A northern guide to becoming a really big NBA fan

Olympic.ca is currently featuring a series exploring sports fans.

Hello great white north, you’re in luck. Sure, hockey has been back a few weeks, like a dependable friend who brings you chili. And the NFL is a wondrous circus of freakish athletes.

But what about basketball?

For a long time NBA fans had the misfortune of being the dude at the bar who ends boisterous hockey chatter with, “Yeah, and I think the Lakers are going to kill it this season.” Silence. What? Where does Steve Nash play again? Is it Dallas or Phoenix?

Steve Nash

Out for the season, two-time MVP Steve Nash may have played his last pro basketball.

Today the basketball fan isn’t your distant cousin talking about a sport you hardly know. The basketball fan is young, passionate and relevant. Someone you want to be right?

Well Canada, you have every reason to get excited about hoops. There are 13 Canadians on opening day rosters, more than any other country not called the U-S-A. And these are good ball players: starters and future all-stars.

Toronto-born Kelly Olynyk has game to go with that flowing hair. He averaged 20-mins a game as a rookie for the Celtics last season.

Toronto-born Kelly Olynyk has game to go with that flowing hair. He averaged 20-mins a game as a rookie for the Celtics last season.

Makes you dream about the Olympics doesn’t it? Miracle on Court 2020? Forget it, that’s six years away. What else? Hiking Machu Picchu, seeing your kids as happy successes, finally baking the perfect chocolate chip cookies? These are all worthy dreams (mmm cookies) but let’s focus on what you can accomplish today: becoming a real NBA fan.

Choose a team

This is trickier than you think. Up here in Canada it’s very unlikely you’re ever going to rock a basketball jersey during the season. I mean, how would you do that? Unless you go long sleeve under jersey, beneath your winter coat. Either way, that’s dicey style territory. Instead, consider a team based on colours instead of jersey design or logo. After all, you’ll probably be wearing a sweater or a scarf. Make sure it’s a colour you can be passionate about.
Additional consideration I: The last thing you’d want is to be a Leafs fan watching your Bulls and be mistaken for wearing Habs colours. Right?
Additional consideration II: You may want to choose a team that plays in your time zone more often. Ask any Clippers fan who lives on the eastern seaboard: a 10 pm tip-off hurts the sleep game.
Additional consideration III: The Toronto Raptors.
Additional consideration IV: Canadian boys.
Additional consideration V: It’s cool to cheer for a really fringe team like the Milwaukee Bucks. Ever met a Charlotte Hornets fan? It could be you.

snow basketballLearn the stats the way you like your coffee

Basketball is a starters game. With more scores and fewer players (comparative to other sports) coming off the bench, there are five major stats measured as an average per game. Points, self-explanatory. Assists = only one of those in basketball. Steals and blocks are really dramatic, and are exactly how they sound. Rebounds are when a player gets the ball after a missed shot. Bonus: Field goal percentage is how many two or three-point shots were made versus those attempted, basically anything except free throws.

In Canada you can watch for the Timmy’s specials. A double-double is a dairy-packed sugar coffee and when your favourite player registers double digits in two out of the five major stats. A triple double is three of the five, or at Tim Horton’s a really poor health choice.

Now retired Jason Kidd had over 100 triple doubles in his NBA career.

Now retired Jason Kidd had over 100 triple doubles in his NBA career.

How to politely ask for basketball

Don’t you love when you peer through frosty windows at a bar and can see the antics of professional athletes dancing on countless big screens? Not a bad place for an after-work unwind. If you’re a Canadian basketball fan on a night when the local NHL team is playing, you’ve wandered into delicate territory.

  1. The first thing to do is find your allies. The serving staff or bartender usually control the televisions, and are your gate-keepers of the hard court.
  2. Your seating choice is key. Look for other basketball fans, even rival ones as there is strength in numbers. Also, spot the groups not glued to the puck, those who won’t care if the TV in their vicinity suddenly starts playing the Nets and Celtics game.
  3. Ask for both a drink and food menu, your server is going to be way nicer to you if you get at least the nachos to go with your pints.
  4. Finally, politely ask to flip games during a commercial break. Fool proof!

If you give this an honest effort, by next spring you’ll be the cool NBA fan among your friends. Imagine yourself in Boston Celtics’ green, shouting “And one!!!” with delight at the TV screen, high-fiving fellow fans in between time-outs, all while nourishing on potato skins and a pitcher of beer that was on the house for your regular patronage. That’s the dream my sports fan friends. And it all starts tonight.