Welcome back to the T & G Nerd N Thug Report, brought to you by The Talented Mr. Pearson (the Nerd) and All Day the Gifted (the Thug). Each time we post, we bring you different topics from two different perspectives. Today’s topic is yet another one that we both feel strongly about: the National Basketball Association—or rather, five things that we missed about the NBA now that the lockout is over! Read on:

T:        It’s over. It’s finally over. I was nearly in tears (nearly, not completely). It was the perfect Christmas gift for the man who has everything (no I don’t have everything, but that’s not the point)—the end of the NBA lockout and the return of pro basketball to my television screen. Oh, you big-time diehard football guys were doing just fine, anyway. You had a great day in week twelve; lots of neat stuff to see and comment on. The Raiders are in first place. Suh should be suspended. Romo and Tebow are as polarizing as ever. Green Bay is flirting with an undefeated season.

You were having a ball, weren’t you? Well, I wasn’t—and it wasn’t just because my fantasy team is hovering around .500.

It has nothing to do with football. I deeply missed basketball. My Thug Passion Godbrother is loving this season, and he was apparently fine with the fact that we were almost done with November and there had been no live hardcourt action. He’s so enamored with football and so weary of baseball that he could probably care less about basketball, like most of you football folks. However, in the immortal words of former WCW star Raven, “WHAT ABOUT ME?? What about basketball fans?” You had a Nerd dying over here, and neither high school nor college nor Euro league basketball was going to bring me back to life. I needed the League, and only the League would do. Man, am I glad they are back! In their honor, I’m gonna name my five things that I missed about the NBA the most.

 G:         I’m sorry…you were saying something??? I couldn’t hear you; I was too busy watching Tom Brady and the Patriots orchestrate yet another clock killing drive to beat the hapless Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football and then watching them clinically destroy the Eagles on Sunday. My bad. Yes, all those things you just said are true. And to be more brutally honest, the NBA season didn’t really start for me (and for a lot of people besides me) until around the Christmas Day games, anyway—so I’m not really tripping off the missed games. BUT—I would be lying if I said that I didn’t miss NBA basketball, because I did. This lockout thing was disappointing—as well as depressing—because at some point, there were not going to be any more more NFL games; the baseball season would have been long gone or not yet ready to begin; and while I do keep up with the stats and standings of hockey at least, I’m way more of a ESPN highlight watcher than a big-time hockey fan.

So no, I wasn’t pining for basketball like Mr. Peabody here. What I was doing, to keep my mind off the League, was getting even more involved with the NFL season, with my fantasy teams, with the TEBOW phenomenom (Tim Tebow is the John Cena of the NFL), and with watching Tony Romo finally play like, well, Tony Romo. But make no mistake about it, I did miss NBA basketball. I too, shall give my five reasons why.

 1) The showing off.

T: I know a lot of people who are pure fundamentalists. They watch enjoy watching the most technically sound play possible. These are the sorts of fans who claim that this is why they watch college basketball. My answer to that is this: if the college level were the highest level of orthodox skills, why isn’t the NCAA the highest level that you can watch? Answer: because it ain’t the highest level. The NBA is. The game is so easy for a lot of these guys that they slack off on the orthodoxy in order to have some fun. Quiet as kept, this is one of the main reasons I love watching NBA ball, and I think it’s why I don’t like the women’s game.

Sure, women’s basketball is fundamentally wonderful; the UConn girls are a sight to behold with their precision running of Geno’s offence. I could care less. No girl ever took off two feet inside the free-throw line and bashed on somebody so bad that their teammates won’t even look them in the eye. No girl ever made somebody fall on a crossover.

I like flash and pizzazz. I need good old fashioned show-off superstars. I need to watch dudes hitting half-court shots at halftime and doing 360s on a baseline drive. So what if they travel or carry the ball over sometimes? Every one of the greatest players of all time had something they did illegally. Kareem pushed off. Shaq charged. Magic and Stockton carried the ball. Jordan traveled. A lot. Bird shuffled his feet quite a bit too. You know what? I don’t care. There is no Tim Duncan highlight film on YouTube, and if there is (and there probably is some Spur fan who made one, poor thing), it probably has five hits. Tim is great, but he’s boring. Stockton was boring. Magic was exciting. Jordan was exciting. Nothing in college or in high school play tops D-Wade coming down the court and throwing Lebron a lob from below his waist for LBJ to finish with a reverse slam. There is nothing on the amateur level that can beat watching Kobe, Durant, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard or Derrick Rose. Did you see that lob that Rondo threw this past summer? It was ridiculously sweet. And I don’t even LIKE Rondo.

