I’ve been spewing vitriol like a automatic vitriol spewer lately, so let me take a moment to remind everyone why we love this game and will sorely miss it for however long this idiocy continues.
The subdued MSG crowd as the players lined up on the bench before introductions in 1972. The sudden burst of excitement, the grainy camera swing to the tunnel where the captain, Willis Reed, limped out in full uniform to join his teammates. The inspired play of Clyde Frazier and Dave DeBuschere that carried the Knicks to a win against a vastly supior (without a healthy Reed) LA Lakers team.
The 1982 EC Finals, game 7, Boston Garden. It’s late in the fourth quarter and the game is out of hand. The hated rival 76ers are going to move onto the Finals and leave the home team victims in their wake. Celtics fans who have been vociferously booing the Sixers for 4 hard fought home games begin the chant. “BEAT L-A!” “BEAT L-A!” The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and chills creep up the spines of fans across the country watching on their television sets.
It’s the fifth and final game of the conference semis, 1991 back in Boston, and the game is slipping away to the visiting Pacers. Chuck Person is on a tear, and the Celtics can’t muster the offense to match him. The Garden crowd is muted, fatalistic. And then there’s a gasp, and another camera swings to a different tunnel, where another hobbled hero limps out to the rescue. It’s Larry Bird, injured but back to play, like faith rewarded. The home crowd begins the chant, “Laa-rryyy! Laa-rryyy!” Bird scores inside and out, dishes like only he can, and owns the glass. For one quarter he is invincible again. Faith rewarded.
1997 Salt Lake City, the greatest player of all time is suffering from late-night food poisoning, sick and dehydrated, a game-time decision. Except of course that this is Michael Jordan in the all-important fifth game of a tied series where the first team to 4 wins takes the title. There is no decision. Victory is the only option. So, slack with exhaustion every time he sits the bench, Michael proceeds to exert every last microgram of his power to dominate a game he should never have even shown up to play. After hitting the game winning three pointer, Michael leans on teammate Scottie Pippen, who supports him as he staggers back to the bench. The debate officially ends this night. Look upon his works, ye mighty, and despair.