I love basketball! I think about the game, the NBA with a passion that approaches other things that I love in life. My life would be less colorful without my daily morning watching of the live NBA games companion and highlights. India just wouldn’t be the same if I couldn’t bring my love, through coaching, to the many Indian children that I’ve met during my travels and through my weekly Saturday night sojourns to the YMCA-New Delhi and playing at the American Embassy School.
Basketball is about my Lakers who I’ve loved, due to my father, ever since growing up in Los Angeles. They were the team that always came in second during the 1960’s when nobody could defeat the Celtics, they were the team that won 33 in a row with Wilt, Baylor, West, and Goodrich and finally broke through to win a championship. The 80’s were ruled by the Lakers with Magic, Worthy and Kareem and like many others I was heartbroken over Magic’s announcement of having to retire due to HIV. The 90’s mediocrity due to the dominance of the Bulls, led to a rebuilding for the new century with Kobe, Shaq, Fisher and now Pau, Ron-Ron, Brown and Lamar.
I love to think about the players and the player movements: Lebron and Bosh to Miami resulting in the the abysmal performance of the Cavaliers and Raptors; that Lakers-Cleveland game is fresh in my mind; Allan, Garnett and now Shaq teaming up with Pierce in Boston; the emergence of Rondo as a great point-guard; San Antonio’s revival thanks to their big three Duncan, Parker and Ginobili; the up- start Thunder with Westbrook and Durant; the Magic coming alive once again by getting back Turkoglu and trading for Richardson and Arenas; Amare’s proof that he is one of the greats through the turn- around season for the Knicks; the consistency of the Hawks and the Jazz who will never be quite good enough to win it all; the young Chicago Bulls; seemingly one or two players away from being the best; the fading Dallas Mavericks without Nowitzki; Kevin Love of the Timberwolves and his dominance on the boards; the potential re-emergence of the Nets with Anthony, Billups, Hamilton and two former Lakers Farmar and Vujacic; all of these examples showing that the game can change at any time. Last year the Nets were the worst team in the game and in 2011-12, they will be in the playoffs. I know that Steve Nash, one of the greatest point guards ever, is slowing down, but he is still a magician with the basketball.
I also have been blessed by having been able to see so many of the greats and not so greats, including players from the ABA. The list goes on and the thoughts and possibilities are endless.
I love to coach basketball, to bring the game to Indian children so willing to learn and whenever I see a basketball court, which is quite frequently, I try to do this. This is about capacity building, becoming fundamentally sound, to really enjoy the game, something that I also do in my job for NGOs throughout India. There is so much, incredible potential in India for making basketball the number one game, especially with the great collaborative work that the NBA is doing through its India Director of Operations, Troy Justice. Although, due to work, I missed the great excitement of meeting Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, and the championship trophy, I know that these two professionals brought their love of the game to share with the future of this great nation. (I hope that I have another chance of seeing and touching the championship trophy which will mean that the Lakers are 3-Peaters). I follow all of the happenings and discoveries of potential Indian professional players and the various Mahindra leagues on Facebook.
But basketball is more than a game as it requires, as does life, being part of a team, sharing experiences, joy, sorrow, anger, tears with others, communication, tolerance, discipline and being in good health and eating right. Basketball is a chosen life-style by those who proactively choose to truly take part. Like life, basketball has its ups and downs. The Lakers went through a horrible stretch this season when nothing was clicking followed by internal/external bickering. But now they are back in form and have won seven in a row. I’ve gone through many ups and downs in life, the things that we all go through, because we are human beings. We have all been gifted with different skills and as in basketball it is about what we do with those skills and talents that makes life worth living.
I’m not sure which sport I would truly love if there was no basketball. I do like baseball and American football, but somehow they just don’t measure up to the excitement of life brought about by basketball. One day, as my body ages, I may have to retire from playing. I will continue though to live life as being part of basketball, eating well, exercising, living in community, coaching, etc. Maybe, I’ll turn to that sport that many people retire to, golf, but I cannot imagine playing golf after a life of basketball. Most likely, however, I will continue to live basketball until I take my last breath, until I’m again on the court in a younger person’s body. My love for the game will never cease.