The NBA season tips off tomorrow night, and even the most casual pro basketball fans are so desperate for sports that they’re searching for a team to cheer for in the Bubble. But which one? With 16 former Kentucky Wildcats on 12 different teams, there are plenty of options. To help with my own search, I came up with six methods for choosing a squad.
The Shameless Bandwagon Approach: Los Angeles Lakers
For many, this is a no-brainer. Anthony Davis is the best former Cat in the NBA and he’s playing for the best team, the Los Angeles Lakers. But what if you’ve been conditioned to hate the Lakers? The Lakers were so good when I was growing up that I couldn’t help but hate them. Maybe it was because I thought Kobe was cocky. Maybe it’s because I thought Phil Jackson was weird. I’ve grown to have a lot of respect for both Kobe and Jackson, but it still feels strange to cheer for what I once considered the evil empire. It’d be like a fan with no college team to root for picking Kentucky just because they’re good. Would I suddenly have to start cheering for the Yankees and the Patriots too?
No. Some things can just be this easy. Anthony Davis led Kentucky to a national championship and is a stupidly talented freak of nature. LeBron James is one of the greatest to ever play the game (I’m not such a sellout that I’m giving up on MJ in that debate). Fellow former Cat Rajon Rondo may play once his finger is healed. Most, if not all, of their games will be televised. Plus, it would be kind of perfect if the Lakers won it all the same year Kobe tragically died.
So, the Lakers. Maybe.
The Numbers Approach: Oklahoma City Thunder
Last week, our BBNBA guru Zack Geoghegan made the case for the Oklahoma City Thunder. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, and Nerlens Noel all on the roster, the Thunder have the most Wildcats of any team in the bubble. From a numbers standpoint, there you go. Plus, Shai is one of the rising stars in the league, so he’ll be featured prominently and they’ve got a good chance of making the playoffs. Makes sense.
Zack has a ton of other very good reasons to cheer for the Thunder. Check them out below.
The Trendy Approach: Miami Heat
Between the Bucket and Bam, the Miami Heat are definitely the cool kids of the BBNBA. With his game, his hair, and his clothes (not to mention his Instagram-model girlfriend), Tyler Herro is a demigod to fans under the age of 25. Without him, I doubt my nephew would have spent his allowance on this ridiculous pair of flower-patterned basketball shorts.
And then you’ve got Bam, an NBA All-Star who was playing so well before the season stopped that he’s considered the front-runner for Most Improved Player. Led by Jimmy Butler, the Heat are young, hungry, and most importantly, fun to watch. And that jersey would be fun to wear.
The “I Want to Watch Devin Booker” Approach: Phoenix Suns
If the Suns have any chance of making the playoffs, Devin Booker’s going to have to score a million points, and that would be really fun to watch. Even if the Suns suck, he’ll probably still score a half a million points, which would also be fun to watch. With rumors swirling that Booker (and maybe even Karl-Anthony Towns) could end up with the New York Knicks now that Worldwide Wes is on board, his best days are ahead of him, but there’s no denying he’s an entertaining draw even on a bad squad.
The Anti-Duke Approach: Anybody who plays the New Orleans Pelicans
Can’t settle on one team to cheer for? Pick one to cheer against. With five former Duke Blue Devils on the roster, including Zion Williamson, the New Orleans Pelicans are the perfect villain. (Yes, Darius Miller is still on the roster, but is injured and didn’t come to the bubble, so I’m holding him out of this exercise.)
For Kentucky fans, cheering against Duke is second nature. During basketball season, how many times have you flipped to a Duke game and simply cheered for the other team just because? Heck, Duke losing in the 2019 Elite Eight was the only thing that made Kentucky’s loss to Auburn slightly less painful. This can be just like that.
Side note: if the New Orleans roster wasn’t loaded with former Dukies, I might begin the process of trying to forget Zion went there, but for this summer at least, I’m anti-Pelicans.
The Lazy Approach: Whatever team has a former Cat on it
I could make the case for so many other teams based on the former Cats on their rosters: Jamal Murray and his bow and arrow in Denver, Swipa De’Aaron Fox in Sacramento, fan favorite Patrick Patterson and the Clippers. In fact, maybe that’s the best approach of all: turn on the TV at any given time and cheer for the team with the most Wildcats (or your favorite Wildcats) on it.
It’s good to have these problems again.