Fantasy basketball unites and bonds senior boys
November 6, 2017
Many ninth graders join sports teams to make friends and become acquainted with their new school community. However, it turns out that the social benefits of joining a sports team are available without all the running and sweat–through the world of fantasy sports.
As a ninth grader, now senior Rahul Dev decided to form a fantasy basketball league as a way to expand his social circle and get familiar with more students in his grade.
“I was a new student and I was looking to make some new friends, so me and [senior] Ryan Kuntz took our common interest in basketball and decided to start a league with some buddies of mine on the bus,” Dev said.
Since then, the fantasy basketball league has grown in size and competitiveness. This year, there are twelve senior teams in it. The majority of this year’s participants have been in the league all four years, and they appreciate the camaraderie and bonding fantasy basketball has offered them.
“We have all gotten closer based on how competitive it is. Some of these people I haven’t been super good friends with in high school, but through the league, I got to know them better,” senior Ezra Cohen said.
Fantasy leagues are a more immersive and interactive way for fans to engage with a sport. Through sites like ESPN.com, people draft fantasy “teams” comprised of real professional athletes, and compete with other imaginary teams within their league for points. Every action that a player makes in a real game–like getting a point, a rebound, or an assist–translates to a certain amount of fantasy points that contribute to the imaginary team’s score.
Dev and Cohen’s fantasy basketball league uses a head-to-head system, so every week two teams are matched up and the one whose players accumulate the greatest number of points in their real-life games wins. At the end of the regular season, the top eight fantasy teams enter the playoffs following a traditional bracket style. The winner at the end of the play-offs gets “immense bragging rights,” Cohen said.
For Cohen, fantasy basketball has not only expanded his social circle, but his athletic interests as well.
“When I was in ninth grade, I didn’t follow any major league sports at all. I had no idea what I was doing. But just because of the competitiveness, I got super into it. I have grown to appreciate the NBA a lot, even though I am bad at basketball and have never played before,” he said.
Similarly, Dev was inspired by his time playing on the imaginary team to join Boys Varsity Basketball this year.
“[I realized that] if I join basketball this year, there is going to be some insane chemistry on this team because of fantasy basketball brotherhood we have,” Dev said.
However, unlike Dev and Cohen, some league members got into fantasy basketball as a way to strengthen their preexisting passion for the sport.
“I have played basketball and followed the NBA for most of my life, and [basketball] was always something that I loved. Fantasy basketball was the perfect way to pursue my interest,” senior Gus Grunau said.
Grunau transferred to St. Paul Academy his junior year, and he found that participating in the fantasy basketball league positively contributed to his transition.
“It gave me a group of friends and we had something to talk about every day. I got to know the people in the league really well,” Grunau said.
Grunau participated in a fantasy league at his old school, but “it wasn’t nearly as serious as this one.”
For the league members, that seriousness is conducive to their bonding.
“I am a big fan of the friendly trash talk that happens. I am looking forward to the competitive spirit and the bonding experience with everyone else in the league,” Grunau said.
Whether they got involved to supplement their passion for basketball, or just as a way to make friends, all participants in the fantasy basketball league appreciate how its competitive spirit and camaraderie has contributed to their high school experience, and they are eager to see how their final seasons conclude.
“People say my team is bad when they hear the names. They aren’t big names, but on paper and with my managerial skills, I am feeling confident for this season,” Grunau said.
Cohen summed up his ambitions more simply: “I am going to win.”
Play-offs do not occur until spring break, so there is plenty of time for trades, wins, and losses to determine who the top eight are. In the meantime, the fantasy basketball league members will continue to bond over their competitive spirit, reaping all the social rewards of a real sports team–without leaving the couch.