Welcome to Fantasy Week, where we indulge all our grandest daydreams about what we wish to do when this is all over. After a year of pandemic life, we’re fantasizing about globetrotting, throwing ragers, and dressing like we truly give zero fucks, and imagining a world where we’re all vaxxed and the world is our big, briny oyster.
After a full year of isolation and indoor asceticism, the once-common act of watching basketball with the boys feels about as ancient as the Roman gladiatorial games. Once one of my favorite things to do, gathering around the TV with a 12-pack to keep up with my teams provided an instant connection to my like-minded buds and to a sport I love, offering a way to log out of this stressful life and watch some extremely ripped seven-foot-tall guys execute real-life NBA Jam moves before my eyes. Whether I watched at home, at a bar, or somewhere in between, it was always one of my most treasured simple pleasures, as long as I was cheering alongside my friends. But during the pandemic, I’ve really struggled to find the energy to keep up with the league. It's just not the same when you're watching games alone.
I really believe that the most epic basketball moments from my adult life were meant to be experienced with other people, from watching Kobe score 60 points in his last game (clearly moved by Flea’s totally unhinged National Anthem performance) and Klay Thompson beating the record for most 3s in one night to LeBron’s supremely heroic block in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals and even this most wild dunk from earlier this season. This may sound corny, but to me, watching basketball is about togetherness; I can watch tennis alone all day, but basketball requires live commentary from the whole group.
Looking back on all the moments I took for granted in past seasons, I feel that watching basketball with my friends will be an even bigger part of my life after COVID. Luckily, we should have a solid remainder of this season's games left by the time my people and I are vaccinated. And with only a bit of planning, a few dozen games of high-octane viewing should erase the bad memories of a lonely year, and get us back up to speed with what’s been going on in the league.
I've been thinking about the best way to make these game-watching gatherings feel like an event. Honestly, watching any sport after this mess is going to be extremely satisfying, and I think the following tips will likely improve whatever you’ve been missing, whether it’s baseball, hockey, the X Games, or, indeed, basketball.
Get that tinnitus-rousing arena sound by amping up your system
Last year, after realizing that my TV was about to become my best friend (and let’s be real, my worst enemy), I levelled up to a TCL 5-Series. The 4K picture is crazy-sharp and the 50” size is perfect for my small apartment, but the built-in speakers leave me wanting a bit more, especially if I’m going to be watching a live game. I mean, after all we’ve been through, we deserve to hear “Whoomp! (There It Is)” with ultimate clarity. Get a sound bar with a subwoofer, because your downstairs neighbor deserves it, too.
JBL 2.1-Channel 300W Soundbar System with 6-1/2" Wireless Subwoofer, $249.99 at Best Buy
Pour your beers into the right vessel before crushing the cans on your forehead
Beer and sports are like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: They're a match made in heaven. And for some reason, when watching people in coordinated outfits chase around a ball, the cheapest beers always seem to be the best-tasting ones. But drinking cheap beers doesn’t have to mean your coffee table is covered in crushed cans. What better way to usher back in the classic sports bar vibes of the Old Days than by picking up a nice new set of drinkware? Having spent the past year fantasizing about toasting up with the gang, I’ve looked into all different kinds of glasses to hold the lagers we aim to smash, but my gaze always returns to the standard, bar-style 16-oz pint glasses—thick, sturdy, and unlikely to shatter even if you have to throw one at the TV in a state of rage. There’s just something to be said for keeping it old-school.
Schott Zwiesel Tritan Beer Basic Pint Beer Glasses (Set of 6), $59.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond
Assert your team’s dominance at all times
As a massive Clippers fan from the good old days of Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick et al—an absolutely monumental lineup that still, somehow, couldn’t always get it done—I am very stoked to force my friends to watch the (admittedly entirely different) team again and spend yet another year evading my friend from Cleveland’s demands that we watch every Cavs game. (Sorry, I just can't do it, especially now.) Wearing a band’s T-shirt at the gig is still a nerd move (unless it’s a metal show, in which case go forth), but wearing your team’s gear while watching at home is pro.
Men's LA Clippers Mitchell & Ness Black Foundation Script Snapback Hat, $29.99 at NBA Store
Chicago Bulls New Era Two-Tone 9FIFTY Adjustable Hat, $29.99 at Lids
Ensure 24/7 streaming basketball programming
Unless you’re Drake, you’re probably not getting direct access to the kingdom of basketball simply because you exist. Luckily, there are plenty of solid options for home viewing, from the NBA League Pass and NBA TV to Hulu + Live TV (which you can bundle with ESPN+ and Disney+, so you can finally peep The Mandalorian). Another great option, YouTube Premium, includes channels like ESPN, FOX Sports, NBA TV, and TNT in its lineup. Having any of these services comes with the added bonus of having solid bargaining chips for exchanging streaming passwords with your friends.
NBA League Pass, $99.99 (free 3-day trial) at NBA
ESPN+, Hulu, Disney+ bundle, $12.99/month at ESPN
YouTube Premium, $11.99/month at YouTube
Keep everything within arm’s reach
There was literally no reason for me to buy a lazy Susan outside of the fact that I find them pretty funny. But after acquiring one, I discovered that they really do help me get to the pretzels quicker, which I guess is the point. In any case, there’s no move more on brand after sitting on your couch for an entire year than using a swiveling plate so you don't have to get up for another 48 minutes.
Shamorie Serveware Lazy Susan, $24.99 at Wayfair
Don’t forget that the game is 90% mental
I’ve had my eye on Nick Greene’s new book, How to Watch Basketball Like a Genius, for a minute, and now that it’s out, I’m going to blow through it like Iverson crossing over Jordan. In the book, Greene finds underlying patterns in how the game is played by talking to everyone from ballet choreographers to magicians to cartographers. I can’t wait to absolutely dunk on my friends with this knowledge. Like, if you aren’t using theoretical astrophysics to understand man-to-man defense, are you even watching the game?
How to Watch Basketball Like a Genius, $11.99 for Kindle/$21.99 for hardcover at Amazon
Elevate your trash talk
Speaking of dunking on your friends, I recommend scaring the hell out of them when your favorite player nails a layup by pulling out an air horn you hid in the couch. This one is designed specifically to be used at sea, so you know it’s good.
Shoreline Marine Air Horn, $21.99 at Amazon
Know when to outsource some of the work
I may have spent the entire pandemic making pizza at home, but I’m not about to spend an hour in the kitchen while my dudes run amok in the living room. Sometimes you just have to leave it to the pros, and in my capacity as a professional food journalist, I am telling you that Jet’s is the best mainstream pizza chain by a mile (especially when you get the 8-corner Detroit-style pie with Turbo Crust). If you hate this opinion, I urge you to please @ me, because maybe Jet’s will see it and send me free pizza. And if your town doesn’t have Jet’s, just hit Chownow (a commission-free food ordering app that won't hoard fees from you or the restaurants you love) or grab a DiGiorno at the store. These are the times DiGiorno was made for.
I’ve always believed that if you’re going to do something you love, you should do the best version of it possible. So when it comes to watching your favorite teams at home with your best friends, no expense is too high and no TV is too loud. Once that sweet tip-off happens, hopefully you’ll forget about this goddamn horror of a year and finally get your head back in the game.
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