FRIDAY is just days away, when the NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland will blast off amid contrasting, sometimes fiery, opinions among basketball-mad Filipinos.

I am one bloke deep in the heart of the fray.

I was a Chicago Bull fan when Michael Jordan was king of the hill.

Before that, Los Angeles was my team mainly because of Magic Johnson, whose magical moves made people forget about his real first name--Earvin.

When Jordan had finished his reign with six of his fingers adorned with NBA championship rings, I moved back to Los Angeles. Why? Because mainly of Phil Jackson, Jordan’s coach at Chicago.

With Jackson, the Zen master, orchestrating everything at Los Angeles, including his fabled love affair with the daughter of the team owner, the Lakers started winning again, especially when Shaquille O’Neal was still in good terms with Kobe Bryant.

When Jackson’s powers had been clipped somewhat, he retired—but still continued to shack up with the daughter of the Laker owner. Love knows no rules, indeed.

While searching for my new NBA team—Bryant had become inutile with Jackson’s departure—along came LeBron James.

He was a phenom, the undisputed new star at Cleveland. But basketball being basically a five-man business, James just couldn’t give Cleveland a crown.

After the Cavs’ failed NBA run in 2007, James left Cleveland for Miami and was roundly criticized, his jersey torched in public by fans angered by his exit.

Weathering the storm, James teamed up with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to give Miami two NBA crowns in three trips to the Finals.

I was with James in all three joyrides.

Then, like the proverbial prodigal son, James returned home—even as many of his tormented fans in the past gave him the cold-shoulder treatment; but only at the start.

As James started weaving that old magic again for the Cavs, fans would soon play footsy-footsy with him. Soon, the past is forgotten—as time, indeed, heals all wounds.

Now that Cleveland is just four wins away from the NBA title, James’ job is in near completion.

Golden State is favored in the best-of-seven series?

I don’t know about that.

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(Happy birthday to Coach Dayong of San Miguel Beer. From Mayo, Dada, Migel, Mayasoh and Ikap.)

(alsol47@yahoo.com)