Welcome back to Living Inside Enemy Lines. My name is Matthew Bassin, I’m about to turn 30 (same birthday as Michael Jordan, Jim Brown, Tommy Moe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and…. ugh… Paris Hilton), I’m a lifelong Laker and Piston fan and am currently living in the city of their most hated rivals, Boston.
This is a multi-part story about what it’s like to live in this city, from a sports point of view. If you haven’t read parts 1 and/or 2, then you’re going to be confused, so go read those and then come back.
Welcome back. I’ve already covered the Origin and the Boston Red Sox. Next up is the team that almost was the greatest ever, and almost just won another title. The New England Patriots.
As far as my feelings go for the Pats, I really don’t have any animosity toward them. I rooted for them against the St. Louis Rams in 2001, have always liked Wes Welker, Teddy Bruschi is an Arizona Wildcat (my Alma Mater) and have felt blessed to watch Tom Brady do what he does. (I’m the kind of guy that appreciates Legendary greatness in all sports, and I’ve been fortunate to see a few per sport in my almost 30 years on this planet. And yes, Tom Brady is Legendary greatness, but more on that later.)
The New England Patriots have been one of, if not the best NFL franchise in the last 11 years. They have gone to 5 Super Bowls, winning 3. They completed a 16-game season with a perfect 16-0 record in 2007. They have one of the greatest coaches, Quarterbacks and Quarterback-coaching combo’s ever.
And just like with the Boston Red Sox… It’s not good enough for some folks in this town.
The 2011 season has just recently come to an end, with the New York Giants defeating the Pats 21-17 in Super Bowl XLIV… no, XVLI…. no… LIVX… dammit! Super Bowl 46.
The Patriots were the No. 1 seed in the AFC, dismantling the upstart Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round, outlasting the vaunted Baltimore Ravens in the Championship round, and coming within a Wes Welker/Deion Branch/Aaron Hernandez catch in the 4th quarter of winning their 4th Super Bowl in 11 years.
But the passes all missed, regardless of fault, and the Giants marched down, just like in 2007, and broke the hearts of Patriots fans throughout New England.
And here come the fans…
"Trade Brady AND Welker"
Are you freakin kidding me?! You want to get rid of a man who just finished a season where he threw for 5,235 yards (Surpassing Dan Marino’s record and second only to Drew Brees), 39 TDs and completed 66% of his passes. And you want to dump the NFL’s LEADING RECEIVER. Who caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards, which is an average of just about 100 yards a game.
"But they choked in the Super Bowl…"
BUT YOU GOT TO THE SUPER BOWL!
I heard a great line while watching NFL Network’s Top 10 (great show btw). “You want to know why there are so many great players who never played in a Super Bowl? BECAUSE IT’S HARD TO GET THERE.”
Now, maybe I’m missing something, because I’m a fan of the Detroit Lions and the closest we’ve come to a Super Bowl is HOSTING it in 2005. But I’ll tell you this, IF my Lions ever make it to the final Sunday of the NFL season, something all 32 teams dream of doing, yet only 2 per year get to do, I’ll spend the entire game celebrating (not to mention laughing my ass off) that they even got there!
But expectations are higher in the city of Boston. Simply getting to the final game is not good enough. They cannot sit back and enjoy the fact that Tom Brady has treated them to 11 years of shear BRILLIANCE at the Quarterback position. In his decade-plus run, Tom has never had a losing season, has never completed less than 60% of his passes, has never thrown for more than 14 picks (that’s less than 1 per game for his CAREER), and is 5th all-time in TDs with 300.
When you look at the greatest QBs of all-time, the majority of them had a Wide Receiver that also did a fair share of the legwork. With Joe Montana, you have Jerry Rice 6’2” (Greatest Receiver of all-time, duh). With John Elway, you have Shannon Sharpe 6’2” (ok, he’s a TE, but he’s one of the top-3 of all-time). With Dan Marino, you have the Marks Brothers (Mark Clayton and Mark Duper). With Peyton Manning, you have Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne (both 6-feet tall).
All of these combos had receivers (or TEs) that caught for over 1000 yards many, many times in their career.
With Tom Brady, here are his receivers throughout his career: Troy Brown 5’10” (ONE season of over 1000 yards receiving), David Givens 6’0” (maybe) (never caught for 1000 yards), Deion Branch 5’9” (reached 998 yards in 2005, that’s his highest). With those 3 receivers, he won THREE Super Bowls in FOUR years.
Then Randy Moss and Wes Welker came into the fold and Brady went DUMB. (That’s a good thing for you older readers) He threw for 50 TDs and only 8 interceptions, averaging 300 yards a game and a QB rating of 117.2. Wes Welker led the NFL in receptions and Randy Moss broke Jerry Rice’s record, catching 23 TDs for the season. (One more than Rice did in a lockout-shorted 14 game season).
Flash forward to this past season, a season where offense was king, and defense was non-existent (except for San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Houston). Welker led the NFL in receptions with 122 for over 1500 yards, 2nd year TE Aaron Hernandez had over 900 yards receiving, and other 2nd year TE Rob Gronkowski set NFL records with 17 TDs (most ever by a TE) and caught for over 1300 yards.
Who throws over 2200 yards to his Tight Ends?! Tom Brady does.
And he’s taken this team to the post season almost every year he’s played. They are being called the New York Yankees of the NFL. Last I checked, the Yankees got their reputation because they won… A LOT. And so do the Patriots. 124-35… That’s the record for the Pats with Brady at the helm.
35 losses for his career in the regular season… over 10 years of playing… PFFFFT…. My Lions lost more than that in a 3 year span! (2001-2003, 38 losses), (2004-2006, 34 losses), and (2008-2010, 40 losses) JUST TO GIVE YOU A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE.
What is it about being so good for so long that people end up taking it for granted? Now don’t think it’s like this for EVERY Patriots fan out in Boston, I’m sure some of them can actually appreciate what they have before they lose it. But for the most part, the fans here are ridiculous about this team… just like with the Sox.
A loss means the system is broken, the coach is getting old, the QB has lost his star-power, and an entire overhaul is necessary.
This is just not the case. Only ONE team wins the Super Bowl every year, and it is damn hard to get there, let alone win it. Ask the Buffalo Bills. And the Patriots have been there 7 times in their history, with 5 of those times coming in the last 11 years. And it was almost more… rememeber 4th-and-2 against the Colts in the AFC Championship Game?
The point is, this team is a fantastic example of greatness over a lengthy period of time. They should be celebrated and should be allowed to celebrate the fact that they just went to another Super Bowl. (Yes, people are upset that Gronkowski and Matt Light were dancing at a NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS PARTY, after the Super Bowl. They just finished a grueling season and came up just short in a very tight Championship game. Get a life people.)
