering the Raptors on the regular, the Lakers are back in town. Kobe’s coming off of a 61-point performance where he was doin’ work against the Knicks at the Garden and this time he’s got Gasol helping him down the Raptors. He didn’t need 46 points this time around, but still finished with 36 points, nine rebounds and five assists as Gasol added 31 points and 15 boards to give the Lakers the victory. This time, I was feeling bad for the Raptors, the team I had grown fond of after seeing the guys day-in and day-out, at games, for shootarounds, and in practice. That might have been the start of the realization that I was detaching. I was appreciative of the performances I had just witnessed more than anything else.

Three years later … damn, that feels crazy writing that. This past January, I was covering the game at the Air Canada Centre. The Lakers lose to the Raptors by one as Kobe Bryant misses a game winner after a whole season of hitting them. I was … elated.  Elated that the Raptors fans in attendance were so loud and so into the game that it was difficult to concentrate. That night wasn’t about teams winning or losing for me. It was just thankfulness that I was able to be a part of it.

Less than a month later, I was in Los Angeles on the first vacation I’ve ever taken in my life, somehow sitting in third-row seats at Staples Center, given to me by an incredibly generous friend I couldn’t imagine claiming after growing up loving the Lakers franchise. Eddie Murphy was sitting in front of me. I had what I think may have been the best seats in the house, excluding Jack Nicholson’s courtsiders. I was living and crossing off an item from my bucket list. In that game, the Raptors fell to the Lakers as Kobe Bryant hit the game winner I had anticipated three years earlier. Yup. Full circle. It was the opposite ending to the game in Toronto just a few weeks earlier but same result for me. I was elated. And thankful.

I took a trip to Toronto because of a fear that I wouldn’t see who I consider the greatest player in the game in his prime. Four years later, I’ve seen him a handful of times. I’ve seen LeBron and Dwyane and Dwight and Rajon and the rest of this league’s brightest and best. Throw in the rookies, undrafted guys, then the vets hanging onto their dreams for a few more years and you’ve got it all. How can you have a loyalty to one franchise when you’re got so many great players and coaches and stories to watch unfold in front of you?

If that was confusing for you to follow — I know, I know a lot of flip-flopping Raptors/Lakers talk — the point is, not only do my loyalties no longer lie with a particular franchise, it flips for whatever the greater story seems to be. I think that is what’s supposed to happen when you do this job. Maybe I’m not supposed to be as much of a fan as I am, but that is the one non-negotiable for me. I will not pretend I don’t love every second of this gig or that watching the greatest players in the world doing what they do up close is anything less than a dream. It’s awesome. It’s fun. It’s everything I ever wanted and I feel thankful to everyone who has given me the opportunity to do this.

When some of you cringe because I’m all over the place with my loyalties just know that my loyalty lies with the game. Players come, players go, players thrill and disappoint, but the game? The game is always there.

Comments (40)

  1. Awesome… I have no other words… so beautiful…

  2. That came out weirder than I wanted it to…

  3. Great article.. Would be my dream to cover a NBA team and congrats to you on your success…But from the outside looking in it seems that you are a huge OKC fan (based on twitter) and you root for them you think you could write about them and specifically KD objectively?

  4. Objectivity sucks.

  5. Thanks, @Jaceman. I’ll take that the not creepy way :)
    @Michael – I absolutely love the make up of the Thunder and it’s pretty damn hard not to love Kevin Durant. That being said, if I was covering them every day, yeah, it would be a little bit different. When you’re covering a team, you write what’s happening. If Durant is killing it, you write that. If he’s working hard, you write that, too. On those days when he isn’t, or when the team is under-performing, there’s your story. Really, I root strongly for underdogs, hardworkers and what will make the best story for everyone watching. I can’t really think of a better underdog story from last season than the OKC/LA playoff series. There, if anyone needed proof that my Laker fandom has changed, look at that series. I was pulling for a Game 7 and a huge upset. Crazy, right?