See what you did, NBA? You made me—a diehard Laker fan for life—miss a Celtic. I feel like Cartman missing Kyle. Nothing in any sport beats a showoff on the basketball court, except a showoff who’s also so fundamentally sound and so driven to win that you get the best basketball on the planet. How could I not miss that?

1) The continued growing hatred for the Miami Heat, combined with the thrill of the off season and free agency period.

G: Don’t get me started on the Heat. Those guys—Wade, James, and Bosh—were the epitomes of primadonnas last year. “The Big Three” were, quite frankly, not ready for the scrutiny and backlash that they received last year. They’re bench wasn’t mediocre, it was really, really, bad. The further they slipped into the second place stature of teams that lose in the finals, the more primadonna they got. The more primadonna they got, the more the hate came. The more the hate came, the more I loved it. I was denied—over the lockout—that growing and building accumulation of hate. Not cool, man.

Also, the lockout cost me my second favorite part of the NBA season after the playoffs: the “off” season. What does that have to do with the Heat, you ask? Simple, I wanted to see which free agents were gonna pucker up and butt kiss their way onto the Miami squad. Which dude was gonna take less money to play in the name of a championship? What trades were they gonna somehow pull off? That’s the good meaty stuff of an off-season. You know what I was forced to watch instead of good deals and growing Heat Hate? ESPN made me watch a dull and boring summer of Derek Fisher wearing a few really nice suits, a summer of snickering at Billy Hunter’s Jheri curl (dude has got to be the last dude in the world with a curl, for real), and a summer of realizing that David Stern is really, really, REALLY short. Even though the lockout is over and the season will be beginning on Christmas, the free agency period is gonna be a mess. We are gonna probably have a bunch of quick signings, a lot of malarkey considering the unknown status of the new CBA, and such a crapload of garbage that we can’t even imagine how it is gonna play out. It has lost the excitement of the usual off-season—and now that we’re all glad they’re back, nobody’s going to be hating the Heat the way they would have. That sucks.

(T response: watching the Heat go down in flames made some of the sting of the Lakers losing to that Euro dude and that little trash talking twerp named Terry hurt just a little less…not a lot less, but enough)

2) The Kobe hatred.  

T: Every year, since around roughly the turn-on-the-century, I’ve had to listen to some debate and discussion as to why insert-player-here was better than Kobe Bryant. First, I think it was (laughably) Jerry Stackhouse. Then, it was (arguably, at the time) Allen Iverson. Then, I believe it was (more laughably, even at the time) Richard Hamilton. Then, it was Tracy McGrady, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Kevin Durant. All of these comparisons were happening back when Kobe was putting up 35 a game at times. All of these debates were happening as Kobe kept hitting game-winners, playing killer defense and eventually winning titles again. I watched people diss him for not making his team better, and me and Thuganomics watched him take a powerhouse Phoenix team to a playoff elimination game with a team that included Smush Parker and Kwame Brown.

I have watched Kobe Bryant become the John Cena of the NBA for some time (way way way way way more than Tim Tebow is of the NFL, and if my Godbrother is honest, it ain’t even close); when he won titles before, it was because of Shaq, but when he wins now, it’s because of Pau. If he takes 28 shots, he shot too much. He takes 15 shots, he didn’t step up to help his team. It went on and on: he changed his number to 24 to be one-up on Jordan, his defense isn’t all that, he’s too old, he’s too beat up, he can’t dunk anymore, the Lakers suck because they got eliminated in the second round or because they got swept (that one is funniest to me; you suck because you didn’t win a title? Your loss is somehow stronger because you got swept instead of losing 4-2? Ah, the high expectations that come with being the standard).  It used to infuriate me. Then, it bored me. Eventually, it amused me.

With the lockout in full swing, I missed it terribly. I missed watching Kobe give it to somebody for 40 and watch the Inside The NBA guys come up with a reason to hate on him (Barkley’s voice: “See, first uv awl…Ko-beh…um…Ko-beh Bryan…ya see, Ko-beh Bryan hastuh unnerstand…that he hastuh make his teammates betta”). I missed watching the Lakers and Kobe go on a ten game winning streak and hearing everybody talk about how it’s because of who they played—and then watching these same haters gush over a six game winning streak from Boston and Miami. Sigh…I missed the hatred so bad it hurts. I’m so glad the hate is back!

