Reconnecting With My First Love

I am not a Dallas Mavericks fan. As the 2015-16 NBA season gets set to kick off later tonight with three Tuesday evening games, I can honestly say that the only connection I’ve had with the world of professional basketball since Michael Jordan hung it up for the last time is that I went to high school with Anthony Tolliver, a man who has fought hard to earn a rightful place among the greatest players in the world.

Although basketball was the first sport I loved as a child and the only one I played in an organized fashion, my teen years took me away from it and into the loving arms of baseball. I have invested all of my sporting energy in that direction in the subsequent 15-plus years, and even Jordan’s brief return as a Wizard while I was in high school couldn’t change that. It may sound strange to confess all this in the very first entry of a Dallas Mavericks blog, but I’m not just rambling here — I want to see if I can actually become a Dallas Mavericks fan.

Why Dallas? I’m afraid there’s no good reason for that, except that I’ve never been a fan of any NBA franchise and I have no innate biases against any organization in the league. While I rooted hard for Michael Jordan and his early-career acrobatics and his late-career turnaround jumpers, any loyalty I had to the Chicago Bulls quickly disappeared when he retired for the second time and the franchise fell apart, and there aren’t any teams in my immediate local area. I’m the fan version of a free agent.

So I decided to let randomness settle the matter. After pulling up a list of all 30 NBA teams alphabetized by city, I had an online number generator provide me with a number from 1-30. It came up with lucky 7, and as I counted down the list of team names, my cursor stopped on Dallas. Fate had decided. I was a Mavericks lover.

To be candid, I was a little disappointed. I was actually hoping for an obscure team in the midst of a rebuilding process, some young team that hadn’t accomplished anything lately but had plenty in the way of promising young talent — a team like the Magic, maybe. I have only a distant outsider’s knowledge of basketball in recent years, but I know the Mavericks are far from a suffering franchise. They have one of the most outspoken owners in sports. They have an aging legend in the form of Dirk Nowitzki, a giant sharpshooter who actually debuted back when I was still paying some amount of attention to the sport. Most importantly, they have an NBA championship that dates back only four years.

It’s not all bad, though. I have a lot to learn about the team and the sport in general, but Dallas seems to be a team at something of a crossroads from my brief research since yesterday, the eve of NBA opening day that inspired me to concoct the plans for this grand experiment. Coming into the season with an average age of 29.8, the Mavericks are one of the oldest teams in the league, and they face steep competition in the Western Conference. For a franchise that hasn’t seen a losing season since 1999-00, the projections don’t seem to be all that favorable right now. Maybe I’m joining Mavericks fans right as the team slips into a significant decline phase, or maybe, just maybe I’m right in time to watch them reinvent themselves on the fly, remaining serious contenders in a hotly contested conference.

As for me, I have every intention of reinventing myself on the fly. My NBA knowledge is minimal as I write this post, and my feelings toward the Mavericks are one of a completely neutral observer, but my mission statement for this blog is to change both of those things, gradually but exponentially. I’ve already done a little research into Mavericks history, advanced statistics, and the Dallas culture in general, but I expect to develop into one of the world’s foremost experts in the coming days.

This experiment is sure to be a memorable one filled with eye-opening experiences and more than a few Rolando Blackman references, and I hope it brings me back to my roots as an NBA enthusiast. I think there’s still some chemistry between me and my first love. I think I can be a Dallas Mavericks fan.

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