  6. Thanks for the response.. and good answer :)

  7. Yup, great article.

  8. Excellent post.

    Also, TBJ has quickly become the best NBA blog on the scene. You’re basically the Miami Heat of NBA blogs. There are some other contenders, but you guys are a newly-formed super-group that’s going to smoke everyone. EXCEPT you guys have a deeper bench.

  9. @Amin: Thanks. I see myself as the Udonis Haslem of the team.

  10. This sucked. Lets be honest. You don’t deserve the job you have, or to write on the team you write on. You have no team, and you have no loyalties because you don’t breathe the game.

    I LOVE movies….what’s your favorite? Oh, I like all of them. That’s bogus, and almost all of your readers know it.

    I sure do.

  11. That was a really great heartfelt article. Although I will be a dedicated Lakers fan forever, I still love the game of basketball as a whole and I love watching great games, great performances and rookies entering the league and watching how they handle themselves. Though I’m probably a bit more biased towards teams and players than you, I agree that basketball is and always will be the greatest sport ever =)

  12. i find myself thinking along the same lines more and more too. this is especially true during the playoffs where sometimes i am hoping that the lakers lose a game or two just so i can see a longer series between two teams, i know i did this in the finals with the celtics. i hate when the lakers blow a team out because that robs any of the excitement away from watching the game, i’d actually like to see them lose a close and exciting game than to win big sometimes. only SOMETIMES haha…

  13. @Dale: Usually, people who cover a sport professionally are not supposed to have a rooting interest for a particular team because it can negatively affect their ability to be objective. It’s not fair to compare this job to that of a movie critic because they are expected to identify movies they like and don’t like as part of their job. I suspect it would be frowned upon for an NBA commentator to say “I like this team and hate this team” when they’re supposed to be covering those teams objectively. Obviously you see it differently, but that’s probably part of the reason Holly gets paid to do this while you presumably do not.

  14. @Dale
    6/10. Decent try but too forceful to really be believable.

  15. You’re basically living the dream many of us want to live! I discovered you recently in the scene of online NBA blogs and I have to say I’m enjoying your writing and you seem such a down to Earth person. Keep it up.
    P.S.: what’s your opinion of the Nuggets?

  16. @scott: Then I assume you have a massive tattoo of Nunavut on your back.

  17. @brey @Amin Thanks, guys. Glad you’re liking the new site design. Trey’s been killing it by day and the Jones boys, well, we already know the Magic they create.

    @dale: the only thing bogus about this post was the comment you left on it. Sorry to say, but my readers do know I breathe this game. If they thought otherwise they wouldn’t be reading.

    @Kevin @Ill: I think it’s amazing to be a fan of a franchise, especially when it’s a team you grew up watching or rooting for, I just hope that any fan of the game can enjoy and appreciate ALL of the talent that’s in the league. We’re pretty lucky.

    @Andrei: Thanks for reading! Glad you’re enjoying. As for the Nuggets… I think you’ve got the best trainer in the league, hands down! Steve Hess is amazing. Haha, Alright, I’m just on my way out the door to go to the arena, but I promise to come back and comment on your Nuggets!

  18. Hmm. Guess I’m not logged in for that last comment to get highlighted. That was me, promise!

  19. Great piece Holly!!
    you really summed it all up- players come and go, but the game remains the same. brilliant!

  20. I wish I could do this for a living. What’s your take on all these ex-coaches and players becoming commentators? I mean, sure they know the game, but are they really THAT objective? Does it really matter if they are? I frankly enjoy the open honesty of what I’ll call “professional” fans. That’s why each team has beat writers right?

    (Personally, I want more Spurs coverage beyond the Matt Bonner obsession Tas and Skeets have)

  21. Awesome piece. As a Knicks fan growing up, I can’t help but empathize with the feel-good stories of the NBA. Stories about hard-workers, the underdogs, etc…

    @Dale So you would prefer to read pieces that are infected with homerism? I already get enough of that from the game announcers and the local paper. I would rather read an unbiased piece than one by Chris Sheridan. And that’s coming from a Knicks fan.

