'If you lose, it's a nightmare'
Kurt Rambis reflects on Game 7 of the 1984 Finals in Boston
It's a little fuzzy now -- all the details from 1984.
I just remember walking into Boston Garden that night knowing it just doesn't get any better than this; that a game like this is what I'd dreamed about my entire life. We knew it was going to be a war because of what was at stake.
There's nothing like Lakers-Celtics. If you compare it to the Lakers playing against Orlando last year, it's just not the same. These two teams have this hatred and animosity for each other because they've had so many battles.
I mean, you look at two of the nicest guys in the NBA in Ray Allen and Derek Fisher. They're guarding each other, and now these guys are almost in a fight every single ballgame. That just shows you how intense it is. Those guys are as nice as they can possibly be off the court, but right now they're just scratching each other's eyes out trying to play.
The thing you have to realize about the Finals is that as fun as it is to play in them, it's terrible to lose.
But every other team in the NBA would give a left arm to be in that position. If you told them at the start of the season that they'd go all the way to the NBA Finals and lose a seventh game, they'd take that in a second.
However, I can tell you from several experiences, when you lose that ballgame, you just feel awful. Absolutely awful.
You've gone all that way and it seems like for naught. If you knew you were going to lose at the end, it's like, "Let's just get knocked out in the first round."
We lost that Game 7 in '84, and it was awful. But we learned from it. I think as you grow, being in those highly competitive playoff environments, you learn more. You learn not to make the mistakes that cost your team possessions, points or games. You try and hold onto that knowledge and use it in your next series or your next game.
That's why, when you get to the playoffs, a lot of teams that are there for the first time end up losing. They don't know how to deal with everything.
You want teams that have dealt with those intense environments. You can tell players about how physical the games become, how each possession become magnified, how much the media attention is going to be and how many people are going to call you for tickets. But until they've lived and gone through it, they don't know what to expect or how to handle it.
Back when we played, all sorts of stuff went on.
I don't know if they turned up the heat in Boston Garden like you hear in all the tales now, because if that was true, Boston would've been hot and sweaty, too. But the fire alarms did go off at night in the hotel, and if you didn't change your name on the hotel list, you'd get crank calls.
By then I'd been in the league long enough that wasn't going to be a mistake I was going to make.
I don't think I had an alias. I think I just told the hotel the only person that would be calling me was my wife, so I told the desk if it's not her, don't put them through.
I do think I got some sleep before Game 7. I think you realize that you need all your rest and energy to go out and perform. It's been a long season of practices and dealing with the media that it's all very time consuming and draining.
Your body just kind of succumbs to all of that, even though your mind never leaves it for that long. You think about it all day long. It's the last thing you think about when you fall asleep and the first thought when you wake up.
There was a lot of nervous energy waiting for the game to start. You're just sitting around, waiting for the game to go. But I was never afraid. That was never my mindset. I think once you're at that level, fear or apprehension doesn't enter into it. I think that you're just energized. You've got some butterflies about how fun it is, realizing the importance of it. But it's adrenaline; it's energy; it's not fear.
I just don't think you perform well if you're that apprehensive. You've got to be aggressive; you have to attack. You've got to have a mindset that you're going to make things happen and not be back on your heels, reacting to what they do.
You don't have to worry about being motivated. That's just there. It's Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
What you want them to be, and what Phil Jackson is really good at, is focused yet poised. You want to have a clear mind so you make accurate decisions out there, then point out the parts of the game you feel are important. Everyone knows what's at stake and how big the game is, so you have to keep the game small by focusing on specific areas.
You watch tape as a team, then you might go through things with individual guys, giving each player some goals to focus on so they can have an agenda for the game.
There's nothing else to prepare for. You're not looking three games down the road. You're just looking at that one opponent, that one game, and you're focused on what you have to do.
It's the end of the season and you're either going to be on top or you're gone.
I'm back in Minnesota now, but I've texted with Phil a few times throughout the playoff run. I sent him my little thoughts on the series, points of emphasis, just throwing my two cents in.
But I know that his family is in town, and all the players and coaches just get pulled and yanked in every direction, so I just wasn't going to add to any of that until after the Finals are over.
It's amazing how anxious and animated people become. The tickets for Game 7, I'm sure they're the hottest tickets out there. Every friend that you've ever known is asking for tickets and even friends of friends.
You get calls like, "I'm the brother of a friend of yours who has a cousin that said I should give you a call and ask you for six tickets tonight. Can you help me out?"
Even with all the attention and the hype around the series, I think it's important to get away from it at times. It's almost impossible to stay focused and intense for these extended long periods of time. You want that focus and intensity just at game time. So you try and watch some mindless TV or read books just to get away from it. What's hard is that it's all anybody else wants to talk about, so you're always kind of drawn back into it.
The stakes are extremely high. You dream about games like this, but if you lose, it's a nightmare.
Once you've been there, once you've won a championship, once you've tasted that, then coming in second place & you might as well come in last.
Minnesota Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis played for the Lakers in Game 7 of the 1984 Finals against the Celtics, beat the Celtics in the 1985 and 1987 Finals and coached under Lakers head coach Phil Jackson from 2002 to 2009, including the Lakers loss to the Celtics in the 2008 Finals.