19 December 2011
I’ve been a Utah Jazz fan for roughly two thirds of my life, nearly a quarter of a century. However, basketball, in particular the NBA, was never watched in my house. My dad wasn’t really into a lot of sports. It was BYU football and that was about it. Sports wasn’t a priority.
High school came around and basketball started to become something of an interest for me. I would play in the occasional pickup or church ball game. I would attend all of the high school basketball games. I even remember watching a handful of Jazz games with my friends. But even then, I really wasn’t an avid Jazz fan.
It was at the age of 19 that the NBA started having an effect on me. Michael Jordan was at the height of his career. I remember watching the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns in the ‘93 NBA Finals. I wanted so bad for Barkley, Ainge, Johnson and company to win that title. But it was absolutely amazing to watch Jordan.
By the time the ‘95-’96 Jazz season came around, basketball and the NBA were becoming a part of my life.
I was glued to the TV during the playoffs watching the Jazz and Sonics in the ‘96 Western Conference Finals. I was heartbroken, deflated, as Karl Malone missed those late free throws in what would be a decisive game seven, sending the Sonics to attempt the impossible task of beating Michael Jordan and the hungry, rejuvenated, record setting Chicago Bulls in the Finals.
The following season is where I really started watching extensively. That year was the start of something special. I remember vividly sitting on the edge of my seat the night the Jazz ignited a 34 point comeback win against the Denver Nuggets.
I was becoming a basketball junkie. I would tune into the radio and listen to David Locke every day, hanging on his every word, as if my whole day depended on anything Jazz basketball related.
It was eat, drink, and sleep NBA basketball 24/7. Especially in the Playoffs.
I was downstairs in my basement when Stockton orchestrated an unbelievable 4th quarter, culminating in “The Shot” to send the Jazz to their first finals appearance.
I was ecstatic! I was one of the few thousand who made the trip, at 3 am, to the airport to welcome them home that next morning. I was geeked out!
The following year was where it all finally came together. The 64 win season. Home court advantage throughout the playoffs. It was also when my first opportunity to go to a game came. It was the Western Conference Finals ‘98 game one vs. the LA Lakers. What an experience! Where had this been all my life? I had never experienced anything like it! An electric atmosphere! It made me hungry for more. If this is what the NBA is like then I want to be a part of it.
Back then KJZZ hosted a nightly playoff show at the Delta Center. I grabbed a friend, got all painted up in Jazz colors, made a sign on poster board and headed down to the arena. They were giving away tickets to game one of the NBA Finals vs. Jordan and the Bulls to the craziest fan.
My buddy and I intended on winning...and...we did.
Game one was even more electric than the LA series had been. It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but it ended in a win and I was excited. I wanted more. And I would get my chance sooner than I had anticipated. A friend had two tickets to game six of that same series. I was ecstatic!
Game six was incredible. The most intense game I had ever been to. You could feel the anticipation of every fan in the arena that day. I had not been to a spectacle like this...ever.
I witnessed the greatest basketball player to ever lace up hit a game winning shot against my favorite team. It was deflating and yet incredible!
That single game, single shot, single playoff experience left the most indelible impression on me. It defined me and shaped my future as a basketball fan. I was baited, hooked and reeled in like a prized trout. The NBA had itself a new fan.
And so...here I am 13 years later enjoying it as much now as I did then.
I love the NBA.
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