“Oh, I’m dating a real man’s man now,” I thought the first time my boyfriend sat me down to watch the NCAA playoff games. We’d started dating near the tail end of football season and watched a lot of Bengals games but, c’mon: Nearly everyone likes football. Basketball seems to be a little more exclusive. Those first few games were rough. But I caught on.
And now that we’ve moved on to the NBA Finals, I feel like I have this stuff on lock. Here’s what I’ve learned about the stats, the lingo and myself.
1. “And One” is real
I’ve heard those two words a million times. In lyrics. In bars. I had no idea what it meant, though. It’s actually pretty simple: If a player makes the basket but another player fouls him, he not only gets the points from his shot, but he also gets to make a foul shot, which is worth one point. So, if he’s fouled while making a three point shot, it’s “and one” more if he makes the free throw.
2. The court is wider than it appears
When watching a game on TV, the camera is almost always on one side of the court, so you’re watching the whole floor from an angle. When a dude makes a show from the side of the horseshoe, it looks like he’s way closer than if he made the shot from the top of the horseshoe. It turns out that horseshoe painted on the floor is really more of a half-circle. It just looks distorted thanks to the camera angle.
3. Los Angeles has two teams
Whaaaaat?! Until a month ago, I legitimately thought the only team in California was the L.A. Lakers. Turns out, I’m dumb. The Clippers play in the same center where the L.A. Lakers play. They also have better colors (red, white and blue) and, apparently, a fraction of the fan base.
4. My allegiance is arbitrary… and fleeting
I love Los Angeles. I hate purple. I liked the font on the Clippers hats. I rooted for them until they were knocked out of the playoffs. If you had asked me last summer to name my favorite basketball team, I would have picked Miami Heat based entirely on the fact that I’m from West Palm, Florida, and that was one of only three team names I knew. (Bulls and Lakers were the others.) I live in Ohio now. So, obviously, I root for the Cavs.
5. A triple-double is real
I’m not saying the name makes any more sense than McDonalds’ double-quarter pounder. But, it is real. It’s when you get double-digit totals in three of the five following categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots. The leader in triple-doubles during playoff games is Magic Johnson, who nabbed 30 during his career. Nope. I didn’t Wikipedia that. I know it because someone has repeated it to me at least once during the last four games. LeBron James is second with 13… so far.
6. Speaking of LeBron James, I’m pretty sure he’s a good hugger
I mean. Look at those arms. Look at that goofy smile. One of my new life goals is to get a hug from the new number 23.
7. I have no enemies
Despite everything I just said about the Cavs and my obvious affection for James, I’m also a fan of Stephen Curry. I’m not going to lie, though: I think it’s mostly because he looks adorable with his daughter. He also looks like he’s about 13 years old and it’s hard to hate a kid.
8. I always root for the underdog
Another reason my allegiance is fleeting is because I love rooting for underdogs. This season was especially cool because quite a few of the teams in the playoffs have gone a long time without making it to the finals. I love the Cavs. But, the Golden State Warriors hasn’t won a final in 40 years and they’re putting up (what I think is) one hell of a fight. If the Warriors win, I will be so stoked for them.
9. FIFA ain’t got nothin’ on the tricky politics of basketball
One of the current NBC commentators for the finals is Mark Jackson who, up until this year, was actually Golden State’s head coach. Prior to Jackson’s coaching, the Warriors hadn’t made it to the playoffs in 17 years and under his coaching, they went on to finally start making it into the playoffs. Just when he’d finally built up an awesome team, Golden State replaced him with Steve Kerr. Obviously, they’ve taken an even bigger leap as a team this year. But, how much of that is thanks to Jackson’s few years gathering the building blocks so that Kerr could stand at the top of the tower?
10. Basketball exists in other countries
I feel a little xenophobic but I honestly had no idea that people outside of the United States played basketball. Fact: Cleveland’s head coach is Israeli American and played and coached almost entirely in Israel.
11. The fourth quarter is the worst
I’ve made it through a few dozen games, picked favorite teams and players and altogether have enjoyed my first season as a screaming, clapping, wincing basketball player. But, I still hate the fourth quarter. It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s usually the most edge-of-your-seat part of the game. On the other, teams save up all their timeout and referees start (finally) paying attention to the game and blowing the whistle. There are more clock stops in the fourth quarter than the rest of the game combined. It also seems like it takes twice as long as the other quarters. Never, ever think that since the fourth quarter is about to start that the game will be over soon. Basketball stays pretty close to real-time. Until that final quarter. Then they play on football time.
So, I’m four games into my first NBA Finals. I’m certainly not an expert, but I think I’ve broadened my mind. At the very least, I’ve learned enough to make it entertaining for myself.