I’m baffled by some of the comments I hear daily about this team and how to fix it… You came up 4 points short in the Super Bowl. Not much to fix.
At least with the Red Sox there was a real reason to bitch. But with the Pats, it just makes no sense. 13-3 in the regular season, No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, a young defense that gave up yards and not points, and a top-4 offense in a very, very offense-happy league. Oh, and you also WENT TO THE SUPER BOWL. Good call Boston fans.
No wonder Tom Brady lives in California…
****COMING SOON, WE DROP THE PUCK ON PART 4 OF LIVING INSIDE ENEMY LINES****
Sorry for the delay on Part Two of this story of Living Inside Enemy Lines, but for some reason my Tumblr account was not working. For those just joining us, my name is Matthew Bassin and I am a lifelong Los Angeles Laker and Detroit Piston fan, and I have currently lived and worked in the city of Boston for the last 15 months.
And being a Laker and Piston fan means hating one team and city more than anyone else, Boston.
Now that you’re caught up, let’s get to what it means to live in this city.
It means being surrounded by some of the most obnoxious, yet knowledgeable sports fans in the country. They are also a sky-is-falling fanbase.
I have had the privalege of living in some great sports towns (Detroit and now Boston), some admittedly not-great sports towns (Santa Barbara and Tucson), and some towns that think they are great sports towns but need some work (San Diego and Atlanta).
To be fair to Atlanta, they are a good sports town, but that sport is college football, er…. SEC football (and Georgia Tech). And unless it’s that time of year, the city just kind of coasts around their sports teams.
In Boston, like all cities, there is one clear favorite team, one that gets talked about all year long. You’d think that team would be the Patriots for their decade-plus run of fantastic regular seasons, not to mention three Super Bowls and four appearances. Or maybe the Celtics for winning their NBA-leading 17th Championship in 2008 and getting within the 4th quarter of Game 7 of winning it again in 2010. Or maybe even the Bruins, who ended a 39-year drought by hoisting the Stanley Cup this past June.
But no, it’s far and away the Boston Red Sox. Now, I don’t know how this city treated the Sox during their 86-year dry-spell, but the way this city lived and died with them last summer was something to behold.
First, it was the slow start in April, where most of the population had enough common sense to realize it’s a 162-game season and to not panic. However there were the people who thought this team was dead already because they were trailing the hated New York Yankees.
Then came the months leading to the All-Star break in July, where the Sox were the best team in baseball. Their pitching staff was clicking, newly acquired first-baseman Adrian Gonzalez was hitting like a man possessed, and they, as a team, could do no wrong.
The Sox stayed hot throughout the summer, building a sizeable lead in the division and a seemingly insurmountable lead in the Wild Card race. And all the talk of “Best Team EVER” was stirring on the airwaves, both radio and television. Fans were feeling great about their team, in fact, after the Bruins won the Cup there was talk of the city maybe owning all 4 major sports trophies at once! (Yes, they really did have conversations of significant length about this topic).
Then came the month of September… (If I could add dramatic music to this sentence, I would).
The month of September in 2011 is something the city of Boston will never forget. It is a month where their beloved Red Sox, who were on pace to win 100 games and contend for their 3rd World Series in seven years, went 7-20, including losing 2 out of the final 3 games to the Baltimore Orioles (whose final record was 69-93, last in the division). Then have just enough time to make their way into the dugout and watch the Tampa Bay Rays complete a 3-game sweep of the Yankees and leapfrog the Sox for the Wild Card spot.
Season over. No postseason for the “Best Team EVER”.
And then all-hell breaks loose. The rumors start flying about this player and that player. Stories of Popeyes’ Chicken and beer in the clubhouse during games. Pitchers accused of not giving it their all. The Manager accused of a drug problem.
It was chaotic, yet very entertaining.
Then Terry Francona, Arizona Graduate (ahem) and 8-year manager of the Boston Red Sox, is forced out. And I mean forced out in front of a bus that hits him and drags him under again and again. I’ve never seen anything like it. You’d think after all the success he had (2 World Series, the first two since, oh… 1918!) that they would give him a grand send-off. But no, they threw him out like garbage. Couldn’t believe he had enough character to take the high road with them.
After that, the Doogie Howser of GM-ing, aka, Theo Epstein goes to Chicago to take over as President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs. And now you have a team full of talent and no one to steer the ship. (BTW, Theo Epstein became General Manager of the Red Sox in 2002 at the age of 28. #DoogieHowser)
So now the city is in a scramble to find a new GM and a new Manager. The names that were coming up were very… unimpressive. Except for the ridiculous ones. “Well, maybe Tony LaRussa will come out of the retirement he just went into and come here… Or maybe Joe Torre will leave his cushy desk job and deal with the stress of managing the Sox…”
Yah, Joe Torre is 71 years old… He also became a legend managing the NEW YORK YANKEES… Yah, he’s gonna tarnish that image. I don’t think so.
The Sox ended up with the only guy who’s name was “big” enough to take over in Boston. Bobby Valentine. I personally loved the move. But the fanatics here, had a different opinion. And here’s the problem… The man that was perfect for this job, they just ran him out of town!
Terry Francona was a winner in Boston. He was able to deal with the egos on the team, and settle them enough to win, and win a lot. But the message turned stale, and the players stopped listening. So out with the old and in with the… new?
Spring Training hasn’t even begun, but the Sox have had equal airtime as the Patriots (about to host the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs), Bruins (currently one of, if not the hottest team in the NHL) and probably more airtime than the Celtics (whose season is finally underway, thank-you-very-much stupid NBA Lockout).
This city loves its Sox… as long as they are winning. They aren’t happy with good regular seasons anymore. They have become far too spoiled for that. The days of just enjoying how great the run has been are far behind this fanbase. Maybe they enjoyed them more in 2003, before they finally won a World Series or two… I don’t know, I wasn’t here.
But I’m here now, and as a fan of the Detroit Tigers (A team that has been god-awful until 2006 when they went to the World Series), I know what it’s like to love a team that is finally starting to play good baseball. I was ecstatic that they made the ALCS this year. Was hurt, like any good fan would be, when they were knocked out of the playoffs. But I was proud of them and the season they had. And maybe I’d have a different opinion if they were winners of a couple recent title, but I doubt it.
Like I said, in the city of Boston, the fans are obnoxious, yet knowledgeable. But you also have to deal with the ridiculous sometimes. And when it comes to the Red Sox, at least in my opinion, the fanatics here are definitely ridiculous.
There’s more to come. Still got 3 more sets of teams/fans to break down.
But you’re gonna have to wait… Hope you’ve enjoyed so far.
