The NBA Finals begin tonight. Basketball is my favorite sport. I live in Los Angeles. Thus, I am excited by the prospect of the Lakers playing the Boston Celtics. Besides, Kevin Garnett used to play for the glorious Timberwolves and I once met Phil Jackson's son on the back deck of a Silver Lake house party back in the mid-'00s. So yeah this is an exciting time.
The local and national media has made a big deal about the Lakers-Celtics rivalry. They played against each other three times in the 1980s and another eight times between '59 and '69. So yes there's a rivalry. But I've always felt that another rivalry of my childhood has been unjustly overlooked.
The Lakers played in the finals an amazing eight times in the 80s. Yes, this was a more difficult feat than what the Celtics did two decades earlier. There were over twice as many teams to compete with and the talent level was definitely higher during those Reagan/BTTF/Thriller years. And three of those eight finals involved the Lakers and the favorite team of my youth, the Philadelphia 76ers. And that was a rivalry! Superstars (Kareem, Magic, Dr. J, Moses, Toney). Classic games (Game 7, 1980, most of the '82 finals). Classic shots (Erving's layup over Landsberger, still the best shot ever, can't find a link for the video for some reason but it shows up on those NBA commercials). And the most joyous sports-related moment of my life. May 31, 1983. The Sixers complete the sweep of the Lakers. It was a weeknight. I grabbed my basketball and went outside and celebrated by playing in the driveway by myself - my patented run-amok layups, my holding-the-ball-high-behind-my-head- before-shooting outside shots, my blind hooks, my missed free throws. I played into the late night, with the light on above the garage. I was overjoyed but strangely restrained.
Enough basketball memories. Lakers in 4. Yes, 4. Really. 4. That's it. 4 games. All they need. The Celtics sure are a likable bunch - KG, PP, Doc, etc. But they are the Celtics. The Celtics will always be hated in my hateless heart. Can't start changing my system now. 4. Kobe - yeah he's that good. And Pau? Better than anyone - including me - thinks.
And more importantly, on draft night, the Timberwolves draft Mayo or Love at number 3, trade half the team, resign only one free agent (Gomes), and start over. Can we get a new coach too?