Don Carter's Search for the Great White Stiff
Why Growing up in Dallas Forced Me to Become a Spurs Fan
I’m not your typical sports fan. My fandom runs pretty counter-intuitive to someone who was raised in Dallas. People are usually surprised that I grew up rooting for the Miami Hurricanes in football (so much in fact that I wanted to attend the school and be the football mascot). My love for the New York Mets can be traced back to childhood legends, Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry (and later in life a deep love for the city of Queens), even though I openly root for my grandmother’s favorite team, the Texas Rangers.
Basketball didn’t officially become my favorite sport until about 2008. My dad took me to a playoff game in 1986 between the Lakers and the Mavericks. I enjoyed the game, but I was also 7 and didn’t really care who won. Every time the Mavs scored, I would do the Junkyard Dog dance to catch the attention of the pretty white lady with big hair sitting next to us. That was the only Mavericks game that I remember from the 80’s.
By the 90’s I watched more baseball than anything and kept up with the other sports just enough to gamble on them. I remember one particular game that I bet on in high school involved the Rockets and Spurs. Otis Thorpe was out with an injury, and the Spurs had just gotten Dennis Rodman. I put twenty bucks on the Spurs and told the guy, Rodman is getting 20 boards tonight. Spurs of course won, and I was able to afford a pack of donuts and a pack of cinnamon rolls to go with every meal for lunch that week.
Many people have trouble comprehending how I became a Spurs fan. Of all the teams I root for, this one causes folks to scratch their heads. It is a question that I get all the time: How does someone who was born and raised in Dallas become a Spurs fan? Like most loves, this wasn’t something that happened overnight, it developed and blossomed over time. I came out of the closet with my fandom about ten years ago, and I’ve rarely looked back–except today. So how does someone born and raised in Dallas become a Spurs fan? Let’s explore this shall we?
1) I spent part of the 80’s living in Houston.
From 1988-1991 I lived in Houston, Texas on some Prince of Bel-Air shit. Let’s just say that my parents were really worried about my grades and overall behavior and sent me to live with my aunt and uncle in the suburbs of Spring, Texas (hometown of eventual World Series Champion Josh Beckett).
My three years living in a disciplined environment there straightened me out, but it was hell. I had to go to private school for a little bit, and I had zero privacy when I was used to having my space. My allergies were always bothering me and no matter the season, I was always sweating. But the worst part of this situation was that I had to endure the Houston Rockets fandom, and watch Rockets games on television almost every other night. Seeing Otis Thorpe’s ugly mug on the television almost gave me an aversion to pro basketball completely.
While the Rockets were quietly building a competitive team that was only six years and a Michael Jordan retirement away from being NBA champions, the Dallas Mavericks were setting themselves up for a decade long drought with bad trades, and questionable draft picks (If you ever want to get an old Mavs’ fan started just ask them what players they missed out on picking back in the 80’s drafts). When I returned to Dallas in 1991, the Mavericks were unwatchable and nationally televised games were only on once a week. Any around-the-league news I got was attributed to NBA Inside Stuff with Ahmad Rashad. Besides, basketball was barely on my radar at the time; I was way more interested in baseball then.
2) The 1990’s was a really bad decade for the Dallas Mavericks.
I can’t even exaggerate how poorly the Mavericks organization was run during the 1990’s. Being a Mavs fan was the basketball equivalent of rooting for the New Orleans Saints. Their ineptitude was so great that a running joke in the early 90’s was who would win more games, the Dallas Cowboys or the Dallas Mavericks (The Cowboys went 13-3 in 1992 and 12-4 the following season. The Mavericks were 11-71 in 1992, and 13-69 the next season. This should give you an idea of how ludicrously bad the Mavs were back then.
Only twice did the 90’s mavericks win more than 30 games, the 1994 season (36-46) and the 1999 season (40-42). They won less than 20 games three seasons that decade, and only won 40 games or more once, and that was 1999; arguably the most entertaining team they had that decade.
Any momentum that was built during the 3 J’s era (Jimmy Jackson, Jason Kidd, and Jamal Mashburn) was ruined by ill-advised attempts at implementing the triangle offense, bad coaches (Richia Adubato, Dick Motta, Quinn Buckner, and later Jim Cleamons), locker room egos, and possibly Toni Braxton.
3) Dallas front office chased white players like Captain Ahab chased Moby Dick.
Q:What do Raef LaFrentz, Shawn Bradley, Cherokee Parks, and Eric Montross have in common?
I can understand why people want to look onto the court and see a face that looks like theirs. It is for the same reasons that blacks cheer on Tiger Woods (who says he isn’t black) or why black people really want the show Atlanta to be good (even to the point of delusion). Everyone wants to feel represented, but at the same time you can’t force these things. Choosing Parks, LaFrentz, Bradley, or Montross as the next Great White Hope is as much of a reach as Donald Glover or Rembert Browne being the spokespersons for Black America. Sometimes you just gotta wait until the real deal comes along.
Once Larry Bird retired, NBA GM’s clamored among themselves to find the next LB, every white player got hyped incredibly only to get paid handsomely for meager to above average performances. Eric Montross and Cherokee Parks were out of the league before I’d even had a chance to blink. LaFrentz is still a subject of salary cap folkore, in much the same way people talk about Bobby Bonilla’s epic contract with the New York Mets (one that still continues to pay him to this day).