  22. Wow Holly, great article – brought a tear to my eye reading it! I love how much you love the game – it’s very refreshing. I always look forward to your articles. Have to agree with Amin – this has become one of the best blogs out there. Congrats to all of you.

  23. @Dale
    Jealousy is a biatch!

    who are you to judge what someone deserves or doesnt?
    we all reap what we sow mate. which is why shes covering the NBA and your posting hateful nonsense in her comments. pure jealousy.

    if your good at anything these days, its easy to get out there with all the social media and options that people didnt have years ago. anyone can do anything, as long as your talented enough, youll get known. so instead of hating on people for doing what they do, why dont you just go and do your own thing your way?
    hating is the perfered option for untalented assholes though. put up or shut up.

    I grew up going for players, then when I moved to canada I started following the raptors as my first team. so every game the raps play I HOPE they win, but I enjoy the games and the rest of the league playing each other just as much. if a player destorys toronto or doesnt something amazing to win the game, Im not going to hate them forever. Ill appreciate the play for what it was, and think “Next time, we`ll get you!”

    but thats just me.

  24. @ Amin,

    I sort of see Scott Carefoot as the Juwan Howard of TBJ. He’s like the steadying veteran presence.
    Holly is like the Mike Miller, the oddly soul-filled white kid from rural East Jesus Nowhere. Also, she owns a monkey, a parrot, two great danes, and a shark named Charles.

    Actually, maybe Carefoot is the Joel Anthony, since they’re both large, black, French Canadians. And because Carefoot cock blocks like Joel blocks shots.

  25. “Wow, nice shot Kobe.”
    “High Five!”

  26. Great article Holly. I like pretty much all sports. And like you, I love cheering for the underdog or the great stories that develop in sporting events. I was watching the Winnipeg Blue Bombers/B.C. Lions game on the weekend. I’m an Argos fan and have no vested interest in either team. But by the end of Winnipeg’s comeback win I was cheering as hard as any lifelong Blue Bomber fan. Sometimes it’s more fun watching sports when you don’t have a stake in it. Again, great read.

  27. I don’t write about the NBA and I basically feel the same way. I do have an affinity toward certain teams and players, but I’m not a devout fan of any team in particular. Part of that might be because there isn’t and NBA club in my home town, but I think it’s mostly because I am just a fan of the game and enjoy watching good teams play. I too love a good underdog story as well.

    By favouring one team over the rest you miss out on the excitement of games your team isn’t playing or doesn’t have a vested interest in. As a fan, why limit yourself like that? So I perfectly understand your sentiments and anyone that can’t understand why is probably less fan and more zealot.

  28. Great work! I really enjoyed this piece. That last sentence was beautiful.

    TBJ is by far the best place to read anything basketball.

  29. Great piece, and one I can relate to – one of the only benefits of being a basketball fan in the UK is that without natural ties to any city or team in the league, we can just sit back and enjoy the NBA for what it is. I love reading about the rookies and the underdogs – that Lebron guy, he’s pretty good, we all know that – personally I get a kick out of knowing Roy Hibbert went to an Eagles concert the other night. Or on the court, how Ed Davis is doing. I’m an NBA nerd, I was up til 2am this morning watching a preseason game just to see if Pops Mensah Bonsu would get any burn (he did, but after I fell asleep) and it’d great to have so much to read everyday from people who I know feel the same way. It’s inspired me to start my own blog and hey even if only my friends read it, i feel like I’m learning about the game from the process. Is it the season yet?! Hurry up!

  30. Oh, what if I told you I do make a living writing and writing about sports, Scott Carefoot? What would your argument be then?

    And you’re right, Bill Simmons doesn’t root for a team…

    Beat writers don’t cover specific teams…

    Great point, Scott Carefoot.

