August 18, 2015

How to choose a favourite NBA team: An infallible guide for the Indian fan

This article was first published in my column for Ekalavyas on August 4, 2015. Click here to read the original post.

Photo Courtesy: Ekalavyas

Hey you! Yes, you, my faithful reader. My companion through words and internet clicks. I’m addressing you all. All of you, drop what you’re doing (unless it’s a basketball, in which case, drop it and dribble it back up) and listen.

We know that – even as Indians – we are all different. We speak dozens – if not hundreds – of different languages. We argue over Amir, Shah Rukh, or Salman. We throw leg spins and off spins. Some prefer Gulab Jamuns to Rasgullas. Among us our Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, atheists, and those who only believe in the Holy Church of Michael Jordan. We travel by planes, sleeper trains, auto-rickshaws, and bail gadis. Some of us love Butter Chicken, some love Mutton Sukka, and many will politely ask you to refrain the meat in favour of the humble daal and subzi, thank you very much.

And yet, if you’re here, then we all have one thing in common, and that is the game of basketball.

A little over a month ago, Satnam Singh became the first Indian citizen to be drafted into the NBA. Satnam’s draft rights have gone to the Dallas Mavericks, one of the 30 franchises in the world’s most exciting and talented basketball league. Back home in India, the NBA has seen an unbelievable rise in e-commerce sales over the last year, and the number keeps rising. With more games than ever on TV, more followers from India on the league’s social media accounts, and more direct interaction between the NBA and Indian fans, we Indians have become one of target market for the NBA’s future.

But, as you already know, my dear reader, we Indians – even among NBA fans – are not all alike. And therefore, our NBA fandom will be as different as night and day or Gulab Jamuns and Rasgullas, too.

In North America, choosing NBA fandom is relatively simpler. If you’re from a city or live in a city that has a pro basketball team, you usually pick that team. If you live near a city that has a pro basketball team and have access to their arena, you usually pick that team. If the star of your college or from your state plays for an NBA team, maybe you divert your fandom towards that team. Or sometimes, like everywhere else in the world, you pick your team simply by following your favourite player.

But what about basketball fans internationally? And specifically, fans in India? Until Satnam Singh actually makes his debut in a Dallas Mavericks jersey – which is a possibility but far from a guarantee – what team should we pick as our favourite? Fans in India are over 10,000 kilometers on the other side of the world to New York, Los Angeles, San Antonio, or Miami. For most of us, the home city a player plays for hardly matters: we can only relate with what happens inside an NBA arena, and nothing else.

Established fans are already steadfast about their choices. India has a large number of Lakers fans (mostly from the Kobe/Shaq and the continuing Kobe era), Bulls fans (because everyone loves Lord Jordan, and the D-Rose era has been nice too), Celtics fans (to balance out the Lakers, and the recent Big Three era), Spurs fans (all they do is win) and fans of whatever LeBron does. With the average Indian NBA fan getting more immersed in the league as ever, fans of the Thunder, Clippers, and of course, the reigning champion Warriors have emerged. And then there are fans like me who love the Knicks and inexplicably decide that self-flagellation is truly the quickest way to basketball nirvana.

But I’m talking to you, undecided, or new NBA fan in India. Let’s find you an NBA team that fits your exact life configuration. Consider this a of basketball match-making; we’ll find you a team that fits your kundli and personality perfectly. Some of the explanations may be confusing, but I implore you, dear reader, to have faith and just go with it.

Are you big city kid who likes success as much as you like dramatic soap operas? Would you watch basketball if Abhishek Bachchan and other celebrities watched it, too? You my friend, sound like an ideal Los Angeles Lakers fan. Good or bad, this bandwagon is never boring.

Are you similar to the person above, but instead have watched flop movies most of your life, and suddenly, those flops have a bigger budget and are doing better than the previous Bollywood stars? Do you like Gurgaon? Your team is the Los Angeles Clippers. Enjoy the hype and suffer the curse.