********Coming Soon, the Saga Continues********
My name is Matthew Levi Bassin. This is my blog. Lately it has been rather empty, for anyone out there that still reads me, I apologize for not being more active. That changes starting today. And it starts, like any good story should, with an Origin.
I was born in Los Angeles, California. The first of three children, and the only member of my family not to be born in Detroit, Michigan. When I was three my family moved back to Detroit where I spent the next seven years growing up in a city that loves sports like few others. I, of course, grew up loving the Pistons, Lions, Tigers and Red Wings… as well as the underdog, Michigan State University, where my parents went to school.
Another man went there… in fact, he’s probably the most famous Spartan there is and ever will be. Earvin “Magic” Johnson. And he was the point guard for the team in the city I was born in. So, along with being a Detroit Piston fan, I have also always been a Los Angeles Laker fan.
Now, before you do what EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY PEERS HAS DONE, and tell me that I can’t be a fan of both teams… I am, so deal with it. I was a fan of the mid-90’s Nick Van Exel-Eddie Jones Lakers and the (pukes) Turquoise-and-Orange No-Talent-Outside-of-Grant-Hill Pistons. You grow up loving both teams, it sticks with you.
Now to the point of this story…
Growing up a Laker fan in the 80’s, you had one arch-rival, one enemy that stood out among the pack, the Boston Celtics.
Growing up a Piston fan in the 80’s, you had one arch-rival, one enemy that stood out among the pack, the BOSTON CELTICS.
The Green-and-White leprechan, with their stupid Garden, and their stupid dead spots, and their stupid tradition of winning… And in the 80’s they won A LOT. They kept my Pistons down and out of the Finals in until 1988 when they finally broke through. And they defeated my Lakers in the Finals in 1984 on their way to three titles in the decade.
Needless to say, I grew up HATING the Boston Celtics. And relished in the fact that from 1986-2008, they didn’t win an NBA Championship, meanwhile my Pistons won in ‘89, ‘90 and 2004. And my Lakers won in ‘87, ‘88, 2000, ‘01, and ‘02.
(Meanwhile, in my own life, I went to college, earned my degree in Journalism and started a career in the sports world. Working for newspapers, radio and television stations. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Up-and-Comers and Hall-of-Famers as well as picking the brains of some of the more brilliant minds in the world of sports. Anyway…)
In 2008, the Celtics acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, and man-handled my Pistons in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals and then man-handled my Lakers in six games to win their 17th NBA Championship and first in 22 years. NOT COOL.
But my Lakers followed that up with back-to-back NBA Titles (No. 15 and 16) including a seven-game series over the hated Celtics. That historical-yet-little-too-convenient-it-went-seven-games series was in June of 2010.
In October of 2010, I took a new job and had to moved… To Boston.
I actually almost passed on the job simply because it’s in the city of Boston. But I took the job, best decision of my life, and I have spent the last 15 months surrounded by Wicked Pissah’s who love their Sox, their Pats, their Celtics, and even their Bruins… although a lot of them are what they call “Pink Hats”, or bandwagon jumpers, thanks to the 2011 Stanley Cup victory.
I’ve listened to the local sports radio daily. Have conversations at the water cooler with men and women, old and young, and I’ve learned some interesting things from these fanatics. Some good, some ridiculous, with some of them knowing where my allegiances lied and some having no clue they were talking to the enemy.
I’ve even spoken to a couple of Celtic players.
So what can I tell you about being a sports nut and living inside of enemy lines? Plenty.
But you’re gonna have to wait.
********TOMORROW, PART 2 OF LIVING INSIDE ENEMY LINES*********
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been on the clock for over a month now, eyeing a draft class that isn’t exactly drawing comparisons to the Draft of ‘03. That draft, if you don’t remember, started with LeBron James and included Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.
This years crop? Not quite on that level, at least it doesn’t look that way right now. However, there are a couple of studs who stand out from the pack, and the two I’m thinking of we’re by far the best two players in the NCAA Tournament this past season.
And the Cavs have a chance to snatch BOTH OF THEM. Because the Cavaliers have the first and fourth pick in this years draft. And a chance to grab Derrick Williams of Arizona and Kemba Walker of UConn, the two best players this past March.
But they won’t do it, because that would be very un-Cleveland-like. The chance to bring in two superstars and build around them? That just makes too much sense. But wait, it gets better for you Cleveland! One of them is a Point Guard, the other a Forward, so you can have one of your new stars be a distributor (who can score with the best of them) and the other a finisher (who can defend as well). And make no mistake about it, Kemba Walker hears all the negative talk, and he’s going to use it as fuel. He’s fast, can shoot, can drive and can finish. But he also has very good court vision and he envisions himself a PG, so you can bet your last dollar, he’s going to prove it as a pro.
But no, all the talk about the NBA Draft is about Kyrie Irving from Duke. Well, kind of from Duke. He did only play 11 games this season, does that count as playing for Duke? Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this kid is talented, but do you really think he’s that much better than Kemba Walker? Did he lead his team to the promise land? No, he got bounced in the Sweet 16 by Derrick Williams and the Arizona Wildcats, as a ONE Seed. The same Arizona Wildcats that Kemba Walker defeated in the very next round.
I don’t see how you can bet your future on a guy who didn’t even play a third of his ONLY college season. And that’s exactly what the Cavaliers are doing, because if you go with Kyrie Irving, that means you’re not taking Derrick Williams, which means you’re not taking Kemba Walker either, unless you just want a ridiculous back-court.
So let’s say you go with Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 pick, who are you taking at No. 4? Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas? Really? So you’d rather have Irving and Valanciunas (will that fit on a jersey?) instead of Kemba and Derrick Williams? I don’t know, maybe it’s me, maybe I’m crazy here, but I just don’t see how this makes sense!
Look at what you get from Derrick Williams: Defense (ask Memphis in Round One), Scoring when it counts (Ask Texas in Round Two), the Ability to carry his team (Ask Duke about the 1st half of the Sweet 16) and the humility to allow his team to work as well (Ask Duke in the 2nd half of the Sweet 16). He’s big, he’s strong, he can shoot and play defense.
And here are the stats from the Tournament: An average of 23 points and 9 rebounds for the four games Arizona was in. Including 32 points and 13 rebounds against Duke, where he went 5 for 6 from behind the arc and scored 25 points in the first half alone.
Now for Kemba Walker, the 2011 Tournament MOP. In the six games it took UConn to win the National Title, Kemba never scored less than 16 points, never had more than 4 turnovers and in the first game, almost notched a triple-double, dropping 18 points, pulling down 8 boards and dropping 12 dimes. (That’s 8 rebounds and 12 assists for you old folk). His average for the tournament? How does 24, 6 and 6 suit you? Anyone else see Dwyane Wade comparisons or is it just me?
