Put On For Your City

My whole perspective on the lockout, and the NBA in general, changed today when my friend asked, “Will anyone really care about Kobe’s Denver Citibank Armadillos vs. Lebron’s Akron MetLife Wildcats?” He was referencing Amar’e Stoudemire’s recent suggestion of the players creating their own league with its own season. “No,” I responded, “No one would.” Up until this summer, I always thought the players were the only focus in the NBA. Now, I am realizing the heart of the league lies much deeper.

It dawned on me that real fans, like myself, yearn for the league and the game, not necessarily the stars. Throughout the summer we have all watched or heard of Durant, LeBron, ‘Melo, Wade, and others hoop it up across the country. For an hour or two, these games provide entertainment and discussion, but they are simply a façade of the real deal.  I get the feeling stars think all we want is to see them put on a show – throw down uncontested dunks on one end while playing matador D’ on the other.

Truth is, I don’t have nearly the same attachment to Melo as he shoots in a Miami exhibition as I do when he is wearing a New York jersey shooting against the 76’ers. I don’t check Amare’s stats when he is playing for “Wade’s” team, but after any Knicks game, I scour the box score for hours.  During the lockout, I have become detached from the players and more attached to my team – the Knicks.

Real fans don’t invest their love in the players so much as the city and the franchise. This is why Amare’s proposal of a player-run league does not excite me. Sure, it would be fun, in a way. But, if the stars think we are content with just seeing them in any uniform, they are sorely mistaken.  There are those out there who would LOVE Stoudemire’s idea.  Unfortunately, many of them are similar to the guy sitting next to me at the home opener last year. He wore an Anthony jersey, was decked in Knicks gear from head to toe, but shouted several times “who is number 23?!?”

Real fans love getting behind their team and representing them as best they can. The perfect example is the hatred towards LeBron by Knicks fans (again, including me) just moments after the “decision.” In the days, months, and years leading up to this, we were begging him to come to New York. We didn’t actually care about LeBron – we cared about the Knicks regaining power in the East.

The All-Stars have it wrong.  We are here to watch our team as a whole, from the end of the bench to the starters.  I will have more respect for Carmelo, or any player on the Knicks,  if he fights to bring basketball back to NY, rather than put up 45 against LeBron in an exhibition. We don’t want you to set up charity games. We want you to show the same desperation and urgency that Knicks fans have in starting the regular season. NBA players should stop worrying about playing overseas and, instead, fight for their team back in this country. At the end of the day, we all just want to see our team play and represent our city, no matter what shape or form.  The NBA is not only about the players, and they will be the last ones to realize.