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High Stakes and High Hopes

Why we, as fans, keep coming back.


This year marks my third foray into the world of NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. I look forward to it all year for many reasons, but last night I was trying to put my finger on the main one. The driving force that keeps me trekking back to Sin City over and over again. There are specific reasons I love this so much, namely the fact that I met my boyfriend here last year, and forged incredible friendships with my fellow basketball nerds. But I think the reason we all drop hundreds of dollars on airfare and overpriced drinks each summer is because of what Summer League represents as a whole: Hope.

Hope of discovering new talent. Hope of watching someone blossom before our eyes. The hope of an unexpected contract, or a hyped player living up to expectations. The hope in these buildings is damn near palpable, oozing from the pores of players and fans alike.

In the three consecutive years I've been here (the lockout summer notwithstanding), I've watched something pretty incredible happen. The stands have filled. That sounds cheesy, and it probably is, but it means that people are paying attention more than ever. UNLV has two basketball courts that hold games simultaneously. Their main arena, the Thomas & Mack center, and the smaller, more intimate Cox Pavilion, which is more on par with a high school basketball gym. The big arena never fills entirely, but each year it's gotten fuller.

Cox Pavillion, which is where I'm sitting as I write this, is nearly filled to capacity. Both the stands and the media seating. People are wearing their team colors, kids are running around getting basketballs signed, players are sitting watching their team's futures duke it out, and some DJ is playing a really weird combination of rap music and Maroon 5. Despite the playlist, fans are genuinely interested, and players are genuinely playing.

There's no showboating, no half-assed street ball. These are young men putting everything they have on the line for the chance to play NBA basketball. It may not be pretty or well-executed basketball, but it's earnest. Other writers have joked that "it's just summer league" and that nothing really counts, but the fact of the matter is that it counts for these players. This is the only chance some of them will ever really get.

It's that hope that keeps summer league interesting. It's the hope that keeps me coming back, and it's the same hope that we, as fans, have for our teams. Summer League coincides with free agency, which makes it feel like the Spring of the NBA season. New beginnings. New life. The promise of something better. The Mavericks may not be hitting it out of the park this off-season, or any off-season really, but somehow, for some reason, we all keep hoping.

The other day, andytobo posted a *gasp* optimistic piece about Dallas, which was in stark contrast with much of the content we've been putting up as of late. As the managing editor of this site, allow me to personally apologize to those of you who found our content wanting. I know that many of us use this site as a place to vent our frustrations, and we're happy to provide that service. But we also have a responsibility to foster your fanhood, to keep you informed and excited about this team. Otherwise why would you ever come back?

You come back to this site and to this team for the same reason I come back to Summer League every year. Hell, for the same reason anyone comes to Las Vegas, ever. Hope.

Hope can be a dangerous thing, but sports would be a pretty boring place without it, don't you think?