Do you hate everything about Bollywood and showbiz? Are you a grown adult who had 90 percent of his best experiences in college, and still can’t help but remind everyone about it? You need to start following the Boston Celtics, the antitheses to the showbiz Lakers but equally as successful. The only problem: most of their success came decades ago.

Do you like Goa, hanging out at the beach, and finding parties? Are you feeling hot all the time? Are you only considering to adopt an NBA team when they’re popular, and are happy partying with your friends in ignorance when they’re not? Consider the Miami Heat.  

Do you really, really love EsselWorld, even as an adult, and even if most of your experiences there were horrible experiences? It’s time you picked the team in America’s amusement park capital, the Orlando Magic. The ride will be mostly forgettable and puke-y, but every once in a while, the roller-coaster will go really high (Shaq, Dwight).

Were you the quiet guy in class who didn’t speak to anyone, came 1st every year, got into a good college, came 1st again, did some amazing and wonderful things, and still didn’t speak to anyone? Did you grew up somewhere like Dehradun, Allahabad, or Visakhapatnam? You sound like a San Antonio Spurs fan. Words are overrated, anyways. Go out and win.

Are you just like the person above, except you’re just not good enough? Are you adept at doing a good job at work without attracting too much attention to yourself? Maybe you should settle for the Atlanta Hawks

You buy Tata Sky. It works extremely well for a few days, but then it breaks down, and the mechanics can’t fix it. You switch to AirTel, Hathway, DEN, and everything else, and the same happens, so much so that you now expect every good cable service to eventually fail you. Did you have a chance to switch to the greatest and most reliable cable service of All Time but instead settled for Sam Bowie? Hi there, Portland Trail Blazers fan.

For years, you have stood out from the rest of your gang as being the tough guy, the guy who doesn’t complain about his conditions and doesn’t believe in getting too fancy. You travel by Sleeper or General class on the train and actually like being stuck in traffic jams. Unfortunately, Detroit Pistons fan, your latest traffic jam doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.

Are you a math wizard? Do you apply advanced concepts of calculus to everything from designing new computer hardware to sharing the payment for a plate of samosas with your friends? Despite your intellectual advantages, do you flop and complain to get your way done? Let me introduce you to Moreyball, James Harden, and the Houston Rockets

Every day, you are wearing a suit and riding the Mumbai Local with a newspaper in your hand. You criticize every news item you read on the way. Every day, the train breaks down, you get late for work, and you spill a cup of chai all over your suit. You are angry at yourself, but for some reason, you convince yourself and everyone around you that the next day will be better. It never is. Join the New York Knicks.

You are from a small town and have gone tired of the limited opportunities. But suddenly, over the past few years, a number of good-looking girls (or boys, if that is your preference) move into your town. The nearest CafĂ© Coffee Day is buzzing. It’s a good time to become a Milwaukee Bucks fan.

If you are the same as above, except that the new attractive people in your town are supermodels and all of them have unibrows. New Orleans Pelicans. Those CCDs are about to get insane.

You are the nicest guy whose favourite novel is Chetan Bhagat’s “Half Girlfriend” because you can totally relate to being in a friend-zone relationship. You still haven’t asked that girl out; the flirting has gone pretty well, and although you get angry and emotional every once in a while, you are mostly harmless to her. The Toronto Raptors will suit you really well.

Your girlfriend was nice to you, but she’s been wanting to leave for a better guy for years. Finally, you stop resisting, but instead of spending your single-hood in depression, you find the company of younger, more interesting girls. Life still isn’t any better, but it’s looking up. Pick the Minnesota Timberwolves.  

You are from a small city, and the most beautiful girl in the city was your girlfriend. She even went on to become Miss India. Unfortunately, she was unhappy with you and left you to hang out with the guy who parties in Goa a lot. You hated her for four years, but after partying a lot with other famous friends, she decided to come back to you, and you have accepted her with open arms. Things are going pretty well for now (until she leaves you again). Look up the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Instead of buying a great new car, do you like to upgrade your old car with expensive old pieces that don’t fit together very well? Does your car look good but give really bad mileage? You may be able to relate to the plight of Brooklyn Nets fans right now.