Now for the golden 1/3rd boy, Kyrie Irving. In Duke’s first game, he scored 14 points in 20 minutes. In their 2nd round game against Michigan, 11 points in 21 minutes, where he went 1-for-4 from the field, but 9-for-10 from the stripe. The Kyrie you always hear about, showed up against Arizona in the Sweet 16, scoring 28 points, yet only dishing 3 assists.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not so much a knock on Kyrie Irving, as it is the package deal of who do you get with him? Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas is being compared to Pau Gasol and maybe he’ll turn out to be like Pau, but I wouldnt put too much money in it, because there’s been quite a few Europeans playing in the NBA, but not too many with Pau Gasol’s 19 and 9 average.
So, for my money, the package of Derrick Williams and Kemba Walker just can’t be beat. They both have proven to be leaders during the biggest stage of their young careers. And the chance to have both of them could mean a chance for Cleveland. But all the hype is on Irving, so that’s probably the direction the Cavs will go.
But to me, the chance at two proven stars coming together on the same team, it’s just a no-brainer.
The Giants win the Pennant! The Giants win the Pennant! The Giants win the Pennant! The famous line has been heard again and again in the world of sports. And after 56 years of long…VERY long waiting, it can be said again. And it wasn’t with the big names of Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, JT Snow, Willie McCovey, etc., etc. It was with guys named Renteria, Huff, Uribe, Posey and Ross. Guys called misfits, not hall of famers. Guys with blackened beards, not MVP’s.
And how fitting is it, that a team, a franchise, that has had so many of the greatest players play in the Orange and Black, win their first World Series in San Francisco with a group of guys who couldn’t even sniff those awards and accolades. True they have the two-time Cy Young winner in Tim Lincecum. But outside of him and maybe Matt Cain, there aren’t a lot of stars on this team. Take a good look at this line-up:
You got Andre Torres, a career .250 hitter who hadn’t played more than 75 games in a season until this year. He’s a world champion. You got Freddy Sanchez, who spent what felt like a lifetime of 6 years playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, before joining the Giants last year. He’s a world champion. You got Cody Ross, the No. 8 hitter in this lineup just a week ago, hitting clean-up yesterday. He’s a lifetime .265 hitter, yet in these playoffs, he was simply incredible. He’s now a world champion. I could keep going, but you get the idea.
This was a team.
Plain and simple, this was a team that played as a team. They weren’t patient, they were free-swinging. They weren’t the favorites, they were the classic underdogs. They had to fight until the final day of the regular season to even make the playoffs. They could’ve made it easier on themselves, but losing the first 2 games of the final 3 game series to the rival Padres made them have to hunker down and fight for it. But they survived that final Sunday and moved on.
In the NLDS, they had the daunting task of ending the great Bobby Cox’s career. They did so in four games, but it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. It was one-run games the entire way. They took game one 1-0, behind stellar pitching by Tim Lincecum. They turned around the next day and lost an extra inning game in game two 5-4 (and this was at home) to give home-field advantage to Atlanta. In game three they had to face the Brave’s ace in Tim Hudson. They took it 3-2, and did the same in game four, by the same score. Winning both games in Atlanta, and the Braves had the best home record in all of baseball this year, losing just three series all year at home!
Survive and move on.
In the NLCS, the defending National League Champs were waiting for them in Philadelphia. The Phillies had an up-and-down year, even flirting with a .500 record in June before storming back and finishing with the best record in all of baseball. And they just finished dismantling the NL Central-winning Cincinnati Reds, three games to none. The Giants didn’t even flinch as they stole game one in Philly, 4-3. Taking it to Roy Halladay who, just a week earlier, threw the second no-hitter in the history of the MLB playoffs. The fightin-Phils stormed back in game two and routed the Giants 6-1. But San Fran did their job and stole home-field advantage. In game three Matt Cain, who was an average pitcher at best this year, shut down the Phillies’ batter-heavy offense and the Giants got enough of Cole Hamels to take it 3-0.
Game four was the turning point in this series. A fantastic game that saw both Madison Bumgarner and Joe Blanton getting knocked out in the 5th inning and saw the teams tied at 5 heading into the 9th. The Giants gambled by bringing in their closer in Brian Wilson. And it paid off big time. He threw 12 pitches, eight of them for strikes, and got out of the inning with the game still tied. And in the bottom of the 9th, the Phillies played a little game of their own by throwing Roy Oswalt on the mound. Three batters later, Juan Uribe hits a sacrifice fly with men on the corners, brings home Aubrey Huff, and the Giants have a 3-1 lead thanks to a 6-5 win.
Halladay would get revenge on Lincecum the next day as the Phillies send it back to the City of Brotherly Love with a 4-2 victory. But two days later, game six of the NLCS, the Giants would overcome adversity once again. The Phils struck early, scoring two runs in the first. But the Giants didn’t crack, didn’t crumble and didn’t fall apart. They bounced back in the third with two runs of their own and the score stayed tied at 2 all the way to the 8th inning, when Juan Uribe steps up again. This time there would be no sacrifice, just a ball that didn’t land until it was safely out of the ballpark. Giants lead 3-2, and that’s the way it would stay as San Francisco knocks off the two-time defending NL Champs and were heading to their first World Series since 2002.
Survive and move on.
Now came all the talk. How would San Fran overcome the seemingly perfect Cliff Lee? How would the stagnant offense keep up with the Texas Rangers, which blasted the Tampa Bay Rays and the defending World Champion New York Yankees? And, they would have to do it against a man who knew their staff inside and out in their former teammate, catcher Bengie Molina.
Well, you found out in game one. The Giants would once again have to overcome adversity as they fell behind 2-0 after two innings of play. But in the third they came right back with two runs of their own to tie the ballgame, and then in the 5th inning, they would bust the game wide open. Andres Torres hits a 1-out double. Freddy Sanchez follows suit with one of his own, 3-2 Giants. Buster Posey struck out for the 2nd out and it looked like the Rangers would get out of it with just the one run allowed. But then Pat Burrell drew a walk, Cody Ross singled in Sanchez, Huff singled in Burrell, and then, who else, but Juan Uribe would send the ball into McCovey Cove and turn this game from a tense one into a laugher. 8-2 Giants after the 5th inning. They would go on to win game one 11-7! 11 runs on 14 hits for a ballclub that isn’t exactly known for offense. But that was nothing compared to what was about to come…
In game two Matt Cain continued his playoff dominance, rockin-and-rollin the Rangers all night. And after 7 2/3rd innings of 4-hit, shutout baseball, he only had a 2-0 lead. And the Giants were doing nothing to add on as both Torres and Sanchez struck out swinging for the first two outs in the 8th inning. But that’s when the party really started. Posey singled to start the rally, which was gifted to the Giants thanks to 3 straight walks to load the bases and give them an extra run. Then Uribe walked to make it four straight and another run to make it 4-0 San Fran. Then Edgar Renteria hits a 2-run single to make it 6-0. Followed by a 2-run triple by Aaron Rowand to make it 8-0 and then an RBI double by Torres (who started the inning with a strikeout) to finish up a ridiculous 7-run, 2-out rally that put the game completely out of reach. Giants win 9-0 and score 20 runs in the first two games of the World Series to take a 2-0 lead heading to Texas.
