Arkansas will never have an NBA team.
This is a law of nature — like gravity. But in case you need proof, let's discuss the Arkansas RimRockers.
First off, great name. Even the Harlem Globetrotters would find "RimRockers" too gaudy. Secondly, they were actually a pretty good team! In their first year in the league in 2004, they won the American Basketball Association title game against the Bellevue Blackhawks 118 to 103. After trouncing the ABA on the first go, they moved up to the NBA development league.
This was Arkansas's "10th grader with an egg that a teacher says is a baby" moment for pro-basketball: If we could handle the D-league team, maybe, way down the line, the NBA would give us a real team.
But, no. Onlythree years after their title, the Arkansas RimRockers became the La Crosse RimRockers. La Crosse, Wis. (population ~52,000 and with no other facts worth mentioning after skimming its Wikipedia page other than something about fur trappers) was able to fill seats for RimRocker games; Little Rock was not.
We broke the egg.
Add that fact to these: We can no longer ignore — though we tried — that the NFL is killing its players for money; the N.C.A.A. is a scam and Rick Pitino stealing money from his players is just the crusted scum atop a uranium-polluted swamp; and baseball sucks except for the playoffs. (Full disclosure: the Observer spends significant time caring about and watching all sports, most are just guiltier and less pleasurable than before.)
That means the NBA is our last hope to watch American sports without any pangs of shame. (Fútbol is not American, Hockey is Canadian and golf is worse than baseball — move out of the way we have others things to discuss.)
So when the NBA season begins Oct. 17, the Observer needs to watch. Who do we root for as Arkansans?
There are two ways to go about choosing: geography or bandwagon.
Let's start with bandwagon. If you root for the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets or even the Boston Celtics — fine — the Observer is sure you'll have a fun season but you're also a traitor and a low-down coward.
Okay, now to geography.
If we can take Little Rock as the starting point, the closest NBA teams are: Memphis Grizzlies (139 miles to FedEx Forum), Dallas Mavericks (322 miles to American Airlines Forum), Oklahoma City Thunder (339 miles to Chesapeake Energy Arena).
The sexiest of these choices has got to be the Thunder. They had the off-season of a lifetime after resigning Russell Westbrook (averaged a historic triple-double last year) to a long-term contract, finally pulling Carmelo Anthony away from the New York Knicks, and adding Paul George. In theory, you've got the reigning MVP in Westbrook now flanked by two top ten (or at least top 20) NBA players.
However, if you like the Thunder you have to root for Carmelo Anthony. For all the unstoppable combustion of Westbrook's game — who would dunk a child without remorse — you have the unmistakable lethargy of Anthony. He's good, everyone knows it. But, it's exhausting rooting for Carmelo. The Observer is not a hater, just someone who does not have the time for the emotional toil cheering for Carmelo entails; it's too much.
The best position for OKC is as an Arkansas back-up team. You root for them when they're good and enjoy them struggling when all the personalities are too big and clash. Just, don't put all your heart into anything Carmelo touches.
Next up, the Dallas Mavericks. We can decide this one with the same pettiness with which the Observer rejected OKC fandom: Mark Cuban is annoying. The Observer can't watch a game that is going to cut to his face reacting. Done.
That only leaves the Memphis Grizzlies.
Tons of pros in that choice. They're the team closest to the state. (Actually, in some ways, by being in Memphis, they are very much part of this state: What's more Arkansas than having to go to Memphis for a major event?) Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol are both talented, likable star players. They've been going to the playoffs in the better of the two conferences for the last seven year — this year may be more of a rebuild after losing some keys to the secret sauce, but they're still good enough to make the playoffs in a stacked West. And, their slogan is "Grit and Grind." Grit and Grind!
Most importantly, after a game of last year's playoffs Coach David Fizdale was complaining about the lack of fouls called on the San Antonio Spurs and, after listing off a few statistics, yelled, "TAKE THAT FOR DATA!" at reporters.
It was incredible. It's now the perfect thing to yell during any Memphis Grizzlies scoring run. It's so good you can yell it all the time. The Observer is yelling it at work right and everyone is just nodding their heads and appreciating it.
So, when the NBA regular season begins next week, the Observer will be half-heartedly watching weeknight Griz games and falling asleep on the couch. Hope you'll join me.