Outside the Boston Garden before Game 7 of the '84 NBA Finals, scalpers were getting upwards of $2,000 per ticket. Since we were fortunate enough to own midcourt seats, I remember my father perking up as we heard the numbers being tossed around on Causeway Street. Four grand for our seats? He could barely afford season tickets as it was. That money could have paid for the next two seasons. It was enough to make him think.
Did he ever really consider it? Of course not. As basketball fans, we knew Game 7 of an NBA Finals was the ultimate experience. Ninety minutes before tip-off, every fan has already found his or her seat. You never sit down not once for four hours. Your head throbs by the second quarter. By the third quarter your hands swell from clapping, and they're like you borrowed them from a nose tackle. Everyone keeps giving everything they have the fans, the players, the coaches, everybody and it never wanes. You can't possibly imagine the level of intensity, the overpowering electricity in the building, how it keeps going higher and higher.
Rarely are these games well played there's too much pressure, too much energy. It's just a different animal. In Game 7 back in 1984, the electricity in the Garden suffocated the game to some degree, with both teams playing too frantically to settle into a groove. Then Cedric Maxwell took over for Boston in the second quarter, and Bird had a nice stretch in the third, and there were a couple of fast breaks that nearly blew the roof off, and suddenly the Lakers were running out of time before making one last run, right before Magic made two horrendous turnovers that sealed the deal. I can still see Bird waiting for the ball to shoot clinching free throws, so excited that he started hopping up and down with his fists clenched, looking like a little kid waiting to use a bathroom. In the stands people were jumping up and down and screaming at the top of their lungs. That's what you do at the end of a Game 7 you don't even clap anymore. You just scream as loud as you can. You raise your arms over your head, you hug the people sitting next to you, you scream some more.
When the Celtics finally won the title, fans charged the court to celebrate, with the party carrying outside to Causeway Street for the rest of the night. We beat the Lakers. We beat the Lakers. Honestly, it felt like we had conquered another country or something. This was more than a game. It was a life experience, one of the defining moments of my childhood.
I kept thinking about that game while the Spurs outlasted the Pistons on Thursday night. You never beat someone in a Game 7 to win the title. You outlast them. You persevere. You survive. Maybe it wasn't the greatest game to watch, but if you understood the stakes, understood what that building was like, understood the level of intensity I mean, isn't that what sports is all about? Tim Duncan played the finest game of his career Thursday night, controlling the second half as the only competent big man against a much bigger team. Ginobili followed suit, elevating both ends of his game when it mattered. Those were B-plus games for both of those guys, but if you're a B-plus in Game 7, that gets rounded up to an A-plus-plus because of the stakes. And that's all the Spurs needed to win the game.