So the new questions became, where was that vaunted Rangers offense we were hearing about? What happened to Cliff Lee and CJ Wilson, and how have the Giants just completely eliminated the Rangers staff? Well the Rangers would respond back at home as they hosted their first World Series game in franchise history. And behind the pitching of Colby Lewis and the homeruns of Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton, the Rangers would get on the board with a 4-2 victory.
But that’s all they would get, because the next night, the night of Halloween, a night where Orange Pumpkins and Black Bats rule the night, the Orange and Black of the San Francisco Giants ruled the night. Madison Bumgarner was masterful, throwing 8 innings of 3-hit shutout baseball and becoming the youngest left-hander ever to throw at least 8 innings of shutout baseball in the World Series. And when the smoke settled, the Giants were one win away from their first title with a 4-0 victory. Oh and let’s not forget the 2-run shot by Aubrey Huff and solo shot by the rookie, Buster Posey.
So, last night, game five of the World Series was once again the stage for Cliff Lee versus Tim Lincecum. The Freak had promised his teammates he would be better, and oh was he better. In fact, both Lincecum and Lee were tremendous through 6 innings. Neither of them would budge as the game was scoreless. But in the 7th Lee cracked, just a little. Cody Ross, the surprise of the playoffs, who was batting clean-up in this game, instead of his usual 7th or 8th, smacked a single to start the inning. Then Uribe singled as well to put men on 1st and 2nd. That brings up Huff who HAS NEVER BUNTED IN HIS ENTIRE LIFE, yet in this game, in this situation, had the smarts even before the call was made, to bunt his men over, which he did perfectly. So, men at 2nd and 3rd and one out and up comes Pat Burrell who had a batting average of .000 in the series and he does what he did all of this series… nothing. He struck out to make it two away. But that brought up Edgar Renteria. Remember, men are at 2nd and 3rd, so a base is open and Renteria is a much better hitter than Aaron Rowand who was to follow.
So you would think the obvious thing to do is walk Renteria, right? Well, not when your name is Cliff Lee and you can strike out the entire Yankee’s lineup! Except, his first two pitches are balls, so it’s a 2-0 count. Why not just walk him now? Nope, he’s still Cliff Lee… he can strike out anybody, right?
WRONG. There’s your ballgame. Giants hold on and win the game 3-1. They win the series 4-1. And for the first time since 1954, the world got to hear.
Since the series is finally over I’ve gotten to speak to a good friend of mine from college. He is from the Bay Area and has been a San Francisco Giants fan since he was four years old. And more than that, he has been an employee of the Giants since 2004. His title is Director of Special Events and yes he will be receiving a championship ring. So I asked him what does this mean to him as a fan and as an employee of the now World Champion San Francisco Giants. My friend, Faham Zakariaei had this to say:
"As a fan it means everything. We made it in ‘89 and again in ‘02… falling short both times. For such a storied franchise, we had never won a title in San Francisco. That monkey is now off our back. As an employee, it puts all the hard work, long work days and sacrifices into perspective. MOST IMPORTANTLY it is special because it is the ultimate prize for our fans and those who support out team year round. This is for the city and our fans!"
So for the one’s who came so close and missed. For the one’s who did everything in their career in San Francisco, except bring home the circle of flags, and most importantly for the one’s still rocking the fake beard and the Orange and Black, this title is for you San Francisco. Enjoy it, you’ve waited 56 long years to win it again. I’ll say it one more time for you. THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS ARE THE 2010 WORLD CHAMPIONS OF BASEBALL!!!
Forget football, forget baseball, forget hockey (well don’t forget any of those, but…) GIVE ME BASKETBALL!!! The best sport around is back in action, and I, for one, am delighted. I like the pick-and-roll, I like the give-and-go, it’s basketball… (Thank you Kurtis Blow).
The season is just getting underway, and already I’m getting a sense of how things are going to go. The East is the dominant conference this year, with teams like the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks. As well as up-and-coming teams like the New York Knicks, Milwaukee Bucks, and Chicago Bulls.
The Celtics are the team to beat in the East (yes I know Miami is there). They are the defending Eastern Conference champs, and came withing a horrible 4th quarter of Game Seven of being the NBA Champions. But they are also the oldest team in the NBA. Nights like the one you saw against the Cleveland Cavaliers will happen often to a team averaging 31 years of age and playing back-2-back games. But they are a playoff team, and don’t be surprised if they are a 4 seed again as they rest their aging bodies during the regular season.
The Orlando Magic feel as if they have something to prove… and they do. They are a good team, and could be a great team. Dwight Howard learned new moves from The Dream this summer, which means he might have a little more offense than put-backs, dunks and alley-oops. Stan Van Gundy is a good coach and the funniest man on the bench. I still feel letting go of Hedo Turkoglu was a huge mistake. The man is a 6-foot-10-inch cold-blooded shooter. And Vince Carter, as good as he is, has a problem with dribbling, and dropping his head when things go wrong.
The Chicago Bulls are just all-around good. And when they get Carlos Boozer healthy, they are going to be very dangerous. Derrick Rose is a top-5 point guard (top-2 according to a certain chicago-friend of mine). Joahkim Noah has proven he is a dangerous center in the NBA (something I did not see coming). And as far as a starting-five go, the Bulls are right up there. They’ll run away with the Central division and be a force to reckon with when the playoffs come around.
As for the Miami Heat… we’ll see. Obviously they are going to beat up on the lesser competition. They have enough talent to do that. But that talent needs to gel to make a deep run in the postseason. Everyone (including this writer) has been harping on LeBron James, who just seems to make things worse for himself. (Twitter pages, new Nike commercial) But I’m not going to back down. The way he announced his decision was just terrible. It was all his people who made the decision to make an hour-long special and use one of the worst interviewers in the game “Do you still bite your nails?” Really?! Come on Jim Gray… It showed what a spoiled, egotistical brat he is. “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach” Who says crap like that? But what everyone is missing is the best part of this whole thing.