You probably live in a hill-station like Shimla, Mussoorie, or Nainital. You love to go on treks, and whenever your friends visit, they have a hard time breathing. Have all your hometown friends with potential left for opportunities to other cities? It’s only right that you pick the Denver Nuggets.

You are from a hill-station, too, and once upon a time, it was popular for having the best hotels and boarding schools in the country. But hardly anyone visits anymore, dear Utah Jazz fan. That Eiffel Tower replica looks nice on Mall Road, though.

Once, you were one of the healthiest and most active people in your friends circle. But you ate a suspect-looking plate of Chhola-Batura off the street and now you’re really sick. For the last three years, you keep eating that same Chhola-Batura and you haven’t stopped puking. Welcome to the world of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Whenever you read the Mahabharata, you can’t help but imagine how great it would’ve been if Arjun and Karan were on the same side instead of fighting each other. Imagine how unstoppable they would be? Of course, the coach (Krishna) will probably need to figure out a way to make sure there were enough arrows in the quiver for both of them. Try Durant and Westbrook in the Oklahoma City Thunder.

You love Sachin Tendulkar so much that you support every team he ever played for domestically (Mumbai, Mumbai Indians) and worship him internationally for Team India. Life without Sachin was tough for you, but his successors could give you similar joys if they stopped getting hurt so much. Since you love the best ever, you’ll probably like Michael Jordan, too. And you’ll love the team he was forever associated with: the Chicago Bulls

Sachin Tendulkar decided to run your family business, and it’s not going well. Charlotte Hornets.

You are a man’s man. You subscribe to Maxim, FHM, and Men’s World magazines, ride around a bullet, and haven’t shaved your beard for years. Your favourite ‘Jungle Book’ character is Baloo the Bhalu. Nothing but the Memphis Grizzlies will suffice.

You go into theatre to watch the newest star-studded film, but just before the final act, there is a power cut and you miss the ending. For some reason, his keeps happening to you over and over again. You enjoy the comedic beginnings, romantic moments, and the item numbers, but the last action scene and conclusion remains elusive. These days, those power cuts are happening before intermission. Join the Phoenix Suns.

Although you love your ghar ka khana – your mom’s simple home-cooked meals – sometimes to strive for something more exciting. Unfortunately, the last time you came close to a fancy restaurant, there was a brawl. You returned to your daal back home. Try the Indiana Pacers.

Have you had the best year ever? Did you get a promotion at work, buy a new car, finish every level of Angry Birds, and got more Facebook ‘likes’ on your profile pic than ever before? Good for you. Now stop being smug and start supporting the Golden State Warriors.

You are from New Delhi and probably spend your days driving around India Gate, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, and the Red Fort. When you go back home, however, you end up fighting for a parking spot with that annoying uncle who keeps puncturing people’s tires. Welcome to the Washington Wizards fan club.

You travel to exotic corners of the world, have access to interesting culinary delights, and you only crave Indian food, no matter how bad it is, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, after all. You like eating at these bad Indian restaurants with one good dish. Join the Sacramento Kings. Hopefully, Indian owner Vivek Ranadive, Indo-Canadian player Sim Bhullar, and DeMarcus Cousins can add some masala to those flavourless dishes soon.

Are you the type of Indian who doesn’t like to see other Indian be successful? Then bugger off. To everyone else, there are the Dallas Mavericks. Sure, they feature an All Time legend (Dirk Nowitzki) and won a championship just four years ago. But the real reason for you to pay attention is that this is the team that drafted the first Indian to the NBA, Satnam Singh. Get ready to wear your tiranga flag and stand up and sing the Jana-Gana-Mana… with the Mavericks. Unless Satnam doesn’t ever make the team, in which case, you have 29 other teams to choose from!

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