All aboard...

I grew up playing basketball. Everyone in my family did, to a point. My Uncle even played and coached in the NBA. Up until last year. I grew up on Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Isiah Thomas. Those guys. I was alive and old enough to remember the Dream Team. That was the brand of NBA I liked. Sure there were superstars, but people were fans of the teams first and foremost.

Fast forward 20 years and it’s allllll about the superstars. And, at this point, it’s pretty much an NBA thing, because I don’t see what irks me going on in baseball or football.

People can like whomever they want, but I respect those who are fans a team through its failures, its history, and its success far more than these new-age fans who really only care about the stats of their superstar and whichever team they happy to play for at the moment. Case in point, Miami Heat fans, Oklahoma City Thunder fans, and earlier this year, Los Angeles Clippers fans. I’ve really never seen anything like it, and hope other sports fans are able to keep their integrity a little better.

When Peyton Manning announced he was signing with the Denver Broncos, there weren’t a ton of Indianapolis Colts fans saying “Oh shit! I’m #TeamBroncos now!”, were there? No. Most of the ones I came across on Twitter stated that they’d always be fans of his, wished him well, and continued to pledge their allegiance to the Colts. I love and respect that.

Remember when Cam Newton came out of Auburn? He’s as big a football superstar the sports seen in a while, regardless of the NCAA investigation drama that followed him. Are there a ton of Carolina Panther fans running around now? No! People do tune in to see him ball out (myself included), but they don’t claim a new team just because they really like him. Bravo, football fans.

Similarly, when Albert Pujols left the St. Louis Cardinals to sign with the Los Angeles Angels, there wasn’t this mass exodus of Card fans, declaring their allegiance to the Angels. (No, I will never refer to them as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.)

On the flip side, professional basketball is so individually impacted by its superstars, that when a roster change occurs, “fans” attach themselves to the stars first and don’t bother to really ride or die for that team. So, after an NBA trade or free agent signing, the aftermath is a ton of bandwagon fans.

They know what their favorite player averages on a per game basis. They know how many awards he’s earned. And they regularly address their favorite player’s “haters”. You rarely, if ever, hear them talk about who was on the roster before their fave got there, let alone acknowledge that there’s an entire bench worth of players. They don’t know what the team’s record was before. Any of the team’s history, or anything about the actual fanbase that was there before. Why? Because they don’t care. That’s not their concern. And if you ask them any of those questions, they’ll likely hit up Google and try to front like they know. My hate of what’s become of fans of professional basketball that has definitely contributed to my current lack of love for the sport.

But that’s only for the professional game. Sure there are bandwagons at the college level. That’s how the superstar worship stars, to be quite honest, but people still rep their favorite teams before and after a superstar comes through the program. Paying attention to and being impressed by a burgeoning star, is not the same as “adopting” his college team and subsequent NBA teams just because you really like him. And that’s what bandwagon fans don’t understand.

Don’t try to explain it to them, though. They’ll feed you a bunch of bull that only makes sense in their heads because that’s the only way they know how to be a fan. And for that, I truly feel sorry for them. Yes, it sucks when your team is awful. No one enjoys that. But then, when they slowly get better, and finally are really good you can bask in the moment because you lived through the tough times. It’s so gratifying; like you’re being rewarded for your loyalty! But bandwagon fans only like who’s hot, so if a team is losing, they’re probably going to find another star to worship and hop on that train.

And do you know who hates the bandwagoners more than me? The fans who were there before whatever personnel moves were made. The real fans. You know, the ones who repped that team through thick and thin, no matter what. They loathe bandwagoners claiming their team because they know these new fans don’t care about the team. They only care about their hero. And if/when said hero leaves, they’ll leave too.

NBA bandwagoners are not fans of any team. They’re fans of a superstar, but won’t admit it. If they’d just go ahead and state the obvious, I’m sure they’d get less shit from sports fans, in general. No, it wouldn’t let them off the hook all-together (bandwagoners will be cracked on until the end of time), but at least they’d get some reprieve.

And don’t even get me started on when this particular breed of NBA fans get into football. You can probably guess that they bring that same superstar/bandwagon mentality to the NFL and which team they decide to be a fan of “for right now”.

But I haven’t stated why they ruined the NBA for me. I’m extremely active on social media and follow a lot of sports fans because I, myself, am a huge sports fan. These in-denial bandwagoners never quit. They talk about their star all the time and defend every thing they do as if they’re on the payroll. There’s never any criticism or blame placed on the star. It’s always someone else on the team messing things up. And they’re the first to tear into or mock other fans/teams/stars within the sport, then out of the other side of their mouth, complain about “haters” and why people won’t let things go.

They are hypocritical and annoying. I made a Twitter list of people who don’t talk about the NBA and hang out there during big games. And it just makes me not even want to keep up with or follow the sport anymore. I don’t want to talk to, interact with, or read the stupid crap these fake fans have to say. So there’s that.

But first and foremost, basketball is a team sport, but you wouldn’t know that by what’s going on these days. I think that’s what irks me more than anything else. The sport and its fans cater so much to superstars that the team aspect of it is deteriorating. Big market GMs want to get their hands on a superstar or two, then surround them with a bunch of interchangeable “Titos” and hope for the best. The superstars, most of whom didn’t go to college, are now deciding that they want to choose where they go and who they play with. (News flash, fellas. That’s what college is for! Maybe you should have gone and/or stayed longer!) Then, if a team or its management doesn’t bend over backwards to make their plans come to fruition, they become extremely dramatic or just downright difficult. Real diva shit! (e.g. Demanding trades to specific teams, making demands for who team should have coach, or bring in as a teammate). It’s just awful and I don’t want to deal with it anymore. So, I won’t.

I kept up-to-date with the NBA mostly because that was a part of my Uncle’s world. He was on the coaching staff of the Lakers. But the Lakers weren’t my team. I don’t have a team. I also don’t claim a superstar. I enjoy the sport more than you know, but it’s deteriorating. And if the NBA doesn’t do something soon, there will be 5 teams ; located only in major US markets…

I miss the old days. Can we bring the 90s NBA — and those little shorts — back?

Note: Shoutout to anyone who actually read all of this. This was a rant that’s been built up over the past few years and just exploded now, as the Miami Heat look to win Lebron James his first championship. Go figure.