Just how brilliant Dwyane Wade is! He didn’t have to do anything except call Chris Bosh and ask him how the winters are in Toronto. Then call LeBron James and ask him how the winters are in Cleveland. “They both suck!” Is what I’m sure they said. And Wade says “Well it’s 75 and sunny in December here, why don’t you guys come on down!” I’m not sure if that’s exactly how it went, but you get the idea. The man brought two great players to Miami and saved a fledgling franchise. Simply brilliant. But then again, he did go to college. So Miami has their new Super-Friends, and sidekicks (Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, etc.) And they are going to need time to mesh. They’ll win plenty of regular-season games, it’s the playoffs that should be interesting. I’m not sure they’ll get by Orlando. And I really don’t see them getting past the Celtics.
Regardless, the East will be a lot of fun to watch in the 2010 season.
In the West, there are of course the Two-time defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers, with the best player on the planet in Kobe Bryant. And I’ll talk more about them in a minute, but there are a couple western teams trying to stand in the Lakers way of making it a four-peat as Western Champs. The Dallas Mavericks are supposed to be dangerous (we’ll see if they actually make good on that for once). The Oklahoma City Thunder are young, brash, athletic and lead by the most-likely-candidate for MVP, Kevin Durant. However, it’s Russell Westbrooke that makes this team go. They impressed a lot of people by taking the Lakers to six games last year in the opening-round of the playoffs. They won’t be an eight seed this year, so we’ll see how they do against other competition.
The Denver Nuggets are always dangerous, but aside from Chauncey Billups, they are a team full of headcases. Carmelo wants out, J.R. Smith wants more tattoos, and their head coach wants a hospital bed (sorry, bad taste). But unless Chauncey can rally them to play as a team, they aren’t going anywhere deep. The San Antonio Spurs are seasoned, lead by Tim Duncan and are starting to add some some young-blood to their aging team. But is it enough? Father-time catches up with everyone and the Spurs look like that might be a problem. Tony Parker deserves a long contract and San Antonio should give it to him. Richard Jefferson should be much better this year, as it’s his second year with the offense and he should be more comfortable. He’s too good to not produce. And the Utah Jazz are… the Utah Jazz. Great team at home, and pitiful on the road. And if it wasn’t for the Lakers, they might actually win the West with home-field advantage. But L.A. knows how to play them in their own building, so forget that.
The Phoenix Suns are going to be interesting. Everyone keeps saying Nash is done, they’ve lost Amar’e, blah, blah, blah. Nash is the heart-and-soul of that team. Where he goes, they go. And he sure doesn’t look done to me. They’ll be good enough to make the playoffs, and as long as they don’t have to face the Lakers early, they’ll probably make a run.
The Los Angeles Clippers finally have their number one pick in Blake Griffen. And he looked great all preseason and looked great on their opening night… but the Clippers still lost by 10. Everyone seems hyped up on the J.V. L.A. team making the playoffs this year. If they do, it will probably by the 8th seed and then they get knocked out by the REAL L.A. team in 4 or 5 games. The Golden State Warriors finally have Monta Ellis back and he looks fantastic. Him and Steph Curry are going to be a very fun tandem to watch and could lead The City back to the post-season.
And now for the main course. The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. First of all, have you seen those rings?! I want one. I’ll use it as a dinner-table. That’s how large it is. The Champs return with their starting SIX intact. And they finally added some depth to this team. The additions of Steve Blake to play the back-up PG role is huge. He has been a starter on other teams, and knows how to run an offense. So there won’t be a slip when Derek Fisher goes to the bench. Matt Barnes is a fantastic pick-up for a team that plays good defense like L.A. does. He’s fast, lengthy and scrappy. He’ll be able to give rest to Artest and Odom, and the defense won’t miss a beat. And bringing in Theo Ratliff is just awesome. Great shot-blocker, and adds even more height to an already tall team. With the West down a little from years past, I expect the Lakers to have an easier time (even though everyone brings their A-game when they play the champs) making it to the best record in the West. However, I could also see them doing what the Celtics did last year, and rest their guys to get ready for the playoffs.
So as to my ridiculously early predictions. They go like this:
MVP: Kevin Durant. ROY: Blake Griffen, barely over John Wall. 6th man of the year: Jamal Crawford Coach of the Year: Probably Sproelstra Western Champs: Los Angeles Lakers Eastern Champs: Boston Celtics NBA CHAMPIONS: Los Angeles Lakers 4-3 over Boston.
Okay folks, it’s been awhile since we delved into history. But it’s time. And we’re starting with a biggie. You know how when people talk about two-sport athletes, they always mention the same two names: Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders.
Now I’m not going to take anything away from those two. They are both outstanding athletes, and I wish we would’ve gotten to see Bo’s career actually pan out. But neither of these guys hold’s a candle to Otto Graham.
Now before you ask, “who?”, I’m going to tell you.
Otto Graham was a high school and college basketball player-turned college tailback at Northwestern-turned quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Now, if you’re a young sports fan, or just pay attention once in awhile and you’re asking, “How have I never heard of this man?”, don’t worry. He played from 1946-1955.
Which is why I am writing about him. It’s time to respect history. And you respect what you know. So you’re about to get to know the most underrated Quarterback and maybe athlete of all-time..
Otto Graham was born in Waukegan, Ill. Where he was a two-sport athlete for Waukegan High School. He played tailback and kicker for the football team and starred on the basketball team. After high school he accepted a scholarship to Northwestern where he continued his versatile ways, even adding baseball to his resume. He was Second Team All-American in basketball as a junior and made the First Team as a senior.
He also destroyed records on the gridiron. He played the position of tailback, but he threw like a quarterback. He set records at Northwestern by passing for 2,072 yards for his career, returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown and in 1943, finished third in the Heisman balloting.
He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1944, but it was World War II and Graham decided to do his civic duty and join the United States Navy Air Corp for two years. (now called the United States Coast Guard). While serving he was approached by Paul Brown. Brown was forming a professional football team in the All American Football Conference. And he needed a quarterback…
Brown had seen first-hand what Graham could do. Back in 1941, Brown was the head coach of Ohio State and was upset by Graham’s Northwestern Wildcats, 14-7. After witnessing what Otto could do, Brown decided playing with him was better than against him. So he signed him to a contract with the Cleveland Browns.
When World War II ended, Graham went back to sports. But not to the AAFC. His first stop was his first love… basketball. Otto was a bench player for the Rochester Royals of the National Basketball League. And in that 1945-46 inaugural season, the Royals would go 24-10, be the 2nd seed in the playoffs and defeat the Sheboygan Redskins in three games to win the first NBL Championship.