Shawn Bradley was dunked on so many times that it soon became a rite of passage for an NBA player to yam on him. “Bruh you aint’ dunked on Bradley yet? Whhhhhhhhaaaaa!!!! Bruh you gotta dunk on Bradley if you wanna be part of this team dawg. What? You don’t believe me? HEY! HEEEEEYYYYYYYY! Who all on this plane has dunked on Shawn Bradley?” The whole team raises their hands and even a couple of the coaches and trainers. “See I told you. Next week when we play the Mavericks you better go right at him or we gon’ tease you for the rest of the season rookie. Nah man. Don’t laugh. I’m not even joking.”
4) Dallas couldn’t handle the truth.
College basketball phenom Paul Pierce left the University of Kansas early to enter the 1998 NBA draft. With the 6th pick in the draft the Dallas Mavericks drafted Robert “Tractor” Traylor ahead of Paul Pierce, then traded that pick to Milwaukee Bucks for the rights to 7’1 German 17 yr old named Dirk Nowitzki–another tall white player. I thought Paul Pierce was exactly the type of player they needed and was initially put off with this selection.
At the time it seemed like the same old Mavericks chasing that great white whale, but things turned out for the best for everyone involved. Dirk was an immediate fan favorite and had an *ahem* interesting relationship with new owner Mark Cuban.Though he suffered some growing pains (I might have secretly derived some pleasure out of Stephen Jackson manhandling during that 2007 playoffs–his MVP year), his career was validated after finally getting his own title in 2011.
There is no telling if Paul Pierce would have gotten a ring out west like he eventually did in Boston. His career path might have taken a drastic turn had he started in Dallas (who is to say that instead of getting stabbed at the club he doesn’t get shot in Dallas?. It seems like a moot point now. Both players will be in the Hall of Fame, but I can honestly say, that this was a swing moment in my fandom, when my NBA loyalties were still in the balance.
5) Dallas fans are pretty insufferable
Except for a handful of people who I’m personally friends with, Mavs fans are pretty fucking annoying. When I went to college in Denton, I preferred to go to the bar and watch playoff games. At the time I was more into players than I was teams, and unless Kobe Bryant was involved, I didn’t give a shit who won NBA games. This started changing around the year 2004.
Although it was cool that Dallas fans finally had something to cheer about, they didn’t know how to handle their team’s success (or failures) with grace. If I even cheered a good play by the other team, I was met with looks of scorn and derision. The ’05 playoff series between Phoenix and Dallas made me hate Mavericks fans. Girls in Dallas Mavs t-shirts would yell at me stuff like “How the fuck can you root for them? Didn’t you grow up in Dallas?” because I screamed in joy at a Pick and Roll/ Nash to Stoudemire dunk. By the time Jason Terry punched Michael Finley in the junk, I was going to Mavericks watch parties and openly rooting against the home team.
By 2006 I was spending a lot of time in Austin with Spurs fans, and they struck me as a rare breed of fans. They of course expected to win, but the friends that I had who were Spurs fans, were super cool about it. They enjoyed the competition, and had no problem giving other teams props. I would secretly find myself rooting for the Spurs not necessarily because I liked the Spurs (even though Tim Duncan was one of my favorite college basketball players of all time.) I wanted to see my friends happy (especially my friend Louis who was the biggest Manu Ginobili I’d ever met).
The more I learned about hoops the more I enjoyed and appreciated the Spurs success and method of conduct. I would never feel right wearing a bunch of Spurs gear, and I’m still sheepish about calling myself a Spurs fan. I’m a fan in much the same way that someone converts to Judaism. My fandom can only be traced back to a certain point in time. I never saw George Gervin play, I initially didn’t like Gregg Popovich taking over the head coaching roles, and I did not believe that the Spurs would ever win a title with Avery Johnson as the starting point guard.
Just as my love for basketball has grown to religious proportions, so has my love for the San Antonio Spurs has grown. To this day I’ve never seen a more beautiful, egalitarian way of playing basketball than I did during the 2014 playoff run; which is something that even a non-Spurs fan could appreciate.
As for the Dallas Mavericks, well I appreciate them too (I guess). Mark Cuban isn’t as annoying as I once thought he was, and I’ve even grown fond of old man Nowitzki at this point in his career. So to show there is no hard feelings Mavericks fans, I’m going to list my top five favorite Dallas players of all time.
5) Sam Perkins: the last holdover from when the 80’s teams that were good. Big Smooth still gets a lot of love in the Big D.
4) Jason Terry: despite dickpunching Mike Finley, I fucks with Jason Terry. His confidence and big shot making, was a big factor in the 2011 team toppling the Lebron led Miami team in the NBA Finals that year. Fun Fact: Jason Terry won a championship in high school, college and in the NBA. That is pretty rare company.
3) Jason Kidd: had two stints with the Mavs, and his second one ended in a more idyllic fashion. One of the best point guards to ever play the game.
2) Antawn Jamison: I really enjoyed watching him play for Dallas. He put up points and he was a great locker room guy. I was actually surprised he didn’t finish his career in Dallas.
1) Jerry Stackhouse: dude was something fierce coming out of college. He was athletic and a volume scorer when he first got to the league. By the time he got to Dallas he hung his hat on his toughness and defense, but could still get baskets when needed. I thought Stackhouse alone was enough to predict a Dallas victory over Miami in the 2006 NBA Finals. David Stern and Tim Donaghey didn’t agree with me though. Stack is one of my favorite players to ever lace them up.