It's hard, but routine key for Game 7
I did sleep the night before Game 7 of the 1988 Finals. I mean, I'm from the Bahamas -- we learn to sleep through hurricanes. I'll tell you one thing though, as you're falling asleep, it's the last thing on your mind, just knowing that there's a Game 7 to be played tomorrow, one game to win it all.
As soon as you wake up, it's the first thing you think about again. It consumes you all day long. You can't help it. You have butterflies in your stomach all day. You're nervous and you're anxious to get to the arena and get to playing because you're tired of thinking about it. It just mentally wears you out.
The whole day, even though it's all you're thinking about, you try to stay within your routine. The same routine as you had every game since the preseason. You don't want to change anything up. Get up, go to practice, take a nap in the afternoon, eat at the same time. I always used to eat a grilled chicken sandwich for lunch because it was easy to digest and helped me feel good coming to the game. So that's what I ate before Game 7.
I always got to the Forum early. Me and Magic were always the first ones there. But I do remember leaving a little early for the game that day. I lived in Playa del Rey back in those days, so I'd just take Manchester all the way down to the Forum so I wouldn't have to take the freeways.
Well, when I got to the Forum, everyone was there early and they were already into it. The fans were there early, the security personnel were early, everybody was so intense already, saying, "Let's go, let's go get these guys."
Everybody is into the game hours before the game, not just the players. So you realize if all the support staff is this into it, then as a player you really better be ready to go so you won't let anybody down.
Magic and I were usually there three and a half hours before the game, but we each had our ways of getting ready. I'd go into the weight room and start lifting. Go maybe 45 minutes, nothing too heavy. Just enough to get the blood flowing and feel like I was ready to play. You'd get back there and start thinking about the game and release some of the pent up energy, too.
All the guys were nervous before the game, Magic and James [Worthy] and all those guys that had been there before just looked so confident and calm, it really helped all of us relax a little bit. They knew what it was going to take to win a Game 7 and I just fed off of them.
When you were with our team, you'd better look serious because Magic didn't permit any kind of loose activity in the locker room -- it was all business.
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Magic was real serious, so were all the other guys. There was no laughter in the locker room, no lightheartedness. Everybody was quiet and getting ready in their own ways. That's the way it should be.
[Then Lakers coach] Pat Riley always had something pertinent to say but you are so focused and so ready to go, that you don't have to have a huge motivational speech.
These games are why you play the basketball and it's all here right now, one game to decide it all. If you're not ready to try your best and play at that moment, you should take your uniform off and go home, go up in the stands and watch.
710 ESPN radio host Mychal Thompson was a key reserve in the Lakers 108-105 win over the Detroit Pistons in Game 7 of the 1988 Finals.