    Here’s the thing, and what offended me about this 10th grade writing: You romanticize your job. You make it out to be this incredibly noble thing. “How amazing. Did you guys read how that lady likes basketball instead of one team?” So heartfelt. Please, regale me with your stories about how you came to be a blogger…”

    The problem with this article, and your sophomoric response is, you guys think you’re important. None of you are Bob Woodward. You’re a bunch of 20/30somethings who BLOG about basketball. I read better writers in the NY Post.

    Best thing about the Internet? Everyone’s got an opinion. Worst thing about the Internet? Everyone’s got an opinion.

    You and Holly seem to think yours are great. Different. Substantial.

    First rule of when posting on the Internet, Scott Carefoot…don’t try and argue with the commenters. Makes you look like an amateur hack. You’ll never win. It’s my opinion vs. yours, and I can write all the swear words and insults I can come up with. You’ve probably got rules you must abide by. I can start swinging chairs in this motherf’er.

    So tell me, how can I get paid 25K to write for a top 55,000 website in the world? I’m just DYING to do it.

  31. I simply can’t wait for Scott Carefoot to tell me how much they actually make. Hit me, Scott Carefoot.

  32. Can I write an article for you guys about why I like to eat hot dogs at basketball games? They’re so delicious.

    Here’s how it goes.

    I grew up in Michigan, but I didn’t really like hot dogs back then. I got an internship at a hot dog company, and now I love hot dogs.

    See guys? Eating hot dogs is so beautiful. It’s important. You guys love my stories.

  33. C’mon, Scott. Give in. Give in to your dark side. I know someone at that company must have taught you kids to not argue with commenters, but you just couldn’t help yourself.

    You had to do it.

    You had this zinger about “she makes money, you don’t” without knowing anything about my situation.

    You engaged with the great masked men on your website’s comment section.

    I know you have it in you, Scott Carefoot. Strike me down. Come back at me. Give in to your dark side.

  34. 3:16P

    Nothing from Scott Carefoot yet.

    Can’t wait though.

    Holly took the high road. She just thinks I’m an a***ole, and wishes I was dead, but doesn’t need to write about it. Good for you Holly. Makes me like you more. You’re a professional.

    But not, Scott Carefoot. Scott wanted to mix it up. Scott wanted to defend his female counterpart.

    How sexist of you Scott Carefoot. She can take care of herself. She doesn’t need some two-bit blogging hack to come and defend her writing with empty insults based in nothing.

    I’ll be so disappointed if I don’t get a response Scott Carefoot.

  35. [...] Kings on Oct 14, 2010 Because covering the league screws up all of your loyalties — in a good way — when it comes to rooting for a team, I’ve been toying with who my teams are going to [...]

  36. @Dale

    This is how you get a job writing mate.

    1#- write something you think is good.

    2# put it up as a blog.

    3# see if anyone else thinks your writing is good enough to follow.

    when you have enough followers, the right people will know who you are, and how well you write and will offer you a job.

    its that simple.

    instead of wasting your time trying to get an angry response from scott- which as you know you wont get, due to professionalism and rules, just like you said- why dont you just start writing and make a name for yourself as a writer. if thats what you want to do.

    no amount of hate and trying to bait them into writing back to you is going to work- theyll just ignore you- because people have better things to do than argue online with people.

    just take your anger and use it to work hard at something you actually like doing to bring yourself up. instead of trying to bring other people down.

    if you think your above these people and better at the job, start writing and prove it to yourself. everyone started at the bottom and worked there way up. so start working mate and youll show everyone how good you are.
    unless your a hack, and are so hacky, all you really want to do if try piss on people who are doing something you cannot do.

    I guess time will tell.

  37. lol. This guy is a tool looking to stir up some attention for himself. Don’t reward him by giving it to him.

  38. Yeah, don’t reward me, Scott Carefoot.

  39. NOTHING FROM SCOTT CAREFOOT? I’m so disappointed. Maybe he shut his mouth because I’m right, and responding to commenters is for kids and dumb bloggers.

    It’s alright Scott. I’ve made people who earn way more than 25K look stupid.

  40. I appreciate the passion you have for something and It’s amazing that you are doing it for a living!

    well done!

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