You Really Aught Not To Have Done That

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Looking at where basketball, particularly NBA basketball, was in 2010 likely would not have given you much insight into what the sport would look like at the turn of the following decade. Sure, LeBron James was the reigning MVP, with three more to follow. Yes, the Spurs would go on to make the playoffs in every year of the 2010s, just as they had in the aughts. The Lakers are, of course, one of the best teams in the league. And, of course, the Kings, Knicks and Warriors are three of the worst teams in the NBA.

But as in life, basketball constantly shows its capacity for change, no matter the source of inspiration nor drive. What began with the Celtics shooing LeBron off the floor in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and into the Greenwich Boys & Girls Club for the kickoff of the player empowerment movement has resulted in, among innumerable other things, Ray Allen’s greatest betrayal, the assembly of perhaps the greatest team in NBA history and definitely the greatest mercenary season from a single player ever.

It would be impossible to remember everything, but here are a few notes from each year, both league-related and otherwise.

2010: The zombie Sonics win 50 games and make their first playoff appearance since a move to Oklahoma City; The aforementioned exorcism of LeBron from the playoffs and, subsequently, from Cleveland; graduating high school; the last appearance of the KG-Allen-Pierce Celtics in the Finals; a Game 7 Lakers comeback that erased nearly 34 minutes of Boston leading, giving Kobe stans the ammunition to claim him over Tim Duncan as the best player of their generation and ruining a bet between the two people with whom I was watching that game; The Decision, rendering LeBron and, to a lesser extent, Chris Bosh as full-on villains; Amar’e Stoudemire-as-consolation prize in New York, where I would move in the fall, his knees showing up in roughly the same shape as the Knicks’ salary cap for the preceding decade; having a calculus nightmare on a military cot in a tent; watching the USA-England World Cup match end in a draw in a field in Tennessee with 10,000 other people[1]; watching the USA-Algeria match end in an American victory in a house in Ames, Iowa; watching the entirety of Isner-Mahut across days in a house in Ames, Iowa; watching the South Carolina Gamecocks beat Clemson in the College World Series in a since-demolished stadium in Omaha, Nebraska; driving around New York City in a fourteen-passenger van for a week straight before entering college; running around a freshman dorm in the Bronx, half-caring about the Knicks while booing LeBron and filling out transfer applications to a soundtrack of LCD Soundsystem, the Black Keys and Kanye West.

2011: “CAN’T WAIT” – Bart Scott, and neither could I; The Heat, my God, the Heat! And yet: the chill of New York City in February; Blake Griffin, rising and rising in an astounding bit of Kia-sponsored content; Carmelo Anthony forcing the Knicks’ hand; calling a bluff at Terminal 5 and believing it really was happening later that week; visiting Chapel Hill for the first time and turning it down for the second; melting into couches around the Bronx as the Celtics sweep (who else?) the Knicks; the Grizz giving the Spurs all the grit and grind they could handle; the Thunder rocking the Grizz; Miami trampling through the East; Dirk Nowitzki, making up for lost time in one of the great individual playoff runs ever; the Heat rising against Dallas; the Mavs responding with a 15-point comeback; Flu Gate, which Dirk deemed “childish” while carrying a fever of 101 and winning Game 4; never knowing where the game actually is because American Airlines sponsors both arenas; Dirk and JET exacting revenge from ’06; being happy to see LeBron fail and then waking up to the same life and problems that I had when I woke up the day before; standing in a field in Chicago, getting into the wrong thing with the right people; the lockout; Kevin Durant showing up to play flag football; “basketball reasons” leading to Lob City; the breakup of the title-winning Mavericks, but hey, Tyson Chandler is a Knick!; got an iPhone for Christmas and started keeping to myself a little more. New Year’s Eve: anyway, it happened.