2) Kobe’s age

G: Unlike the Nerd, I didn’t miss the Kobe hate. Understand, I am a DIE HARD LAKER FAN. The Kobe hate could be down right offensive at times. Never in my life have I seen an athlete as gifted as this man put under a microscope for some of the most ludicrous and lopsided debates—debates that I, unfortunately, have subjected myself to be a part of far too often. How can you debate five championship rings? Hell, how can you debate the two championship rings that he got without Shaq, as the haters so desperately try to do?  Nah, I don’t miss that stupidity and hatred at all. Just the other night, the Godbrother and I were in a chat room debating with folks about the Lakers. We brought up numbers. They brought up rape cases. We brought up rings. They brought up health. WTF? The Kobe Hate is a joke. What was sad and what was lost in the lockout is that Kobe Bryant will be one more year older, and that would have been a travesty of great proportions had this season been lost completely. Sadly, as amazing an athlete as Kobe is, not even he can defeat Father Time. Why did I miss his age? I missed his age because this season could be his last season as the number one option, the primary superstar, the go-to guy leading his own team. It would have crushed me if it had been quite noticeable that that extra year lost would have shown dramatically if the season had been cancelled. I don’t want to see Kobe Bryant average 14 points a game on 36% shooting. That would break my heart. If these were in order, this would be my number one thing that I missed during the lockout.

(T response: agreed on three counts—the five-ring arguments have never been bright, I don’t want to see Kobe Bryant struggling on the court, either, and those arguments in the room a few nights ago were some of the dumbest arguments against Kobe and the Lakers I have ever heard. Back regarding Kobe, it would be better to leave too early than to leave too late, in my opinion. For example, I always wanted my last image of Jordan to be that sweet jumper—and push-off—in game six in Utah, not that slow chunky dude in the Wizards jersey)

3) The drama. 

T:  Look, like any guy, I clown the ladies for their soap operas (and more than one dude, too, but I won’t mention any names—not even anonymously; you can ruin a guys reputation like that…let’s just say I know more than one dude who DVRs As The World Turns). I clown them for unbelievable plots and excessive emotionalism. But I’m a bit of a hypocrite when I do so, to be honest. Nothing beats the spectacled soap opera of the WWE, for example—the characters, the matches, and especially the trash-talking and drama. Who can deny, however, that the NBA has this same level of drama? The Lakers, Heat, and arguably the Knicks are traveling side shows in themselves. What about those spats with Shaq and Orlando’s Ron Jeremy look-a-like coach, Stan Van Gundy? Or Shaq and his pot shots at Dwight Howard? What about Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo getting into it so bad a few that Chris Paul tried to visit the Celtic locker room to confront him?

And speaking of the Celtics, what about all that drama with their players and coaches? What about Dirk overcoming the soft label? What about Paul regaining the soft label? What about ole man Jordan dissing the modern crop of players? What about the attitudy kids up in Sacramento? And will Blake Griffin stay in Los Angeles with the Clippers, or will he move on to greener pastures—like the Los Angeles Lakers? All of this drama can be seen without even discussing the reality TV people like Lamar Odom or Kris Humphries. There was a time when I had the WWE, 24, The Sopranos, and the NBA—all the drama that a man could want. With the lockout going on, all I had was the drama of wondering when the WWE is gonna figure out that the world hates John Cena and should just turn him heel to put all of us—including him—out of our collective misery (sorry, I know I brought that up last article, but it is a particular stick in my craw; they let that dude have it at Survivor Series!!!). I had no drama. I was drama-free. That works for Mary J. Blige. It did NOT work for The Talented Mr. Pearson. I needed my NBA drama fix.

(G response:  In addition to those aforementioned plotlines of NBA seasons past, let’s not forget the analysis and Monday morning quarterbacking that always comes from the commentators. What drama! Sometimes the comments from those former greats who commentate on the games—like Sir Charles Barkley, with his often brutal honesty—could be just as cinematic as the soaps. Oftentimes, like as in the NFL, the current NBA players would take exception to the criticisms laid on them by their predecessors.  This ll will be the first year Shaq joins the gang on Inside the NBA. Personally, I am actually excited about hearing just what “The Big Foot In His Mouth” is going to bring to the show, especially since his latest expose into “The Real Shaq” is set to be released—and he’s now calling Kobe the greatest Laker of all time. The drama can be cut with a knife. Oh, and in case you were wondering, YES: I hate Shaq like I hate mayonnaise—and I really, really,  really hate mayonnaise—but I love NBA drama just like the Nerdy one does)

3) The Highlights.  

