The beauty of the game rests in this kind of infinite matches. Twisted scripts with inexplicable denouement, cables that are cut at the last second, ups and downs that cause inevitable strokes of emotional tension.
The army of the night includes us and shelters us. We are pilgrims in continuous waiting for a rain that refuses, but we know that when it happens it will be unforgettable. We stir, in a sea of matches, players and teams so that the excitement returns. So that what seemed forgotten, hidden, off, flourish once and for all. So that the rushing sleep turns into insomnia.
Avenues made of segments and networks in search of El Dorado, which appears and disappears like an oasis in the desert. The beauty of the game is explained, then, in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. The number of possible outcomes, the transformation of the ordinary into the extraordinary, the argumentative twist that transforms heroes into villains and vice versa.
The essence of basketball rests in the fighting spirit of Damian Lillard. God transformed into a basketball player overnight. Salvador Dalí’s melted clocks, his time within time, surrealism turned into an athlete that explains that this sport is much more than aim. That you can make art with a ball without the need for excessive histrionics. That you can be a winner even in defeat. Because what Lillard did exceeds the result, we could even say that it exceeds the sport per se: it is the fight of man against a destiny that strives to confirm that it is written in advance. The battle against circumstances, the human condition and the sense of sports survival. If there is a slim chance out there, you have to go find it.
There they go, then, the Denver Nuggets. Winners of a magical night beyond beginner mistakes. With Nikola Jokic’s tired basketball that naturalizes the existence of countercyclical speed in the best league in the world. Human panopticon, capable of making the difficult easy, of deploying an art of fat blob that finds companions in unexplored angles, that draws unconventional arcs in its launch mechanics, that squeezes the seconds in a game that has time as its best ally . If Lillard is explosive electricity, Jokic is magnetism. Everything towards him and everything as he decides.
Sleep invades, but suddenly, there is screaming and disorder in the room. Lillard has the ball in his hands and the Nuggets decide they won’t foul despite being three points up. It doesn’t matter what happened before, it matters what will happen from now on. They can send Lillard to the personnel line and guarantee the win. But not. Triple and overtime. Annoyance, anger, frustration. You want to bang your head against the screen, to ask the gods of the game for an explanation.
Denver had it earned and not now. The drama continues, because now at the end of the first overtime, Lillard has the ball in his hands again and the decision to defend is the same: inaction, triple and second overtime. Eyes on the stadium are on Michael Malone. Social media isn’t sure where to point, whether for Lillard’s phenomenal performance or the Nuggets coach’s frustrating decision. All attention is on defusing the atomic bomb. At the end of the second overtime, the exact same thing happens: Cut foul for the love of God! Nothing. The scream cracks the dawn. But this time Lillard, the indomitable Lillard, misses his shot. Austin Rivers looks to the sky and thanks, a way to ingratiate himself with some divinity for the opportune favor. Relief, relaxation and joy. From darkness to paradise. Malone, who was almost crying, now smiles. The script that did not belong to him now belongs to him.
Fans who fell asleep, now cannot sleep. The tension is kept to the limit. The electricity that was from Lillard, from the magnificent Lillard, now invades us. The army of the night has won again. The sport of the baskets shows its best face once again. The shields thrown into the sky, the feeling of consummate ecstasy, the joy that does not stop. What is basketball if not this? The pleasure of staying until the end so as not to miss the anecdote. Live to tell. It will be a difficult morning, I know, but none of that matters to me.
None of that matters to us.
The beauty of the game once again dresses us all as winners.
And that, dear friends, is the only thing that matters.