By Se Kim, Senior writer, 18, Pacifica Christian HS
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Se says playing fantasy sports is a great way to learn more about sports.

Ever since I was young, I’ve loved watching sports—basketball, baseball, football and tennis. So sophomore year, when my friend asked me to join our school’s fantasy basketball league, I said OK. I wanted to show my friends that I knew more about sports than them.

I had never played fantasy sports, an online competition in which participants pretend to own and manage a sports team. But I knew about it because I’d read articles on and in Sports Illustrated. Those articles are how I learned how it’s played. The fantasy basketball season is the same as the regular NBA season. Each person builds a team by choosing NBA players through a draft and competes by earning points from individual players’ stats. How the players perform in real games impacts how many points a fantasy team gets.

Once I understood the concept, I thought it was the greatest idea ever. I wanted to be just like a coach and pick my own players. I wanted my own dream team. I knew that it would be a great way for my friends and I, who closely follow sports, to compete against each other. We always argue over who the best NBA players are. “Kobe most resembles the great players like Magic Johnson, his jumper is just like Michael Jordan’s,” I said while arguing with my friend Chris one day. He replied, “No, LeBron is a physical beast.”

A couple of coaches and teachers also joined our fantasy league. The students, including myself, wanted to beat the teachers because we wanted bragging rights over them. I really wanted to beat my AP European history teacher, Mr. Kelsey, because he’s also the basketball coach.

Kevin Garnett was my first pick

We started off the season with an online draft. The participants took turns choosing the best players available according to the draft order. My friend Paul had the first draft pick and he chose Kobe Bryant. For my first pick, I chose Kevin Garnett. After an hour, I had my team of 10 players, including Rashard Lewis, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Vince Carter and Ron Artest. I did my best to balance my team with players at different positions. I felt confident that I could win the league with my team.

Once the season started, every week my team would battle against another person’s team in 12 statistical categories, such as rebounds, steals, points and assists. Each category was worth one point. If my players got more rebounds than my opponent’s players, then I’d get a point. At the end of the season, the team with the most points wins.

Illustration by Francisco Sandoval, 17, Nogales HS

From the beginning, I was a fantasy sports addict. Every morning, I would log on to my Yahoo! account to check how my players were performing. I even paid $10 a month for a service to update me on my players’ statistics minute-by-minute during the games because I was too impatient to wait until the next morning to look online and see how my players did. How I started my day would depend on how well Garnett, Artest or Kevin Martin performed the night before. One day I walked into school and ran into my friend Chan. Our teams were playing against each other and I was beating him that week. He asked me how my players were doing. I knew that he checked every day and that he already knew I was doing well. “Great,” I said like it was no big deal. We looked at each other and walked on. It was awkward, but that’s what made it fun. I could tell he wanted to beat me.

Trash talk was part of the fun

At school my friends and I bragged about our players during class. Once in chemistry, my friend said, “Last night Kobe had 41 points.” I shot back, “KG had 25 points, 12 boards and three blocks.” “Kobe had two steals also,” he added. But if my team had played badly, I wouldn’t want to say anything about sports at all.

I got obsessed with trading my players to other teams. I overanalyzed how my players were playing every night and I would trade a player because of one bad game. I ended up trading my best player, Garnett, based on one off week. He’d averaged only 12 points and six rebounds. The next week, Garnett was on fire and scored more than 30 a night, while grabbing double-digit rebounds. I later regretted trading him because he did so well the rest of the season. I felt like I was putting all this effort into fantasy compared to my friends but they were still doing better. I was in the bottom half of the league.

Three months into the six-month season, I decided I was spending too much time playing fantasy sports. I dedicated less time and learned to play smarter. Instead of concentrating on small details like how many points a player scored in one game, I looked at his average over three weeks. I started checking on my team only a couple of times a week. By doing so, I didn’t get stressed over one bad game or week.

I also figured out a way to win a week even if my players didn’t play well offensively. Instead of seeking out only high scorers, I tried to balance my team with defensive players. If I dominated in steals, turnovers, blocks, rebounds and assists, I had a better chance to win at least five statistical categories. The week after I started doing this, my team won in blocks and steals—two categories I didn’t usually win.

After two of my best players got injured toward the end of the season and didn’t play as well as they had in the beginning, I placed fourth in our eight-person league. Fantasy sports has a lot to do with luck. All of your players could have an off week and you can’t do anything about it. I was disappointed, yet happy that I had learned how to play fantasy sports. Even though Mr. Kelsey beat me in the overall standings, at least I beat him almost every week we played against each other.

I still play fantasy basketball and also fantasy baseball. I’m playing with the same enthusiasm as before, but less seriously. I’ve never won, but I want to. Even though I haven’t proven anything yet, I’m still trying.

Other stories by this writer:

Tuned in to this election. Even though Se, 17, can’t vote, he cares about who will be our new president. (October 2008)

Saving is priceless. GameCube: $200. Soccer ball and jerseys: $120. Learning how to save money: much more rewarding. (May – June 2008)

It’s in our hands. Once Se, 16, learned about global warming, he realized that we all can do something about it. (September 2007)

I felt their fear. Having survived an armed robbery, Se, 16, felt a strong connection to the people at Virginia Tech. (May – June 2007)

News you can use. Se, 16, didn’t use to care about current events. But when his teacher inspired him to get informed, he discovered that he likes forming his own opinions about what’s going on in the world. (January – February 2007)