There is no mathematics to explain karma, and the basketball gods to whom we attribute unforeseen, albeit just and providential eventualities, they are faceless, nameless, and shapeless gods that demand neither devotion nor offering, just the fervor in sports, a fierce pursuit of athletic excellence, credit for fulfilling the wishes of the deserving, and if need be—more importantly—dispensing justice that manifests in karmic circumstances.
So to the gods, a prayer today in the day of schemers, a day that seldom comes, a day that will come again for sure, for every time it is here it feels opportune, so strong the temptation to abandon honor: let those who dishonor basketball be the first to feel your righteous wrath. Start with those who drop matches so that they can choose their opponents in the play-in and the play-offs, consumed by the delusion they alone hold both the hammer and the chisel that shapes what becomes of them.
I was never a believer in tanking. I don’t believe in the promise of reward of schemes. I believe in playing hard and that it brings with it triumph and moral victory. I don’t believe that willfully losing benefits anyone – the victor feels cheated with a hollow win, and the losing team loses both the match and their dignity.
They say some moves require one step backward to advance two steps forward. That is just an elegant way to describe the work of a schemer. In truth, it is a shrewd way of manipulating a flaw in the system, plain and simple. Lose a game to match up against a team you feel you can beat? Such hubris! How many times have we seen weaker teams pull off an upset against stronger teams, especially when winning really mattered? That is the justice of the basketball gods. Victory is denied to those who have no esteem and respect for it.
They say it is tactical, that some moves require one step backward to advance two steps forward. I disagree. This is poison, and it will kill everything good in you as an athlete and competitor – the competitive fire, the sense of honor among combatants, the sense of moral conduct, and the appreciation for the privilege of being here when others are not so lucky to be given the chance to partake in this competition.
Every time you make this step, you encourage your fear of an opponent you deem formidable, so you avoid or delay the task instead of facing it, despite the promise that this can and will make you stronger even if you fall on the first try. Scurrying through holes makes you weak and scared, and for what? So that you can take the route where you think there is a better chance of success? And when you fail regardless, that is karma for spitting at the core foundation of sports: competing to win. The basketball gods do not favor cowards and cowardice, and in one form or another, the basketball gods will dispense justice for this scrupulous behavior.
They say this strategy - the move to take one step backward to advance two steps forward - is meant to win the bigger prize. I disagree. The only thing you can hope to win is the game you are slated to play. You cannot plan – or worse, hope - to win a duel that hasn’t been promised to you yet. Win your battles, and the basketball gods will let you know if you’ve won the war.
They say it is a matter of necessity, to take one step backward to advance two steps forward. I disagree. You see this as a luxury – to cheat and find convenience without punishment. When you take into account how this mentality sows the seeds of undesirable qualities in the athlete, in the coach, and the system, you will realize that taking one step backward actually sets you back a hundred steps down the pit of shame and disgrace, further and further away from being a respectable person in the world of sports. By then every misfortune appears deserving. Call it karma. Call it the justice of the basketball gods.
And even if you emerge victorious in the end, how can you call yourself a champion if you tried to sneak past enemies you made sure to avoid and let others vanquish? Where is the honor in that? A true champion honors the opponent and the sports by giving it their best and playing to win. And the faceless, nameless, shapeless gods of basketball reward them rightfully.
There is no mathematics to explain karma but when it happens, it makes sense somehow. It feels reasonable and fitting. And it is through this that we can understand how the gods dispense justice for the things that are not right, like deliberately losing when the essence of sports is playing to win.