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|You'll see plenty of these guys over the course of the weekend.|
Without further ado, here's my schedule ...
FRIDAY, AUGUST 27
1 a.m.: Knicks vs. Bulls (Game 5, 1993 Eastern Finals) The Charles Smith Game. (Really, no other words are necessary. Unless you want to call it "The Chaz Smith Game." I'll leave it up to you.) 3 a.m.: Rockets vs. Spurs (Game 2, 1995 Western Finals) (Vengeance Scale Alert! Vengeance Scale Alert!) Before this game, David Robinson was presented with his 1995 MVP award, so he gave a speech and thanked some of the centers who had won before him. Well, he didn't mention Hakeem. Big mistake. Hakeem exploded for 41 points and 16 boards, including 29 in the second half alone. For the series, Hakeem averaged 35.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 4.1 blocks and 1.3 steals. You could even argue that Robinson's career was never quite the same. And it all started with that speech in Game 2. SATURDAY, AUGUST 28
The result: Barkley goes 23-for-31 for 56 points, including 27 in the first quarter. Sir Chazz at his absolute apex. Fun wrinkle No. 1: Barkley was double-teamed a total of zero times during the game. Don Nelson at his absolute anti-apex. Strange wrinkle: This was the last Warriors playoff game. Since this game was played, they're 254-566. And yet everyone makes fun of the Clippers. Go figure.
|Michael Jordan cut the Knicks' hearts out on several occasions over the years.|
4:30 p.m.: Nets vs. Celtics (Game 3, 2002 Eastern Finals) Just the fourth quarter. Greatest comeback in NBA history. Also one of my five drunkest nights ever in Boston. Good times all around. 5 p.m.: Jazz vs. Lakers (Game 5, 1988 Western Semis) John Stockton's breakout game -- 24 assists in this one. You know how I'm always complaining that nobody can play point guard anymore (see: Marbury, summer, 2004)? Watch Magic and Stockton in this game; you'll see what I mean. 7 p.m.: Lakers vs. Sixers (January, 1983) This one had everything: A Sunday afternoon spot on CBS; Moses vs. Kareem; Doc vs. Worthy; Magic and Nixon vs. Cheeks and the great Andrew Toney; Bobby Jones and Michael Cooper (two of the best role players of that era); the best PA announcer of all-time (Dave Zinkoff); one of the best crowds of all-time (the old-school Spectrum crowd); and a matchup pitting the Defending Champs against the Future Champs. If that isn't enough, it goes into OT. And if THAT isn't enough, this is the game where Doc does the rock-a-bye dunk on Cooper's head, yet another entry in the Absolute and Unequivocal Pantheon of Classic Dunks. Everyone thinks that dunk happened in the '83 Finals. Nope. Happened in this game.
9 p.m.: Nets vs. Knicks (Christmas Day, 1984) Bernard King drops 60 on the Nets at MSG. Six weeks later, he blew out his knee. Which brings us to one of my favorite stats: In 2,063 minutes that season, Bernard scored 1,809 points. That's 55 games, 37 minutes a game, 32.9 points a game. And you wonder why I always bring up Bernard King. 11 p.m.: Sonics vs. Blazers (Game 2, 1980 First Round) This one's for me: Not just because this was the "Breaks of the Game" Blazers team, not just because Billy Ray Bates was a legend before his time, but because this game has the best Brent Musberger opening of all-time. I swear to God, I remember watching this game on tape-delay back in the day, hearing Brent's opening about Billy Ray and getting goosebumps on my goosebumps. So we'll see if it holds up. Back in 1980, I also enjoyed Vic Tayback's work, so maybe I'm not the best judge. 1 a.m.: Sixers vs. Celtics (Game 5, 1985 Eastern Finals) The last memorable Sixers-Celtics playoff game from that era. And yes, the NBA was so deep in the mid-'80s, a team that started Barkley, Doc, Moses, Cheeks and Toney couldn't even make the Finals. Unbelievable. Phenomenal ending to this game, by the way. SUNDAY, AUGUST 29
12 p.m.: Sixers vs. Celtics (Game 5, 1981 Eastern Finals) Down three games to one, the Celts rally from six down in the final two minutes, leading to ...