G:  No matter how big of an NBA fan you are (I’m looking in your direction, O-Ye-Talented-One-With-Goggles), you gotta admit that an 82-game season can get a bit boring after awhile. Then again, maybe that’s just me being spoiled on having saw my team win the title five times over the last 12 years. During the Lakers’ first title run of the 2000’s, I watched every single game that season, as well as the three years thereafter. However, during the second championship run, I admit that I wasn’t as into watching them as I once was; it seemed that they played bored at times, and that bored me in return. Now that Blake Griffin has arrived in Los Angeles, and now that he has done the impossible and made the Clippers relevant, I actually look forward to turning on SportsCenter to see whose face Blake Griffin DUNKED ON tonight.

It’s not just the Blake Show, though; it’s all of the highlights. Just being honest, even with the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl, and the playoffs, there just aren’t a lot of days for football highlights; it’s only played on what, two days per week? Maybe three or four during the playoffs? After that?? Lots of crickets. Dang man, even NASCAR is over until February!  If hadn’t been an NBA season (I’m resorting to caps again), there would have been a HUUUUUUGE HOLE in SportsCenter programming.  Think about the wasteland; no last second three pointers, no impossible shots made possible, no down-by-twenty-in-the-fourth-quarter-achieving-what-appeared-to-be-an-insurmountable-comeback-and-heart-and-soul-heroics. Just lots and lots of lots of crickets.

(T response: They actually had a siren and an alert for Blake’s highlights every night. How cool is that! I can’t wait to get back to that!)

4) All Star Weekend 

T:  The idea that I could have had a February come around with no All-Star Weekend was unconscionable. My Godbrother and I have belonged to the same crew of fellas since the late ’80’s. That crew of fellas understood that there were four things that we did every year: The Super Bowl, All Star Weekend, WrestleMania, and at least one summer blockbuster film. As time has gone on, things have eroded a bit because of families and other obligations. The only one that we still all do is WrestleMania. However, even when we aren’t all in the same house, ALL of us are watching All Star Saturday and the All Star Game. We text or tweet or Facebook over freaktaclular moves or ridonkulous dunks. If we do all manage to get together in the event that All Star Weekend doesn’t fall on Valentine’s Day (and I’d still like to meet the NBA executive who had that brilliant marketing plan in a dark alley some day). then we make the special WrestleMania seven-layer-dip (it used to just be for WrestleMania, but my Godbrother—aka Mike Lowry Jr. over here—decided to start seducing people with his cooking, so the dip got exploited for all get-togethers), grab a couple of Coronas, and watch the festivities.

Man, some of my favorite things in sports happened around All Star time: Marvin Gaye’s Star Spangled Banner, Jordan going parallel in the Slam Dunk Contest, the fifteen minutes of fame for Harold Miner, Magic’s All Star MVP in the retirement year due to HIV, Kobe signing an autograph for Jack Nicholson before his first All Star Game at 19, Mariah in that Jordan dress, Shaq and the Jabberwhaddacallems. Add to the fact that the NBA All Star Game is simply the best professional sports all-star-game to watch (go on, challenge the notion—I’ll wait) with its celebrities, tournaments, and exciting first and fourth quarters (the middle is admittedly dull; we usually fall asleep or get on the phones or internet), and add to the other fact that my birthday usually falls somewhere between the Super Bowl and All Star Weekend, and would have removed a very important part of my social life. It’s bad enough that the afore-mentioned 24 used to always debut around the NFL playoffs, and now it’s retired. Had the lockout not ended, I wouldn’t have had one of my most important man holidays to enjoy myself with the homies and tempt my yearly flirtations and struggles with vegetarianism.

(G response: I’m gonna share number four with you on this one. Now, the actual All-Star game can be a snooze fest. I’m just being honest. But: everything leading up to the game and the last five minutes of the game?? #CLASSIC. Sure, the dunk contest has had its ups and downs. However, with the new kids coming in, all seeming to be determined to now add more entertainment than before to the dunks, there seems to be new life in this once-about-to-be-tired-and-stale series. Like my Godbrother pointed out, we have had some wonderful memories of those All Star Weekends past. But I am more of a newbee when it comes to being a die hard NBA fan, so my fond memories hover around Vince Carter’s epic performance during the slam dunk contest, Dwight Howard’s entertaining dunks during his contest, and of course Kobe and Shaq being co-MVPs. Had we gotten to February of 2012 with no NBA season—and therefore, with no All Star Weekend to come—the reality of that situation would have become very real, very disappointing, and very sad—and I am hella glad it didn’t come to that)

