The year is 2012 and I’m 26 years old. I’m nearing the end of another Saturday shift, trying to sneak peaks at my phone to keep track of playoff action. The only game on is the Heat versus the Knicks. The Knicks, surprisingly, are putting up a fight, and leading the game late in the third quarter. I take a moment to cruise over to Facebook and read some NBA banter. I freeze when I see a friend’s status update. It reads: “ps Baron Davis’s career is over. sux.” What? The first comment: “Clipper curse, same as Shaun Livingston.” I freeze, while autistic children stim wildly around me. No NBA fan mentions the words “Shaun Livingston”
-whose screams echoed in a packed Staples Center, the crowd sitting stunned in horrified silence in 2007 after his knee shredded and broke - unless it’s serious. I’m immediately freaked out, but I don’t have the liesure time to figure out what’s actually going on . As soon as the shift ends, I zoom out to my car and rush home to check my computer. I nervously search “Baron Davis,” and Google gleefully supplies me with link after link that confirm my worst fears. “Baron Davis Knee Injury.” “Baron Davis Done For Season.” My face instantly becomes warm, and my shoulders go slack. I open Google Image, and immediately close it. It’s too soon. Too soon.
The year is 2001 and I’m 15 years old. It is about 2:00 am. I’m sitting alone in my bedroom, the room dark, the walls and the Star Wars and Star Trek posters that adorn them lit only by the cool blue glow of a comically old computer monitor. For once, I’m not trying to guess the password to shut off AOL’s Parental Controls, which would allow me access to the sweet nectars that fuel my hormone-ravaged body. Instead, I’m playing NBA Live 2000, a new obsession. I love that game, and regularly stay up late playing through regular season games on “Franchise” mode. In real life, the NBA playoffs have just begun, and I’ve just witnessed the Charlotte Hornets, who I’ve liked all season, dispatch the higher-seeded Miami Heat in a definitive 3-0 sweep. Throughout the series, I’ve fixated on the Hornets’ point guard, a burly, bearded second year man out of UCLA. He’s dazzled throughout the series, driving to the hoop for either an acrobatic layup or a thunderous dunk; he drops syrupy-sweet dimes to surprised teammates, or steps back and drains long balls. I’ve heard his name, but haven’t really put a face to it until now. It’s suddenly clear that everything about him is cool. Especially his feudal name: Baron Davis. Baron. I could dig it. And now, at 2:00 am, I am on my computer, mashing stubby fingers into the keyboard, making a pixelated image of Baron dance around defenders, replicating the magic I saw him do on the screen. It was better than boobs.
The year is 2001 and I’m 15 years old. I stare up at a 11” x 17” poster of an X-Wing, it’s s-foils locked into attack position. It’s one of my favorite ships in my wall fleet, which also includes an A-Wing, the Millinieum Falcon, a TIE Bomber, and three different USS Enterprises. The ships protect me from young adulthood. They make a disciplined squadron, armed to the teeth with lasers and photon torpedoes, ready to unleash deadly volleys on anything (or anyone) that tries to push me out of my childhood. But the ships aren’t ready for a defection from the inside. They aren’t ready for their admiral to de-commission them and ground them on some star base. But with a deep breath, and a guilty sigh, I retire the X-Wing — which has had a privileged place over my bed for many years — and replace it with another poster, one that did not feature a starfighter, starship or starbase. The image newly immortalized on my bedroom wall is a star of a different kind. It’s Baron Davis, wearing a Charlotte Hornets jersey and staring confidently into my eyes, almost like a Jedi about to bitch-slap me with a mind trick. In the years to come, most of the starship posters come down, the fleet fully decommissioned, replaced by athletic black men with baggy shorts, deep scowls and 45-inch verticals. It all starts with Baron.
The year is 2005 and I am 20 years old. I’m sitting in the 24-hour computer lab at a small college in Minnesota, struggling to wrap up the second trimester of my sophomore year. It’s February 25th, and it’s too cold outside to snow. I am working on some paper for a medieval history class that I don’t really care about, and I’m just trying to get the damn thing written. I wasn’t checking basketball websites at that point — I had turned to ultimate frisbee, drinking, and shitting out papers without giving them much thought. But that would change. At around 12 am, with one page on the Synod of Whitby down, and about nine still left to go, I cruised over to ESPN.com (some old habits died hard), and read some news that would ultimately change my life: Warriors Acquire Two-Time All Star Baron Davis from the New Orleans Hornets. I raised my eyebrows. My old favorite player? On the supposedly “beloved” hometown team I hadn’t followed in about a season and a half? This was interesting. Interesting indeed.
The year is 2007. It’s March. I’m in the homestretch of college, and I could give a damn about whatever Baron Davis is doing. I’m loving life. Senior year! Friends. Classes. Romance. Good times in many, many ways. Baron? Whatever to him. The guy had been injured since he got to the Warriors, and had provided little on the court in that time. The Warriors were still awful. Even Don Nelson, their fat, alcoholic coach, thought so. Said that we weren’t going to make the playoffs with 45 games left to go in the season. Just threw in the towel. So what did I care that the Warriors had just pulled off a trade, and got Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington from the Pacers? The trade was just like the Baron trade: wasn’t going to make a damn difference.
The year is 2007. It is April. And I am euphoric; near tears. I am in a Bar