2012: Waking up in exactly the wrong place after drinking liquid fire[2]; Mario Manningham gives the Giants a second improbable Super Bowl victory over the Patriots; JR Smith’s haircut upon returning from China; LINSANITY!; celebrating a single Knicks playoff win like it was Game 7 of the Finals; the Thunder giving the Spurs the business with a core of sub-24 year olds; got up at 3 in the morning to ride in the backseat of a Hyundai hatchback to the most farcical volunteering experience I’ll probably ever have; Rondo goes toe-to-toe with LeBron in Game 6 of the East Finals; the New Jersey Devils inflict their final stroke of pain on the New York Rangers, but we’ll always have ’94; LeBron finally wins a title; the Sixers disassemble and plunge into a self-inflicted basketball purgatory; turncoat Ray Allen heads to Miami, and his ’08 Celtics comrades haven’t spoken to him since; the Rockets bag Jeremy Lin when it’s decided the Knicks cannot let him coexist with Melo and Amar’e; the Rockets trade for James Harden when it’s decided he and Serge Ibaka cannot grow their salaries together in Oklahoma City; returned to New York and spent a night texting myself into oblivion while John Mayer and Frank Ocean played SNL; speaking of which: Channel ORANGE; fell backward into a gig as an RA; are the Knicks…good?; the Jets commit the most atrocious professional football, uh, action, probably ever; spent New Year’s Eve taking way too long to get to the party I was actually going to in Charleston.

2013: Steph Curry, going for 54 at Madison Square Garden (in a loss, lest we forget—!) while I listened to it over the van radio; Carmelo Anthony wins the scoring title, and the Knicks win 54 games – it was all worth it, despite the Pacers; got a paid internship at a startup, the dream; watching Ray Allen keep the Heat alive with the shot of a lifetime after too many hard cider-and-Fireball cocktails, a thing I used to do; started an open-ended blog with a couple of friends on the heels of a wicked hangover and nothing better to do on one of the hottest mornings I’ve ever experienced indoors[3] – I was living with a rotating cast of people who are doctors now[4]; finding the darkness on the edge of town and running headfirst into it, and only then going to a Dave Matthews concert; being in Los Angeles, listening to Jim Rome during the Dwightmare; drinking every variety of Andre we could find over the course of a week[5]; perhaps the most rain I’ve ever encountered, pt. I (ft. Phish); petitioning the White House over Happy Feet; Mark Sanchez’s ouster; Mariano Rivera’s final home game at Yankee Stadium; KICK SIX!; got bumped from a flight in LaGuardia because AJ McCarron, Katherine Webb and his family were leaving town after the Heisman ceremony; spent New Year’s Eve with the Avett Brothers, whom I still love.

2014: Melo hits 62 against Charlotte, breaking his own Knicks franchise record before we ran to catch the Metro-North into the city; showed up to my paid internship the morning after the Super Bowl only for the job not to exist anymore – you know how startups go; Donald Sterling gets got, finally, after openly being a racist slumlord for decades and after openly being a racist, spectacularly terrible NBA governor for the Clippers; the Knicks miss the playoffs, and that was the last time they truly mattered; graduated college and fell out of love with New York City without writing an essay about it; the Rangers lose to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals, but we’ll always have ’94; the Spurs give the business to every-damn-body, and Kawhi ends a dynastic-esque team as Finals MVP; LeBron goes back to Cleveland right when I go back to Charlotte, each of us ending what we would describe, with varying degrees of accuracy, as our college years; the Neymar-Messi-Ronaldo World Cup being, actually, the Manuel Neuer World Cup; deciding against seasonal depression for run-of-the-Mill depression; Kevin Durant on a scooter, signaling a fully-realized Russell Westbrook; spent New Year’s Eve drinking moonshine alone in the house I was renting.

2015: Continued doing to alcohol what Steph Curry was doing to basketball; Klay goes Klay against the Kings in that third quarter; fell apart and came together at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, eventually watching Russ win the All-Star Game MVP from the only place that seemed to be serving food after 6 pm; wasn’t necessarily suicidal but didn’t necessarily care where I was or how I felt when I awoke, or if I did, except on nights when the Thunder played; LeBron posts a Finals MVP-worthy performance with only the likes of Delly there to help him through it; DeAndre Jordan ignites the Banana Boat wars, causing Paul Pierce to tweet a picture of an emoji rather than the emoji itself; “Being entirely of Irish descent, I’d wanted to come to Ireland my entire life and this [week] was finally it, the moment I could forget about maybe the worst breakup I’ve [ever] had and hung out with [nobody at all that I knew] in a city I fetishized very far from virtually everyone I knew”; forgot about basketball and everything else for a while as I, you guessed it, drank the River Liffey’s volume in Guinness and Jameson; perhaps the most rain I’ve ever encountered, pt. II (ft. Clemson-Notre Dame); fell back in love with New York City and, accordingly, Hoboken; spent afternoons wondering where nights and mornings and I had gone; watched Grantland fall apart and went to the funeral to pay respects; wondered if the Cavs or Thunder had it in them this time around, because Steph Curry was the triple-truth as far as everyone was concerned; spent New Year’s Eve eating from a Five Guys that was closing that day and then promptly losing all touch with my senses in Bay Ridge.

