Widgets Magazine

Shi: Project Life After Basketball

[Postscript: YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH]

Good news, everyone! I’m very pleased to tell you that we are about to embark on a magnificent experiment. It will involve the college-student triad of soul-searching, laziness and time-wasting. And all you will need to do is avoid watching the NBA playoffs. I call it “Life After Basketball.”

I’m only half kidding. Anybody who actually knows me could tell you that I spend way too much time thinking about basketball to boycott the NBA playoffs, even if the Lakers are terrible. Basketball is more than just the bright lights of Staples Center, and there are plenty of great storylines in a Lakers-less NBA, as Vihan Lakshman painstakingly explained last week. I will be watching. But I haven’t been watching the Lakers live all season. And now that the regular season is mercifully over, it’s time for me to reveal the results of this grand experiment.

 

  • I have not watched any Lakers basketball this season. I have watched plenty of basketball this year, both college and pro, but if I have accidentally caught some live Lakers action, I’ve already forgotten it. As long as the Lakers beat the Celtics – and they went 1-for-2 this season – I’m happy. I had zero expectations for this season besides a high draft pick. Compare Notre Dame football at its nadir: As the immortal Stuffing the Passer video series quipped after the Irish lost to Navy, “ND won 44 straight/’64 to ‘08/’cause ‘07 never occurred.” Navy promptly beat ND twice in a row.
  • Focus on the tanking, not on the basketball. The organization isn’t trying to win, so I’m going to concentrate on what actually matters. I still followed the NBA standings fairly closely – gotta aim low for a high draft pick, after all. I have loudly and irritatingly bemoaned that the Lakers beat Philadelphia…twice…even though they would owe the Sixers their draft pick if they won too many games. And instead of watching actual basketball, I frequent NBA draft lottery simulators for kicks. You can’t change the odds. You can’t do what-if scenarios. You just click a button and the website spits out a set of results. I’ve literally sat at my computer clicking that button over and over and over again. On multiple simulators. It is pathetic. I don’t even care.
  • Embrace the insanity. The Lakers finished with the fourth-worst record in the league (21 wins), raising the question of how three different teams won even fewer games. (In the last five years, 21 wins would have been “good” for third-worst, second-worst, third-worst, third-worst and third-worst. The team just had to sweep Philadelphia.) Their draft pick is top-five protected, which means that they will lose their draft pick if they get the sixth pick or worse. They have a 17.2 percent chance of losing that pick, in which case, well, this entire exercise was pointless. Just roll with it.
  • Write about Lakers basketball while promising not to watch it. I want the Lakers to lose games, with all due respect to the players, who are – to their credit – actually trying to play good basketball. I don’t want them to succeed, because the team needs to draft a franchise player, but I also don’t know how my brain would react to watching a Lakers game and rooting for the team to fail, so I just avoid watching it. To be honest, I’m not even sure I could root for bricks when the team is playing before my very eyes. “I’m more than happy to pay my cable bill and help fund the Lakers as they go through the motions for another season or two,” I wrote in January. “I know why the Lakers are tanking, and I fully support it, but if they are not trying to win, I don’t want to watch any of it.” Well, no more Lakers basketball until October. No memories of Lakers basketball from this season. Mission accomplished.
  • Basketball for basketball’s sake. Right now, I have the opportunity to relax. Basketball is bigger than the Lakers, as much as I’d like to think otherwise. I’ve gotten the chance to enjoy the brilliance of the NBA without worrying about the results. The MVP race has been excellent. Russell Westbrook has been glorious to watch. Golden State is the greatest show in sports. And Boston just got swept.
  • Study abroad. Most places that Stanford’s study abroad program serves don’t care that much about basketball. Here in the UK, for example, all people are thinking about is football. Even though Chelsea’s running away with the Premier League, it’s still football all the time. Although to be completely honest, now that it’s the playoffs and the football season is still going on, I’m going to have to find a place to get my basketball fix. Bit of an ask.
  • Watch your blood pressure return to normal, if only for a while. No, this does not mean that I’ve suddenly gained perspective. I still know that rationally, being a sports fan – or at least a serious one – is probably an exercise in absurdity. And yet in the midst of this self-imposed exile/hiatus/craven act of cowardice (on some level, I’ll even cop to the last one), I still spend far more time thinking about sports than I’m typically willing to admit. When the Lakers start trying to win again, as long as they’re trying – whether they rack up 30 or 60 wins a season – I’ll be back in front of the TV, yelling hoarsely at the screen.

While Winston has been gallivanting through jolly old England, he has clearly forgotten that it is the Knicks, not the Lakers, who deserve a karmic reward for this season. Tell him why at wshi94 ‘at’ stanford.edu

About Winston Shi

Winston Shi was the Managing Editor of Opinions for Volume 245 (February-June 2014). He also served as an opinions and sports columnist, a senior staff writer, and a member of the Editorial Board. A native of Thousand Oaks, California (the one place on the planet with better weather than Stanford), he graduated from Stanford in June 2016 with bachelor's and master's degrees in history. He is currently attending law school, where he preaches the greatness of Stanford football to anybody who will listen, and other people who won't.