When I first started watching basketball, circa 2002 I had no favorite team. I did however have favorite players: Tracy McGrady and Dirk Nowitzki. Naturally I followed the Magic and the Mavericks for the next couple of years. Many times I listened to my Dad say "You can't have 2 favorites, you gotta choose one and ride with them!" So I began trying to decide which path to follow. I began leaning towards Dirk mostly due to my body type and playing style. I wasn't very strong or athletic but I had heart and I could see the passion Dirk had inside of him as well. Nonetheless, I was still on the fence. Until that one fateful day that shaped my NBA fandom for life:
It was decided, I'm riding with Dirk. Win or lose, I was sticking with him. The ensuing years were very up and down. Full of great moments and terrible ones. Riddled with lines such as "choker", "soft" among other things. Lets face it, being African American with a nonathletic German guy as your favorite player isn't easy growing up! But it made our bond even stronger. I wanted so badly for him to succeed and shut everyone up.
Here's the kicker. I live in Oakland, California.... Suffice it to say 2 little words ruined an entire year of my life: WE BELIEVE. For some reason nothing could go right that series, Dirk couldn't buy a bucket and really there wasn't much else that could be counted on. I attended game 3 in Oakland hoping we could regain control of the series, but as you all know we ended up losing that game. In blowout fashion I might add. The Dirk haters were on full blast, try as I might, there was really nothing I could say to shut them up. Although I'd like to point out that Dirk's father was undergoing major surgery in Germany during that series (how could that not bum you out).
Lets see so we lost in the finals in which Dirk missed a huge free throw (the choker lines) then we got beat by a less talented group of small thugs (the soft lines) and yet, I still couldn't detach myself from this tall uncoordinated German guy. I won't bother describing the other playoff defeats because they could stink in comparison to this. Written by the incomparable andytobo. But I can assure you, I was there, for every aching bit of it. EVERY SECOND! To prove it, during that New Orleans series which we lost in 5 games I remember having to go out to my grandmother's birthday dinner that night. Although we were losing I couldn't turn off the game until I was certain it was over. The Hornets were only up by 3 and if we could get a stop we could have had a chance to tie with a few seconds left.... We got the stop! All that needed to happen was to secure the defensive rebound, but of course, we couldn't. The ball was tapped back to Chris Paul at half court by none other than Tyson Chandler. It's little things like this that haunted me until 2011 that is.
Dirk's legacy is set, and the monkey is off the back of all Dirk fans everywhere. But we can't get complacent. I think we all need one or two more rides. I say this, get Dirk into the playoffs and anything is possible. Screw tanking seasons for draft picks. I'm a fan, a fan roots for their team until it is mathematically impossible for them to win it all. And even then, we continue to cheer and hope for success. It's our duty as fans. If the Warriors could sneak into the playoffs and knock off a team with one of the best record in NBA history, the I KNOW my team led by one of the greatest Power Forwards in NBA history can do it. Whose with me? As Ian Mahinmi would say "LETSSS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"!