2016: Steph Curry continues to perform an extended Sherman impression on the NBA; suddenly started caring about where I was and how I felt when I awoke each morning; Kobe goes out on the most Kobe game I ever saw on the same night that the Warriors hit 73 wins; I drank red wine product on a hotel bed in SoHo while watching Klay save the day in Game 6; Draymond being Draymond; watched Game 7 at a since-closed biergarten in Harlem with someone that doesn’t remember doing that, but is reminded of it constantly; The Block; The Shot; The Stop; Cavs in 7; Kevin Durant goes Benedict Arnold on July 4th, while Russell Westbrook eats cupcakes; the Chicago Cubs win the World Series, but not on Marty McFly’s timeline; an election happens and hasn’t stopped happening since; spent Christmas in Peru watching the soccer Springsteens perform divine acts; spent New Year’s Eve at a party, but only because we were there.

2017: Accept that the Warriors are completely unstoppable, and that the NBA would be at their behest until at least 2020; How do you solve a problem like Serena?; Devin Booker had how many?; opening Brooklyn Steel with that old Soundsystem; Giannis certifiably makes The Leap, getting his first All-Star nod, and none of us have yet recovered; Russell. Fucking. Westbrook. (and the related James Harden hive); Kawhi and the Spurs were up on the Warriors before Zaza Pachulia remembered why any NBA team ever paid him American currency; Isaiah Thomas, indescribably human and impossibly Celtic, until—; “Cavs in 7,” Warriors in 5; Kyrie Irving stepping away from the LeBron fracas and into his own; It turns out Rafa never was finished after all; got norovirus indirectly as a result of Bruce Springsteen and spent New Year’s Eve praying to the Sprite gods.

2018: How do you solve a problem like Roger Federer? The Golden Retrievers of UMBC do the damn thing; James Harden claims what he and the Rockets thought was his before a most egregious meltdown from distance against the Warriors; LeBron stares into oblivion as JR Smith throws away a perfectly good chance at not ruining LBJ’s 50-point night in Game 1 of the Finals; Warriors in 4; Toronto doesn’t blow it up, but San Antonio probably does; LeBron goes Hollywood; Board Man cometh; watched the World Cup final in a house on a lake upstate; Luka, Trae, Luka, Trae; spent New Year’s Eve trying to avoid the kitchen, which by then was already incredibly hot.

2019: Began the year at Yankee Stadium, which is a lot colder in January than in May; Anthony Davis puts in a trade request at a most precarious time; LeBron lounges while the Lakers lose (even Magic had enough, although he didn’t tell anybody ahead of time); Zion busts through his shoe, but that doesn’t ruin his draft status; Giannis, MVP; First, Damian Lillard; then, Kawhi Leonard; It all falls apart at roughly the same, worst possible time for the Golden State Warriors; BOARD MAN GETS PAID, and the Larry O’B goes to the North; Anthony Davis makes his LA splash; Board Man muscles Paul George to the Clip Show from OKC, whose own talisman then lands in Houston next to an old friend; everybody was wrong about Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but only by a matter a matter of five miles; just being generally exhausted all the time by nothing and everything in particular, to the point of misremembering when things happened; Ben Simmons hits his first career three-pointer against (who else?) the Knicks; seeing Messi perform his magic among the masses, in the shadow of La Masia, at the Camp Nou; spent New Year’s Eve throwing back and moving forward, boats against the current, but that guy was stuck in the other decadent decade.

2020: [TBD]

*     *     *

[1] Shout out to Robert Green

[2] Pro tip: don’t drink anything on fire. If you do, don’t drink it twice.

[3] Welcome, by the way.

[4] I am not a doctor.

[5] Brut, I think, was the winner

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