It’s 2:45am on a Tuesday night. You have work in just over six hours – but your night hasn’t even started yet.
Why? NBA basketball, that’s why – what’s more, it’s NBA playoff basketball.
The UK NBA Fan Ritual
In the back of your mind you know you should be wrapped in a duvet, clutching your pillow and getting those extra hours of sleep so that you’re bright and fresh for your lunchtime meeting tomorrow.
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But there’s a reason it’s a lunchtime meeting, because you’re the person who scheduled it. You knew you’d be up watching the playoffs, so decided that a 9am meeting with your newest clients was far off the mark. 11am is early enough so that you don’t affect your highlight filled lunch hour, but late enough for the caffeine and sugar to wake you up just enough to function.
You’re unlucky with this game, it’s played on the West coast – for Brits this means a late night, some of us even go to bed early and set an alarm for 2:30am so we can recover the sleep that way. That doesn’t mean East coast games are a laughing matter though.
On any given week night, the earliest tip-off you can figure is 11pm, it could the Knicks playing host to the Lakers, the Celtics taking on the Heat, it could even be the 76ers getting blown out by anybody – but you'll be watching.
It doesn’t matter who’s playing, it doesn’t matter their position in the standings – you love the NBA so much, you’re willing to accept bags under your eyes for weeks on end just to see that leather orange ball drop through an iron rim. *Cue the cheers*
As the game wears on and your eyes grow heavy – you rely on highlight plays and cup after cup of coffee to keep you engaged. A half-time power nap ensues as NBA League Pass decides to show a mixture of crowd reactions and recycled clips of Diesel’s Dunks, but as the third quarter begins you emerge from your slumber.
The night grows lighter, and the hours turn from night to morning, you sit on the edge of your sofa as the game enters its final embers.
Overtime is a possibility – but it delays your bed time even further, and won't be helping your alertness tomorrow morning.
However, you thank the basketball gods as the game comes down to a final second buzzer beater to win it all. Celebration courses through your veins in utter silence as not to wake your significant other/parents.
You’re no longer tired, but it doesn’t matter, it’s time for your morning shower. Another evening without sleep, this is the life of an NBA fan in the UK…
Who to root for?
The painful fact is that basketball isn’t going to overtake the likes of football, rugby or tennis in the UK. To think that pubs, bars and restaurants here will show - let alone stay open late for a game of basketball - would be naïve.
However, being a UK basketball fan doesn’t bring a local team to follow, meaning you need to get a bit creative with your choice – something typically decided by who your favourite player happens to play for.
If you liked the look of Tracy McGrady in the early noughties – you suddenly became a Rockets fan. If you got into the NBA in the Kobe Bryant era, you were likely rocking a purple and gold jersey. But, if you only now are getting into the NBA, it’s likely you’re planning a trip to Oakland to see the Golden State Warriors.
Of course, this isn’t always the case, sometimes you decide on your team thanks to a trip to the USA, hence why New York and Orlando have such big followings here in the UK. The same goes for the likes of L.A., which benefits massively from its larger market and fame for international fans.
Then there are the wildcard fans, those who decided on their team thanks to something like a uniform design or simply because they want to support a team which nobody they know likes.
Regardless of how you found your team – you defend them vigilantly, whether they’re challenging for a title or tanking for a draft pick. Whilst the local link isn’t there, the love and support for your chosen team won’t falter.
So, keep up the good work, UK NBA fan, there might not be too many of us but we’re a hardy bunch.
And remember, we’ve got a couple months to catch up on sleep after the Finals…