By Brandon Caldwell / @_brandoc
Ed’s Note: The internet is a beautiful thing. One of the good guys out here on the net is Brandon Caldwell of the Houston-based music and culture blog Day and a Dream, a site I peruse on a daily basis. The H-Town native has been in my doghouse ever since James Harden was jettisoned to the 713 by my Oklahoma City Thunder. Since then, Caldwell made a promise that when the Heat came to Houston that he’d be in the building to Shock The World. He asked if he could write a few words, and here is the result. Be sure to give Brandon a follow and favorite his site in the process. Enjoy the read.
The last time I purposely stepped foot inside Toyota Center for a Houston Rockets game was 2007. They played the Celtics, and the only thing I remember from the game was how pitiful Boston looked and how stunning in person Beyoncé was. That’s pretty much enough to detail why certain moments of recent Rockets history are nothing more than blips on the radar screen.
A week before this particular season, another in which I had once more determined the Rockets were going to be the scrappy little team that played certain teams big and played down to others, we got James Harden. Strippers from Oynx to Dreams threw their clear heels and G-strings in the air, and fans caught wind of what possibly lay ahead.
Somehow, God thought it would be nice to give me the chance to use a little pull to snag Rockets tickets of my own choosing. The game? The Miami Heat. Houston’s already split into factions of being Rockets fans, Lakers fans and fans of LeBron James, so I chose to deal with the least annoying of the bunch – LeBron fans. Besides, you don’t ever pass up the chance to see your favorite baller in the world at his absolute peak do his thing.
As Bill Simmons once described about LeBron in person, he simply moves at a different speed than anyone else. Walking into Toyota Center and gawking at that enormous scoreboard, you had the feeling that this was another episode of Scrappy Rockets vs. Overpowering Super Team. And for the most part, it was just that.
Only the Heat could get complacent with an 18-2 lead in the first quarter.
Only the Rockets could surrender such a damn thing.
And like any basketball game, nothing ever ends the way it starts off. Sort of like a relationship. I gave Ed enough grief the Saturday night Harden got shipped off to the City of Syrup and poked him a few times with a stick after the initial 37-45 “Southside” he laid on Detroit and Atlanta, but things seemed to have leveled off. He doesn’t stack after every big three these days, but he’s definitely caught on as a fan favorite in the city.
That’s the thing about Houston. Despite our label for being front-runner lovers, there are those few who ride and die with their new toys no matter what. They lustfully booed the Heat after every basket and questionable call while the LeBron fans cheered loudly every time King James made a play. Rebound. Pass. You name it. Chicks were flagrantly ready to serve up the NBA MVP in front of their dudes, and the men only held grins as wide as possible like, “She can do it. I don’t care!” It’s the weird respect thing we have with stars.
Besides, Rockets fans crack jokes with some of the best of them. Every time a defense chant got started, our section countered with “IN THE FACE” paying homage to Coming To America. Every time LeBron made a basket, the guys behind me had an existential conversation on when to cheer and when to boo for LeBron. They settled on free throws, and I had to wonder – how did they solve arguments with women? Nevertheless, you already know the final score and the stat line from LeBron. Every loud roar Rockets fans gave at him, he swished another three. Or jumper. Or found his way to the lane to draw those fouls only someone built like a genetic freak could get. Fans rattled them off of that ginormus screen like a Bible verse. 38, 10, 6, 0. Not taking in the fact that the best baller in the world looked at a four-point deficit with 90 seconds left and immediately went into “I Got This” mode.
So yes, as I expected the Rockets took the loss, but it doesn’t matter in the end. Instead it matters that I took in a Rockets game with some compadres in a much different light. Makes me only wish the Bulls game I have tickets to a week or so from now featured Derrick Rose, but that’s another story.
Oh, and for good measure – here’s how ridiculous that damn Jeremy Lin airball was from my seats.