Those Twirling, Swirling, Terrific NBA Players.

I have never been a big team-sports fan. I enjoyed playing AND watching tennis, water-skiing and surfing. Then I married an addicted sports fan nut. Fortunately he was at sea a lot but when he was home, the TV was tuned into sports shows almost continually, especially grid-iron.

He was my second husband, an American. The first one was an Aussie and he played rugby league. Rugby League and Rugby Union are played slavishly in Australia and my first husband was not only a fan, but a player (5/8th position, for those who care.) I lost count of the times I dragged him off to the hospital – usually with a broken nose. Unlike the USA where footballers are padded and helmeted, Aussies play almost naked and the injuries they sustain makes me wonder if they are all nut cases to begin with. But that’s the way it is in Australia – a man has to prove he’s a man, even if it means brain damage.

In my third life – the one in the USA, I did my best to ignore the TV sports shows, just the same as my husband ignored me whenever he had his nose stuck in the sports page of the newspaper. That was until one night when he asked me to meet him in downtown Seattle for dinner. I waited in the designated Sports Bar and he was late. The place was kinda deserted and the TV was switched to a game of basketball. Despite myself, I began to watch – and watch – and watch. By the time my husband arrived, I barely acknowledged his presence. How those hulking men could spin, and leap, and dart, and weave, and twirl. They left me breathless. As a former dancer I had always admired terrific body movement and these big men were as agile and graceful as any dancer I had ever seen. I was hooked – and how! Dinner was late that night. I could not be moved until the game had finished.

I remember it was the Seattle Sonics playing against the Portland Trailblazers. The Seattle Sonics won and Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf had unknowingly found an ardent new fan.

At first my husband was pleased with my new-found sports interest. He took me and the kids to a match at The Key Arena but he seemed less than amused by all my boisterous screaming.

Those basketball players, stars, received gigantic salaries so the cost of game tickets was pretty steep for a large family. The sad thing was, when our Seattle Sonics played a home game, the game was blocked out on TV for a distance of 20 miles (I think it was 20), thus forcing us to keep Key Arena always packed. I overcame this obstacle by finding several sports bars outside Tacoma and convincing my husband we must bundle up the kids so we could travel to watch every game. We could not take the kids into the drinking area but there was always seating for a food area where we could sit and watch. This worked well except my husband continued to be annoyed when in wild exuberance I leaped up, yelling and slapping those strangers nearest me across the back every time a Sonic shot a three.

“Think of your reputation,” he would say. (I owned Diamond Lil’s, a large shop/tea room in Seattle and was well known) “Think of the children.”

His admonishments were to no avail. Once all that court activity started, I was lost – whooping, jumping, yahoo-ing. So much for decorum.

I had my favorites and also a couple I disliked immensely. I thought Dennis Rodmann , that inked up, metal studded, spit dribbler who played for the Chicago Bulls – that great team, for God’s sake, was an utter and total jerk…which he lately proved in North Korea, embracing that short, pudgy ‘leader’.  I saw him again recently when he performed on the TV series, intervention. Ugh!!!

Charles Barkley (The Phoenix Suns) was another I had no time for. A great player but arrogant and contemptuous. During a game we watched him spit on fans who had paid big money for front row seats.

By that time Michael Jordan was in his last season. I loved Mike. I also loved Karl Malone of another great team – the Utah Jazz. But then, along came my favorite sports hero of all time.  David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs. What a big and handsome man he was. And what a good man. Unlike Barkley, I never saw him play dirty. He played center and he became the team Captain. Besotted by him I read everything I could about his background. As a young man he had won a scholarship to the prestigious Naval Academy in Annapolis (I visited there). Spotted by some professional Scouts, he was offered a great salary to leave the Academy before his commitment was up. He refused, citing the academy for giving him his first break.

“Come see me again when my time here is finished.” he told them, like the honorable, decent man he was and is.

Well I moved to Australia and boy, how I miss the NBA. There are other good basketball teams in the world but for me, there will only ever be the NBA.

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