This was a start of ridiculous things to come for Otto Graham. From the NBL, he went to the AAFC in the same year and lead the Cleveland Browns to a 12-2 record in their inaugural season, including a 7-0 start where they outscored their opponents 180-34. In the AAFC Championship game the 12-2 Browns defeated the 10-3-1 New York Yankees 14-9. Graham’s second championship in ONE year.
Take that “Neon” Deion.
Graham would go on to lead Cleveland to a 52-4-3 record and 4 straight AAFC championships before the Browns moved to the National Football League. Graham’s Browns were snickered at. Saying they played lesser competition and that they wouldn’t be able to play with the big dogs of the NFL. Their first test would be against the two-time defending NFL Champion Philadelphia Eagles.
It was no contest. Otto Graham threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns as the Browns routed the Eagles, 35-10. Graham would lead the Browns to a 10-2 record and a 30-28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in the 1950 NFL Championship game.
By the time his career was finished, he had taken his team to 10 CONSECUTIVE CHAMPIONSHIPS. Winning seven of them, including his last two years in the NFL. Nine out of the 10 years he finished as the First-Team All-League Quarterback.
He completed 55 percent of his passes in his 10-year career. He threw for 23,584 yards and 174 touchdowns. His play in the championship games were even better. In 1950 he had four touchdown passes in the 30-28 victory over the Rams. In 1954, the Cleveland Browns (fresh off back-2-back title-game losses to the Detroit Lions) demolished the Lions 56-10. Graham ran for three touchdowns and threw for three more. And in 1955, his final season in the league, he went out as he came in, with a NFL title victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
Otto Graham conquered sports from 1946-1955. It started with basketball and ended with football. He won SIX championships in his first FIVE years as a professional athlete and finished with enough rings to cover both hands, minus the thumbs. His record in the AAFC was 52-4-3. His record in the NFL was 57-13-1, the best winning percentage of any quarter at .810. He was a winner any way you look at it. Going 109-17-4 as a quarterback.
Respect is about what you know and now you know plenty. Go out and impress your friends with this information the next time they argue about greatest quarterback ever. Because while I love Joe Montana (4 Super Bowls, 4 titles), Dan Marino (1 Super Bowl, no titles), Peyton Manning (2 Super Bowls, 1 title) and the rest. They don’t hold a candle to the great “Automatic” Otto (11 Championship Games, 8 titles).
Otto Graham, the greatest two-sport athlete of all-time.
For the last year or so, the basketball world has been keeping one eye on LeBron James. Trying to decipher if he’s made a decision on where he’s going to play next.
Would he stay in Cleveland? Would he go to New Jersey to play for Jay-Z? Would the New York Knicks reinvent their legacy by adding the King?
Well after all the wondering, the day finally came to find out LeBron’s decision. You may have heard it was coming. And on Thursday, July 8th at 9:27 p.m. You finally found out. LeBron James is “taking his talents” to the Miami Heat.
And his ego. His unbelievably huge ego.
I was shocked personally. Baffled at what I was watching. Here you have LeBron in a white and reddish stripped shirt. Could be Cav’s colors, could be Bulls colors, could not have anything to do with his decision, but it’s something I noticed.
It turned out to be Heat colors.
Here’s LeBron in front of a bunch of kids who idolize him. And you have this ginormous spectacle. This giant hoopla he allowed and probably wished for. And what does he do with it?
He slaps his fans, friends, family and teammates in the face.
He publicly grabbed the city of Cleveland by the throat, reached into its chest and pulled out its heart.
To think that this is the “Chosen One”. The one we are all supposed to “Witness”. Yeah, I witnessed something alright. I witnessed a spoiled brat of a man completely disregard his home. The man has the word “loyalty” tattooed on his body… but not in his heart.
Now, let me set the record straight for those of you who are confused as to why so many people are upset with what they “witnessed”.
I have no problem with LeBron James leaving Cleveland to play somewhere else. In fact, I thought he had to if he was going to win a title. LeBron gave the Cavaliers seven years and all he got back was an over-the-hill Shaquille O’Neal, an older Antawn Jamison, a never-will-be in Anderson Varejao, etc. He never got any help in Cleveland. I actually felt bad for him.
And I’m a Kobe fan, so you know how hard it is to feel sympathy for the enemy.
So as far as leaving Cleveland, he had to if he was going to win a title. But to publicly disgrace your city and yourself like that? In front of children no less? It’s just abysmal. You figured if he was going through with this media circus, it was because he was staying in Cleveland. But no. He allowed the media circus and made himself a clown.
All the respect, gone. He’s not loyal, he’s not about family, he’s not about his fans. He’s about doing whatever he can to be mentioned among the greats: Magic, Michael, Bird, Kobe… Only he’s never going to be on that pedestal now. He’s now a sidekick. A star who joined another star’s team just to win a title.
He’s Karl Malone with the Lakers. Clyde Drexler with the Rockets.
When you think of the greats, did any of them ever slap their team in the face like this? No. And I know they were never in the spotlight like LeBron is. Doesn’t matter. You don’t do this. You don’t behave like this.
You want to leave? Fine. Do it in a respectful manner. Sit down with your team. Tell them “Guys, it’s been a great seven years. But I feel like the next step in my career is elsewhere.” Give them the respect they deserve by finding out from their teammate and friend personally. Tell your family and fans “Thanks for the memories. I’ll always have a place for you, but it’s time to move on.” Given them the respect and love they have given you for seven years and then some.
But no. We saw LeBron’s true colors on Thursday. They aren’t Cavalier red and white. They’re not even Miami red, black and white. They’re yellow and black. Black for his cold, soul-less heart. And yellow for the stripe on his back as he turns and runs to South Beach.
His seven years as the “Chosen One” are over. It’s time for a nickname that’s actually true. So take your pick “Gutless One”, “The Great Turncoat”, or even “LeBenedict”.
I’m gonna go with the one we saw on Thursday.
"The Heartless One".
The Los Angeles Lakers toppled the Boston Celtics 83-79 in game seven of the 2010 NBA Finals. Now for those of you who hate L.A. (And I know there is plenty of you) forgive me for gushing, but I have to reflect on this. Because this literally was history in the making. And my generation finally got to be part of it.
As Kobe Bryant said of this, his fifth title, “This is the sweetest.”
Oh yes it is. Think about it. Really think about it. The Lakers and Celtics have a combined 33 NBA Championships (17 for the Celtics, and now 16 for the Lakers). They have faced each other 12 times for the title with the Celtics holding a seemingly very large 9-3 edge. However, it was 8-0 Celtics after 1984, which was also the last time these two teams went the distance for the title.
