Thursday, February 16, 2006

4.22.84: in '84 he'll be a little faster

I was walking through the office today and as I passed the little TV lounge area on the 2nd floor, I noticed that one of my co-workers was eating his dinner in front of the TV.

What was he watching? You ask. Or maybe you don't care. I'll tell you anyway.

He was watching Game 3 of the 1984 Eastern conference playoffs between the Knicks and the Pistons. No, not the famous Isiah 16-in-94 performance, that was Game 5. This was game 3, at the Garden. Also significant because it was the first NBA game I ever attended.

We had all gone crazy for basketball that year, and I remember being down in Florida visiting my grandma when my dad called from NY and told me he had gotten us two tickets to Game 3. I was delirious with the news. They had just played Game 1, I remember, in Detroit. Bernard King scored 36 in a Knicks win. It would be his lowest scoring game of the series.

The game we attended was one of the five most exciting sporting events I've seen in person*, a good game that the Knicks won. Bernard was Bernard. I think he got 46. The place was nuts. We ate popcorn, I drank coke, we waved our hands in the air with little regard to the possible consequences. From that night on I have been a basketball freak.

It was cool to see it again today for a number of reasons. One, since I was at the game I never got a chance to see it on TV. Two, the game itself was entertaining. Three, it's always fun looking back at events from your own lifetime and being amazed that you lived in an era as primitive as that. It seems impossible.

1) I would guess that the average player then was 30 pounds lighter than they are now.
2) In addition to the Wham!-like short shorts and skinny bodies, the players just looked kind of unrefined. Like a guy missed an open layup, and defensively nobody seemed to be able to prevent the other team from getting wide open 15 footers. And when a guy made an open 15 footer, it was exciting! You could hear the crowd get fired up.
3) That said, the game was wide open. You got a rebound, you pitched it out. You needed a basket, you gave it to Bernard. It would be interesting to see Bernard playing today. He seemed completely unstoppable then, a force of nature. Every time they threw him the ball, he rose and shot and scored. For like a twenty month period, he sort of mastered the game of basketball from an offensive standpoint. Would he still be dominant today?
4) Tripucka, unfortunate coif and all, could really score. A pretty solid offensive player, and he had a big game that night. As my co-worker who was watching the game today said when I told him I remembered Tripucka was hot that night, "Yeah, he's already got 25 and it's just the end of the third quarter." I am not sure whether the guy knew the game he was watching was 22 years old or if he thought it was live. Not wanting to ruin his fun, I eventually walked away.
5) I was never a huge Jim Karvellas fan, but looking back, he was a good announcer with a great voice and a nice feel for the changing rhythms of the game. Butch Beard, however, still stinks 22 years later.
6) The TV cameras at MSG used to basically be at court level. While this was occasionally problematic because players would be blocked from your view by other players, it was actually a much more interesting way to watch the game. You got a real sense for how fast everything was, how tall the players were, how high they were jumping, etc. And since the cameras were so close to the action, the players were bigger and you could see way more detail. They should bring that shit back.

Thank you.

* In no order:
1) 10.17.03: Grady's Last Stand (scroll down)
2) 7.4.83: Dave Righetti no-hitter
3) 2.19.87: Molloy Naismith scores like 72 against Stuyvesant
4) 6.5.99: The Larry Johnson 4-point play game (made better by the fact that we SNUCK INTO THE GAME WITH THE HELP OF A CROOKED USHER! And then temporarily got chosen to participate in a halftime shooting contest, which resulted in some quick backpedaling when they asked to see our ticket stubs!)
5) 4.23.84: Bernard gets 46 in my first taste of live basketball