The Aussie NBA fan community has always been a little ethereal in it’s existence. This is partly due to the NBA taking a massive popularity hit about ten years ago, and partly due to the fact the sport is played on the other side of the world. If you follow the NBA from Downunder the chances are you’ve never seen more than 20 NBA fans in the same room (the exception probably being your local basketball stadium, but you get my point). Today, Aussie NBA fans, though sparse they may be, collectively share their thoughts and show their support mainly in the world of cyberspace; forums, message boards, blogs, tweets and whatever else kids do on the Internet these days. But it wasn’t always like that.
Fifteen years ago, before Google and Gmail, when AltaVista was cool and most people still used Netscape Navigator, Aussie NBA fans didn’t exist in cyberspace. But you still knew exactly where to find them. They were in the Basketball Card Trader shops littered around the suburbs, arguing about the price of Grant Hill rookie cards, Beckett magazine in hand. They were at basketball camps and weekend school games, wearing their Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors gear. They were at NBL games, cheering on their home-grown heroes while of course flipping through their NBA Upper Decks and Fleers during the time-outs and halftime breaks. They were in TimeZone queuing up to play NBA Jam, playing non-stop until you ran out of $1 coins – at which point maybe a Grant Hill rookie card sale might not be such a bad idea? They were everywhere. Or at least it felt that way, compared to now.
There is no doubt things are changing. The NBA is back on free-to-air, back where it belongs. We have one high-quality player in the league, perhaps soon to be two, which would be more than we could ever seriously boast at any point during the nineties. We can get our hands on NBA gear easier than ever before – Kickz101 do a great job in Melbourne, the official NBA store now ships to Australia (it didn’t many years ago) and NBA shoes and jerseys are starting to pop up in more and more sports shops around the country. We even have our own NBA blog! Yes that is us, but seriously, the thought of an “Australian NBA Blog” would have seemed a little crazy and pointless a few years ago. Not so now.
One of, if not the reason I started this blog was for Australian fans to be able to follow the NBA without necessarily feeling like they were on the wrong side of the world. To put an Aussie slant on the way the stories of the game are told. To bring Australian NBA fans – wherever you are – closer together. Why? Because I’m damn passionate about the game of basketball, I love the NBA, I love talking about it and hearing what others have to say – and I know there are thousands of other Aussies just like me. A few weeks ago I was talking to the owner of another NBA blog about the highs and lows of running your own blog site, and the labor of love that leaves you with three hours sleep because you were up all night “working” on your “other job”. We were talking about site traffic, and he said the search for more hits was a never ending quest: “you can always reach more people than you think you need to… you can never put a cap on it”, he said. Except I disagree. If a link to this blog found its way to every NBA fan in Australia, my work would be done. I would put a cap on it. But then again, Aussie NBA fans are being born every day… so maybe he was right?
One of the things I’d love to know – and one of the reasons I decided to write this post – is where are Aussie NBA fans today? And I’ll limit this question to “where in cyberspace” at the moment, without running into the risk of stalking infringements. Going back four or five years, the Kickz101 TrashTalk Forums were buzzing with discussion, and while the Forums are still very active today across all kinds of topics, the NBA discussion has died down a bit. I know BigFooty also has some NBA forums that appear pretty active, and Hoops SA has a good rep too. But I’m curious. Which forums do Aussie NBA fans frequently use? (sorry non-Australians, don’t mean to be selective here… well, actually yes I do). I’d like to know what they all are so I can post them up here and spread the word (it doesn’t matter if they’re not explicitly “Australian” forums, I still want to know). You can post a comment with your feedback, and be completely honest as to what you consider great/good/average forums. We don’t need to protect anyone’s reputation here.
There is something else I wanted to say, and I’m looking squarely at YOU my fellow nineties-loving Aussie NBA fans. Every Australian NBA fan in his twenties or thirties, who witnessed first hand the glorious rise and then crushing fall of the NBA as a kid in the nineties, has a massive responsibility. You may not know it, but you do.
You see, what every sport needs to be truly pervasive in society is not just the young screaming fans that wear the jerseys and play the games, but the wise old fans who are happy to sit back and ponder and tell stories of games past. It’s that balance that sustains and enriches a sporting community. It’s probably the reason you follow the AFL team you do – because your dad did, and because his dad probably did too. It’s the old man on the train who tells you about Jezza’s mark in 1970, not the one you’ve seen on TV and on YouTube, but the one he saw in front of him, on the wing of the MCG.
The NBA is missing that in this country, and contrary to what you might think, it’s not because it is an American sport. There are fans and historians of all kinds of international sports that roam Australia, talking about Pele in World Cup’s of old, Jack Nicklaus in his golfing prime, Ali and Liston and Frazier in the 70′s, and Babe Ruth and the Yankees. I’ve heard countless people from the generation above me talk fondly about these sorts of sporting memories, but I never once heard any of them tell me about Bill Russell, or Oscar Robertson, or Kareem, or James Worthy. That is because the sport was never loved here, and there isn’t anyone to tell the stories of past generations.
Until now. You, my fellow NBA brethren, have that responsibility. The responsibility to tell your kids about basketball when it was loved in this country. To tell them about Dikembe upsetting the Sonics, about Christian Laettner making the Dream Team, about Zo and The Glove and Run TMC and Baby Jordan and Reebok Pumps. To tell them about the time you heard Jordan first retire, and about the time he came back and dropped 55 at MSG. To tell them how good Grant Hill and Anfernee Hardaway and Shawn Kemp really were, and how most of the freaks that kids watch today still don’t stack up athletically and talent-wise to what those guys did, albeit how briefly. To tell them how Luc Longley won three championships with the Bulls and how Bogut was the #1 pick in the draft. To tell them anything and everything you saw with your own eyes during the years the NBA first really captivated this country.
Because one day, you will be that old guy on a train. And if the kid next to you is wearing a retro Kobe Bryant jersey, you need to tell him (or her) about the days you saw Kobe square off against Jordan, about the days he and Shaq ruled the world. About the good old days.
And then, you need to try and trade for the Kobe rookie card the kid is holding in his hands. After all, he has no idea what it’s really worth.