I wasn’t a basketball fan before Nate came into my life. I didn’t even understand the sport or care to learn. I celebrated when Carolina won and ran around Franklin Street with my teammates, but I didn’t ever watch the games or follow the team’s schedule.
But it hasn’t been that way for two years. Once we started dating I never missed watching his games. I made every game I could and proudly sat behind the bench watching him do his thing. I always tuned in to support my best friend; from Mexico, Colorado, Texas, New Jersey, wherever I was; watching him wasn’t something I wanted to do anymore. I had to. It, and Nate, has become too big a part of my life for me not to.
On Saturday, I found myself in a stadium with 77,000 people, filled with more emotion than I can put into words. I watched the stadium engulf Nate like his shirt used to engulf him, watched thousands of strangers shout and scream at the person I care about so much. And I felt it brewing inside me, the intensity and tenseness of this moment, all bubbling over at once. And then it hit me, and I was in awe: that in two years’ time, I had gone from ignoring all of this to suddenly being a part of it myself. And Nate’s the only reason why.
I watch him in his open practice as he smiles and laughs with his teammates and feel dizzy… that’s the smile and laugh I fell in love with. I remember one of the first times I really appreciated it, on our first date two years ago. We asked someone to take a
picture of the two of us, and the guy was so nervous he dropped my phone flat on the concrete sidewalk. We were both so giddy from being together that all we could do was laugh. Nate’s smile made me so nervous. I don’t think anything else has ever given me that heart pounding edgy feeling. I will never forget that moment I knew that smile would always have that effect on me.
I feel the same sensation as I watch him shoot in the University of Phoenix stadium the day before the semi- final of the NCAA tournament. I have seen him work on that shot so many times. I think about the days I spent in the gym with him. He blasts his music and doesn’t realize how long he has been in the gym. Some days I rebound for him; I volley kick it back to him instead of throwing it because it’s faster and more efficient. Some days I sit on the side and read a book while simultaneously doing planks while one of his team managers rebounds for him. I am mesmerized by how hard he works when there is no one around to push him or to celebrate him.
My mind somehow decides that reminiscing on these moments right now and getting emotional makes sense…
I sit behind the Carolina bench in the Semi-final game. I do what I always do at basketball games… I watch the man in the #0 Tar Heel jersey. I feel my heart swell for him. I am so proud of him. I am so glad that he gets to be a part of this. That his hard work has brought him to this exact moment.
When the team found themselves losing 30—22 with three minutes and 43 seconds left in the first half, he found his flow and made back to back to back to back important plays to help the team regain the advantage. It was everything I had hoped for him and the team.
My heart felt like it was literally clenching too tightly the entire second half and don’t get me started on the last couple minutes…
But the Heels came out on top and they are playing the final Monday against Gonzaga.
So this is it.
One more game in his college career.
One more game wearing his #0 jersey.
One more game of my boyfriend being larger than life on the court.
One more game as a Carolina student supporting this group of guys.
I am feeling a million emotions that could not be put into words. But more than anything I am grateful that I got to be a part of this journey. I didn’t care about the results of any basketball game until I fell in love with Nate. Since then I have become so invested in supporting Carolina basketball, especially #0 that winning this would mean everything to me.
I want this so badly for the guys, but for Nate more than anyone. I’ve tried to tell him, show him – every handwritten good luck letter, the paragraph texts before each game, the countless hugs and kisses after good games and bad – every way I know how. Just thinking back on all those moments now, I’m spilling tears on the keyboard.
So yes, UNC fans deserve this, and students and alumni and everyone else who supports this team… but really, most of all, these guys deserve this. Nate deserves this.
There’s so many more things I need to say but there’s just no way to other than this—your final pregame letter:
Good luck Nathaniel. I love you more, and I always will. Complete faith in you always. You’re my star. Go Heels.