1:30 p.m.: Celtics vs. Sixers (Game 6, 1981 Eastern Finals) A dramatic comeback win to force Game 7 (which we're not showing since it's on ESPN Classic all the time). There's a reason I'm showing two games from this series. I think it's the most competitive series of the past 25 years. Better than Kings-Lakers in 2002. Better than Bulls-Pacers in '98. Better than Knicks-Bulls in '92. Even better than Celtics-Lakers in '84. Not only did these teams finish with the exact same regular-season record (62-20), but the last four games of the series were decided on the final play. Read that last sentence again.
Two other things to watch in this one: A.) Cedric Maxwell charging into the stands to confront a heckler; and B.) Kevin McHale unveiling his patented "Leaving the court with my arms raised, showing off my armpits in victory" maneuver, which would gross out opposing stadiums for years to come. 3:30 p.m.: The 1988 Three-Point Contest Yep, the one where Bird raises his finger in the air seconds before the winning trey swishes through the hoop. You can do these things when you're the Basketball Jesus. 4 p.m.: Blazers vs. Celtics (Jan. 27, 1985 -- fourth quarter and OT only) Bird makes the winning buzzer-beater from the corner. He had something like 200 points in this game. 5 p.m.: Pistons vs. Celtics (Jan. 29, 1985 -- fourth quarter only) Just for kicks, another buzzer-beater two days later. This time in Hartford.
|Larry Bird and Dr. J battled in some classic games.|
(Note: During the '87 Playoffs, the Celts won two dramatic Game 7s; Bird stole the ball from Isiah; Isiah dropped 25 in one quarter against the Hawks; Sleepy dropped 29 in the fourth against LA; Hakeem slapped that 49-25 against Seattle; and Magic made the baby sky hook in Boston. Throw in a Lakers-Celtics finals -- Bird and Magic in their absolute primes; Isiah and 'Nique in their primes; MJ, Hakeem, Malone and Stockton, Ewing, Drexler, and Barkley just scratching the collective surface; Doc's final season; and the best All-Star Game ever ... I mean, that has to be the greatest NBA season of all-time, no? Just think if Lenny Bias had stuck around. All right, I'm babbling.) 10 a.m.: Celtics vs. Sonics (Dec. 30, 1987 -- fourth quarter only) Ho-hum ... another Bird buzzer-beater. This is the one where Bird points out a spot for Xavier McDaniel, then makes the winning shot on that exact spot. As the X-man describes in "Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend," And I was like ... damn! 10:30 a.m.: Celtics vs. Mavericks (Feb. 12, 1988 -- fourth quarter and OT) My personal favorite out of every Bird buzzer-beater. This was one of those "I'm pulling out my butcher's knife, ripping out your heart and stomping on it" threes.
11 a.m.: Celtics vs. Bullets (Nov. 7, 1987) Larry hits the buzzer-beater to send the game into OT, then the buzzer-beater to win the game in OT. I'm not making this up. 12 p.m.: Blazers vs. Celtics (March 12, 1992 -- fourth quarter and OTs only) Larry's last great moment: The one where he drains the improbable three to send a nationally televised game into OT (49 points in all). Just remember, the guy was playing with a 15-pound back brace and spending nights in the hospital in traction that season. And this was against a team that made the Finals. Unbelievable. By the way, this game has to be included on NBA Entertainment's upcoming "Rick Adelman's Greatest Collapses" DVD. 1 p.m.: Cavaliers vs. Celtics (Game 6, 1992 Eastern Semis) Larry's last game in the Garden. Bird was so banged-up in this series, Chris Ford was taking heat for playing him in crunch-time -- in fact, Larry probably lost Game 4 for them. So Game 6 rolls around (do-or-die for the C's) and they move Larry to the high post, where he picks the Cavs apart with his passing. And yes, he's wearing the 15-pound back brace. Just an emotional game. Poor Lenny Wilkens didn't realize until afterwards that Bird couldn't move -- for Game 7, they pressured him and took him right out of the game.
But we'll always have Game 6. And that's that.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday (except for this week, when he mysteriously disappeared for three days.