NBA Basketball is fairly unique in that most years we feel like we know going in who is going to win the title. Even when we can’t narrow it down to one team, like the Golden State Warriors or Miami Heat, who will hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy, we can usually limit it a handful of teams that have a chance. Yet, that doesn’t diminish the joy of the game. The joy of an 82 game season and playoffs doesn’t change when you think you know the outcome, because it’s all about what will happen between now and June. Which player will make the leap? Which team will be greater than the sum of its parts? How will an overcrowded playoff race in the Western Conference shake out?
We turn the page on a new NBA season tonight with two games – Raptors-Pelicans and Clippers-Lakers – and it feels like an auspicious time to begin, just as we are concluding Simchat Torah. The final Jewish holiday in a busy month of Jewish holidays, Simchat Torah, falls immediately after Sukkot, a joyous fall harvest festival. Simchat Torah means “joy of Torah” and we cap this jubilant week by reading the last verses of the last book in the Torah, Deuteronomy, and beginning the first verse of the first book, Genesis. (There is no off-season for Torah).
We begin re-reading the same stories and verses that our people have read for thousands of years. The characters don’t change. They still make the same mistakes and say the same lines. They go through the same struggles and achieve the same outcomes. But that doesn’t diminish the joy or meaning that we take from studying Torah. The questions are, how will we grow this year? How will new relationships draw out new meaning from the text?
But this year, the NBA takes on a new level of uncertainty. Unprecedented player movement has brought us new superstar duos and nearly ten teams that think their time is now. The race to hold Larry OB is going to be fantastic, but my hope for this year is that I don’t let my interest in the outcome override the joy of the journey – the simchat basketball. The ending will work itself out (My bet: Celtics over Clippers in 6), but there’s too much good basketball to not enjoy it all until then.