Days ago, I attended the funeral of a man I didn’t know. He was the father of a loved one. From the eulogies, I could gather he hailed from the distant California baby boomer culture of Beach Boys, blonde buzz cuts, cars and varsity letters.
His best friend emceed the event through tears and laughs. A charismatic operator, the ruddy-faced guy could balance pathos with excellent comedic timing. It was with such a delivery that he brought up, of all things, the Golden State Warriors.
As far as I was concerned, the Warriors never existed before Don Nelson. Sure, there are rumors of a championship and Rick Barry’s goofy free throw form, but none of that seems real. To a person born in the 1980s, 1970s basketball is depicted as something that happened between Dr. J dunks. It’s often said Magic Johnson and Larry Bird “saved basketball,” which is another way of saying, “Forget about the preceding decade, please.”
Anyway, between eulogies, the emcee touched upon his best memory of the departed, “among ones I can share here.” Over a series of days in 1975, their group of friends simply congregated in front of a TV and watched the Golden State Warriors win the NBA Finals. They drank, played cards and laughed throughout. At the very least, I'll endorse the last activity as a good use of time.
Speaking from experience, a playoff upset lends itself well to laughs among friends. In my 2007 apartment, there was more laughing than cheering as Baron Davis bull-rushed the Mavericks. Much humor is about highlighting life’s inconsistencies, so it’s nearly consistently funny when the better team loses. Avery Johnson’s panicked screaming, Mark Cuban’s ashen face, Don Nelson’s vacant smirk, Baron’s airborne belly, it was all hilariously not according to plan.
God forbid anything happen to the friends I watched this with, but I’d certainly bring up that series at their funerals. It’s a snapshot of all of us in college, having fun with the kind of glorious abandon you tend to lose over time. I personally like to remember my friends jumping up and down on couches, especially now that they work in cubicles and hospitals.
The emcee saw more decades than I did and felt the same way. The hilarious Warriors were worth bringing up in a packed San Francisco Peninsula church, at a time of reflective solemnity.
You readers out there likely have similarly fond memories of different teams. Maybe it's Hakeem Olajuwon showing up David Robinson, Robert Horry's shot against Sacramento, or Boston's 2008 title run. Through some kind of alchemy, these strangers on our televisions help us have and remember great times.
This summer has allowed for more reading, traveling and other cool things that aren’t basketball. The absence of basketball has also allowed for some reflection on why I don't like the absence of basketball.
This stuff matters. If you love the NBA, don’t let anyone tell you differently. It can be more than just a business and it can be more than just a game. Yes, caring about sports is silly, but the silliest memories often stick with us.