(Ed. - from the FanPosts)
I used to like basketball.
I had a Jordan jersey. I had the obligatory driveway-hoop. I went to games, stuffed my face, lost my voice, and slept in the car on the way home. I tried to play. Basically, I was a kid in the 90s, and my heroes were the Goliaths of the hardwood. I never truly thought I'd ever be one of them, but I knew I'd always love watching them.
And then I didn't like basketball. All of the sudden, I hated it.
A lot happened in 2002. Things in the league changed, things in my life changed, and things in the city changed.
Most importantly, Charlotte lost something we loved. There is nothing written that accurately describes the love our city had for the Charlotte Hornets. I say love, because that's what it was. We weren't passionate about our team the way they were in Portland. We weren't impressed by our team the way they were in Chicago. We weren't in sync with our team the way they were in New York. We were in love with them. Nothing they did could make us turn away. We were so proud to have them in our city and to wear our name.
Enough has been said about what transpired next. George Shinn is a horrible person. He did horrible things to a few individuals, and when the city didn't back him up, he cut and ran. When you lose something you love, its hard to let that love go. And once it's finally sunk in, sometimes, you just have to look the other way for a while. Find something to distract you while you heal from the pain.
And wouldn't you know it, 312 days after the New Orleans Hornets played their first basketball game, Charlotte met a different team. At halftime on September 7, 2003, Jake Delhomme entered the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He took Charlotte sports fans on a ride we've never been on before- one which but for a John Kasay kickoff would have ended in our city's first championship. By February 1 2004, we were in love again. The Carolina Panthers captivated our hearts and minds and our city truly gave itself over. Alright, we're yours now, we seemed to say. Take good care of us.
142 days after that Super Bowl, the Charlotte Bobcats held their expansion draft. I didn't watch. I didn't care.
I had moved on. Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith, and the Carolina Panthers were way more interesting then a group of throwaway players, playing in a new stadium, with a new name, purporting to be my team. This was Charlotte basketball, but it wasn't the way Charlotte basketball was supposed to be. I checked out, said my good byes, and became the biggest NBA hater you've ever seen.
Until last year.
The Decision was the single most compelling off-the-field moment in sports history. Upon hearing LeBron announcing his move to Miami, I immediately knew that I needed to watch this season. I started checking in on scores, on players, on teams. I wanted to know Cleveland's reaction to his return. I wanted to see how he'd comport himself against Kobe. I was intrigued. I slowly uncovered the 2010-2011 season and in doing so rediscovered my love of the game. The Heat were drama I couldn't miss, and something I wanted to be a part of. I was in the camp of LeBron haters, but that didn't mean I didn't want to see if they could put it all together and become something transcendent. After all, isn't that what I missed about the NBA of my youth?
I found my way to Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, and, of course, Blake Griffin. And I couldn't get enough of it. Blake's dunk over Mozgof is one of the greatest I have ever seen. I've watched it 200 times, at least. I compare things to it in my life, I reenact it in 2K12, I force my friends and brother to watch it with me.
As the season went on, I found my way to Rufus on Fire. i had, up to that point, intentionally been avoiding any real contact with the Bobcats. They were still an intrusion to me; like my parents bought me a new puppy after the old one ran away. It was nice, I appreciated the gesture, but looking at it only made me miss my old one that much more.
I read the FanPosts. I followed Ben's twitter. I watched some clips from the 2010 playoff series. Slowly but surely, I was learning about the team. Not in any sort of emotionally attached way; out of curiosity, mostly. What was it like to be a Charlotte basketball fan now?
On Dec. 31, 2010 I went to a Bobcats game for the first time. Charlotte was taking on the Golden State Warriors who, led by Stephen Curry, were determined not to allow the Bobcats to win three consecutive games. The game proved to be a close one, coming down to the last seconds of play. Stephen Jackson got the inbound, dribbled around for 10 seconds, then put up a desperation three- despite the Bobcats only being down by 1. The air in the stadium let out. Everyone shrugged and left. I was stunned. I couldn't get out of my seat. How could he have missed the shot? Hell, how could he have even taken the shot. Why not pass to Augustin and let him take it? Why not drive to the basket and punch Ellis like he was a Pistons fan? Why take a three? It stuck with me. I thought about it all night. I still think about it today. Jackson said it was supposed to be a designed play for D.J. that never materialized, but that's not what it looked like to me. With my eyes. As I left, I wanted to know everything, and more then that I wanted to see the team win in person.
I went to 5 games last season: Warriors, Hornets, Heat, Clippers, and what turned out to be my favorite, the Blazers. The Blazers game was the only one in which the Bobcats were victorious. It was Gerald Wallace's homecoming.
I won't say I've fallen in love again. I don't know this team well enough, I haven't been through what you all have been through. I was only beginning to get to know Gerald Wallace before he was gone. In short- I'm new here. But I'm damn excited for what is going to be my first full season following this team. We're going to be awful. Its going to be fast paced. But it certainly won't be as bad to watch as the season which began exactly 10 years ago, when we watched our loved one die a slow death.
I'm thrilled the lockout is over. I'm excited about Kemba, Biyombo, Henderson, and Tyrus. I believe in Michael Jordan and the incomparable Mr. Cho. For the first time in a very long time, I'm cannot wait for the start of the NBA season. I'm a Charlotte Bobcats fan now. Its time for me to move on. And, honestly, Christmas can't come soon enough.