In 1995 a team wearing purple, black and white uniforms resembling children’s pyjamas was born and the NBA took hold of me. The Toronto Raptors had me at hello I suppose. I read about whom they had selected in the expansion draft and NBA Draft and tried to figure out who these new idols in town were.
I was not an NBA fanatic at that point so I was rather perplexed by the names. It was similar to one of the opening scenes in Major League where the city of Cleveland looks at the upcoming roster of the Indians and collectively scratch their heads, asking “Who the fuck are these guys?” Pinckney, Robertson, Esposito, Massenburg, Anderson, Tabak, etc. I wasn’t really certain that any of them had actually been on NBA rosters before.
Well that was then. A few months later I got the opportunity to finally see them in preseason action and I came to three important conclusions.
1. They were a motley crew of castoffs for reasons of age, injury concerns and police records.
2. They had no hope.
3. I loved them.
My favorite player after one preseason game was a goofy looking guy who could execute more pump fakes on one possession than most teams would use in an entire game. His name was Acie Earl. Was he good? In a word, no, but damn was he ever entertaining. My faith in good ole Acie was rewarded when he even somehow miraculously posted 40 points against the Celtics on the April 12th, 1996. Over the years I have had plenty of these sentimental favorites. They are completely infallible and can do no wrong in my mind.
Some examples include: Carlos “4Renee” Rogers, Donald “The Teacher” Whiteside, John “Big Kitchen” Thomas, Darrick “The Ewok” Martin and Keon “We fuckin lost, OK?” Clark. I cheered for them no matter what their faults were out on the hardwood. If the Raptors came up on the short end of the stick, believe me, it wasn’t their fault. I cast my scorn towards Dee Brown, Doug Christie, TJ Ford and the one who shall not be named.
This season I have decided to choose my hero already. So I’m letting everyone know right now, that no matter how many airballs he chucks and behind-the-back passes he whips into the fifth row, Roko Leni Ukic is bulletproof. The Croatian sensation can be my Roko Ono, he can follow me wherever I go.
NBA Season predictions coming up in a few days.