But since 1985, when Los Angeles finally defeated Boston for the first time, it is the Lakers who hold a 3-1 edge in the Finals (winning in ‘85, ‘87 and 2010).
These two powerhouse franchises have co-owned the NBA since day-one. The Minneapolis Lakers won five of the first eight NBA titles. That would be in the late-40’s and early-50’s. But starting in 1956 the Boston Celtics blanketed the basketball world in Green and White. Winning 11 championships in 13 years. Which is just ridiculous. And of those 11, seven were against the Lakers. Including three seven-game series.
Fast-forward to the 80’s. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson have rejuvenated the two proud franchises and rekindled a flame that had long since gone out.
It started in 1979 when Magic’s Michigan State Spartans manhandled the previously undefeated Indiana State Sycamores and their leader, Larry Bird in the NCAA Championship Game, 75-64. (Still is the highest-rated basketball game ever.)
In 1980 the Lakers won it all over the Dr. J-led Philadelphia 76ers with a 20-year-old rookie leading the way. And when I say leading the way, I mean starting game six in Philly, without Kareem. He starts at center, plays forward and guard and leads the Lakers to a title-clinching victory with 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. (LeBron where you at?)
By the way, Magic had found out that morning that Larry Bird was given the Rookie of the Year award in a blowout, so that might be why Magic played so well that night. But I digress.
In 1981, Bird’s Celtics won the Championship over the Houston Rockets. And in ‘82, the Lakers and Sixers were back again and again it went to the Lakers. The Sixers would finally topple the Lakers in 1983 for their first title. But it was in 1984 when the world got to see the series they had been waiting for. The Celtics and Lakers squaring off for the title for the first time since 1969.
And they didn’t disappoint.
The Lakers shot out the gate in Beantown and took game one, and had a chance to take a commanding 2-0 series lead heading back to Los Angeles. But a time-out was called that changed all that. The Celtics stole that game in the final seconds and that changed the whole series, if that’s possible in a seven-game series. The Celtics would win in seven and Bird would have his revenge from 1979.
But in 1985, the two would do it again. Only this time Magic, Kareem and the rest of Showtime would take charge and win it in six games. A huge win for Los Angeles. A break of the Leprechaun curse. No more listening to the ghosts of Laker-past. Boston was now a team just like any other in the 80’s. You got in L.A.’s way, you got ran over.
The Celtics would be back to win it in ‘86, but it was over the Houston Rockets, so does it really count? OF course, but it couldn’t have felt as good as the one in ‘84. There’s just something about this LA/Boston rivalry that means so much more when you defeat the other. And in 1987 they would meet again.
So from 1980-1987 the Celtics and Lakers were in the finals every single year, or at least one of them were, if not both. In fact, you can stretch that to 1989 for the Lakers. But in ‘87, it was the rubber match. And thanks to Magic’s baby-hook, the Lakers would win the title and the rivalry for the decade. They beat Boston 2-to-1 in Finals meetings, 5-to-3 in titles for the decade and demolished them 9-to-5 in Finals appearances. But after 1987, we didn’t get to see LA/Boston again… until 2008.
I was excited in 2008. Confident the Lakers would handle the “Big 3” of Boston. Many people were. But man were we wrong. The Celtics dominated that series and clinched it in six games with a 131-92 thumping Los Angeles and their fans will never forget. So when Boston defeated Orlando in the Eastern Finals this year, I was nervous. Excited, but nervous.
I knew the Lakers were a better team than in 2008. I knew the Celtics were older than they were in 2008. But Rondo was better, Perkins was better and Davis was better. And then Game One happened and L.A. out-muscled Boston and won the opener. And people started saying this series is over. Phil Jackson never loses a series after winning game one. Blah, blah, blah
But the Leprechaun is much more powerful than people remember. And the ghosts that haunt the Lakers when they face the Celtics can be overbearing. So when game two went to Boston, I was biting my nails… all 20 of them.
But then L.A. rebounded in game three in Boston to take a 2-1 series lead. Only to lose games four and five and fall behind 3-to-2 heading back to Los Angeles. But I was very glad for the 2-3-2 style this time, because games 6 and 7 were going to be in LA-LA Land. And game six was an absolute joke. The Lakers rumbled their way to a 89-67 thumping of the Celtics to give David Stern, and the NBA World exactly what they wanted: A game seven between Boston and Los Angeles. For the fifth time in their storied history and the first time since 2005 for the NBA.
Nobody watched the 2005 NBA Finals, which is a shame because it was two complete teams battling it out in the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs. And it was the greatest series that nobody watched. After 6 games and 3 quarters of the 7th game, the series and game were tied. It all came down to the 4th quarter, which the Spurs won thanks to home-court and free throws…hmm….sounds familiar.
In this game seven, the Lakers trailed from the jump. It was an annoying game of cat-and-mouse. The Celtics would take a lead and the Lakers would chop away. Boston would rebuild and L.A. would again knock it down. But the Lakers could never get over that hump. Never take the lead.
Until Derek Fisher did what he has done time and time again when it counts. He pulled the Lakers collective butts out of the fire with a ginormous three that tied the game at 64 and sent the Great Western Forum… excuse me, the Staples Center into an absolute frenzy.
Kobe Bryant, who had a horrible game through the first three quarters did his closing act with a tough fade-away jumper from the right elbow and some clutch free throws for 10 points in the final quarter. Pau Gasol hit big free throw after big free throw (which he was missing earlier). And Ron Artest hit the biggest three of his career to notch 20 points for the game and help clinch the victory. For which he thanked his psychiatrist for.
And I love him for that.
The Lakers outscored the Celtics 19-15 in the final stretch to escape another horrible Green and White memory. They took the game, the series and a bit of history as well.
Since the NBA began, it’s been Celtics or Lakers. In the 50’s, the 60’s and the 80’s. And whenever these two got together for a Finals, it’s almost always a classic. But when it goes to game 7, it’s legendary. The Balloons that never fell in ‘69. The Logo (Jerry West) becoming the only player to win MVP yet lose the series. Bird finally defeating Magic. These are all Celtic memories. 4-0 in Game 7 versus the Lakers.
For this Game 7, people will remember Derek Fisher’s three, Ron Artest’s three and kiss to the heavens. And Kobe Bryant standing on the table, ball in hand, arms outstretched in a sea of Purple and Gold confetti.
Laker memories for a Laker victory that will go down as one of the greatest and most important in the NBA’s most storied rivalry.
And I get to say I saw it.
Hey folks, been experiencing technical difficulties with the laptop. And it has made it impossible to write ANYTHING. So, I know it’s been awhile, but I’m getting caught up in everything that has happened in the world of sports. We have a few new/repeat champions that need to be praised. So without further delay, let’s get to it!