5) Bragging rights 

T:  I’m gonna give you what the Thug Nasty Godbrother calls one of my Nerd Alerts. One of the great things about being a Laker fan is you are always somewhere in the hunt. Since the NBA-ABA merger for the 1976-1977 season (the era that I consider basketball being legit, like live-ball in the majors or the other merger in the NFL), there have been 35 NBA seasons. In that time, the Lakers have made the playoffs 33 times, playing in 16 finals and winning ten championships. Thug Thizzle already pointed out that that means five titles in the last twelve years. That also means, as a Laker fan, we figure that we’re always in the playoffs, that we make the finals roughly every other year, and we win a title roughly every third year or so. That gives me a whole lot to brag about. It’s what makes an embarrassing end to last season bearable. It’s kind of like being a wrestling fan of somebody like Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Rock in their time or of John Cena or Randy Orton now; you know it’s only a matter of time before the hardware is back in your camp.

But if there had been no NBA season, what would I have had to brag about? I couldn’t brag about Kobe’s greatness, about Pau’s dominance down low, about Bynum’s ascension to the upper echelon of centers in the League (not yet, but I could still talk about it—unless we are seriously going to try for Dwight, which makes any bragging about Andrew temporary; Howard just tweeted he hates the rain where he is, but I digress), about Lamar’s versatility, about Ron—er, Metta World Peace’s continued relevance, about Barnes’ snarling tenacity. I would have had nothing to brag about except for the past, and as any Dodger fan will tell you, talking about the past all the time gets a little tired (I’m almost sick of the Kirk Gibson video; the Yankees have won like six titles since then). Besides, I’m really sick of that smug look on the face of the Dallas Mavericks’ fans. As far as I’m concerned, those people are holding on to OUR title. I want it back. If there hadn’t been a season, I couldn’t get it back. So there had to be a season in order to re-secure my rights to talk all sorts of trash anywhere I go. Prepare, Mavericks!

Often, men bond over either sports, weed, or women. Strangely, most guys don’t want to discuss women (this is mostly the younger ones, as if realizing that Scarlett Johansson or Halle Berry will never be yours means their beauty should never be discussed) and I don’t smoke. Therefore, sports is my primary bonding tool, lest I become antisocial and scowl to myself in my cave. I needed the NBA back out. I needed a balance to the football jargon. I’m was hearing Rose Royce songs in my head; I’m Going Down. Now I’m hearing Peaches & Herb: Reunited!

5) Crowning new champions 

G:  (Rolling my eyes at the Peaches & Herb thing) I’m not bitter. I’m not. Nothing brought me more joy than watching the Dallas Mavericks dispatch the Miami Heat out of the playoffs, thus allowing them to finally get that monkey off their back—especially after what happened against the Heat last time. I was very happy for Dirk Nowitzki and Mark Cuban. They had finally won that elusive first championship. Although it killed me, yes, to watch them sweep my beloved Lakers, I just didn’t see passion and fire in the eyes of the Lake Show show this year. Being brutally honest, therefore, I didn’t feel that they deserved to hoist the O’Brien Trophy. Um, but I say this: (low, menacing tone) there is no freaking way Dallas will win again. LAKE SHOW ON MINES. **drops pen**

(T frowns at his Godbrother, goes on to close) Yeah…um, as always, there are other reasons—the  continued rise of players like Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and Derrick Rose to superstar levels—dare we say, best-in-the-league status; curiosity over the new kids like Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams; my burning desire to see Kobe get two more rings to pass Mike and for the Lakers to pass the Celtics (even though, like I said, nobody is even close to the Lakers 10 rings since the merger; #dealwithit); will Kris Humphries have any relevance now that he’s been dumped by the world’s finest media whore. All of these reasons and more are reasons why I so desperately missed the NBA. Football didn’t suffice. College basketball wasn’t good enough. I didn’t care if the average salary is on the north side of five million a year and the owners are billionaires and several hundred millionaires. I didn’t care. I want them to come back and play. I missed them. And as Klymaxx once said, (watch Unsung, you’ll see the story of who they were, all of you born in the ’80’s and ’90’s), there’s no other way to say it. I couldn’t deny it if I tried. And I didn’t even care how much Thug Love teased me over it; I missed them. It’s back. It’s crackin’! The title return to Los Angeles begins Christmas Day, 2011. I remain, as always—even in the midst of missing and rejoicing over regaining—The Talented Mr. Pearson.

G’s Close: **grabs The Nerd’s pen** LAKE SHOW ON MINES **DROPS PEN**

(T response: Sigh…anybody wanna change seats?)