Thursday, March 16, 2006

4.20.83: prehistory

As much as I hate my generation's lazy tendency to identify itself through its pop culture moments, the truth is that those trends, movies, clothes, songs, and of course television shows are probably the most real connection there is between all of us. Sure, it's depressing, but in 1981, you were playing "Adventure" on your Atari 2600. On May 19th, 1982, you were watching "Silver Spoons." At some point in there you owned a Seruchi jacket.

And for a lot of us, pro basketball was born during the 1983-84 season. Some would say Magic and Bird's faceoff in the '79 NCAA final set the stage, and I guess it did, but it wasn't until the '84 NBA Finals that they faced each other in an NBA playoff game. That series went 7 and launched a new era of popularity for the league.

Coincidentally or maybe not, my friends and I started tuning in to the NBA for real during the '83-'84 season, and that's when we started playing. For about 2 5 10 20 years there, watching and playing basketball completely took over my life.

So tonight's matchup, Game 1 of the '83 first round playoffs between the Knicks and Nets, was fascinating to me because it happened in the time before basketball existed for me. Prior to '83-'84, I probably watched four basketball games my entire life. I don't know why, I just never got into it.

The game itself was never all that close; the Knicks were up by about ten points the whole way. But that didn't stop me from enjoying the hell out of it.


1. Bernard was unstoppable in this game, finishing with 40 points and probably shooting like 16-20 or something like that. This game thoroughly convinced me that Bernard would be as much of an offensive force today as he was then. He was an incredibly well-rounded scorer and he was hurting the Nets from all over the court. His poor li'l brother Albert was guarding him and he looked scared. He had reason to be, too. Bernard was a breathtaking player in the open floor. Lightning fast, creative, and powerful. He had a fierce two handed dunk on a two on one break that was all business. He impressed me in this game by diving to the floor like three times, making incredible saves to keep possessions alive. I also like that he was a recovering alcoholic while all this was happening.

2. Mike Gminski was a funny lookin' white dude with a funny-lookin' blow-dried helmet of hair, but he could score. The G-Hook came out a few times in this game. He hadn't grown his beard yet, though.

3. Paul Westphal started for the Knicks and made several good plays, but I don't think he took a single shot. At least not in the condensed version of the game.

4. Your announcers: Steve Albert (catchphrases: "Stops, pops, and it drops" and "Scoop to the hoop") and Bill Raftery. For some reason, Raftery's mic was completely shot on this tape. You can hear Albert OK, but Raf sounds like he's in a foxhole being shelled by the Germans. I wonder if that's how it sounded live, too. My favorite Steve Albert moment: when Louis Orr shot a jumper from the corner and Albert said, "Louis Orr from Orrville."

5. One game and a few memories aren't really enough to go on, but I'll go ahead and say that Mike O'Koren was a terrible player. What did he bring?

6. One of the coolest, most innovative things about Hubie Brown was the way he instituted a 2nd unit of reserves that would all enter the game together. It really took off with Darrell Walker's arrival the next year, but you could see it here a little. The great thing about it was that it gave the bench players a real identity, a sense of purpose. When they came in they were fresh and hungry and they would immediately start playing pressure D. Those minutes, when the second string was in, may have been the most exciting part of the game. I dunno why more teams haven't done this over the years.

7. Rory Sparrow (again your co-host for this episode) had the game of his life: 22 points, good game management, and even a real nice dunk on the break. As much as I liked him, I always considered Sparrow one of those barely adequate guards who was inevitably left open by a double team and sometimes made the shot and sometimes didn't. He appeared to be wearing slightly dirty sneakers in this game. On-screen factoid about Sparrow: his teammates nicknamed him "Sasquatch" b/c of his big feet.

8. Buck Williams was a ferocious interior player and another guy who I think would be just as good in today's league as he was then.

9. The Nets were coached by some guy named Bill Blair. Why, you ask? Because Larry Brown had quit the team with 6 games left in the regular season to go take the Kansas job. What the fuckety fuck? What a dickweed. How do you abandon a playoff team to go take another job like that, especially knowing that the college season was already done and KU could have waited?

10. Michael Ray Richardson was kind of a non-factor overall in this game, although he did have a couple of sweet plays. I wonder if he was on the coke. It's kind of cool that half the NBA was on coke back then. Better than steroids, anyway.

11. Marvin Webster - dude must have been eight feet tall. And kinda mugly looking.

12. Bill Cartwright had at least two great, uncharacteristic blocks that led to fast breaks. He was just as awkward as I remember him. But effective.

13. Darryl Dawkins had two monster dunks.

14. 1983 must have been the year of the beard -- everybody (except Gminski) had one, at least in the crowd. Ugly, scraggly, 1983 beards.

15. The Nets gave significant minutes to a guy named Foots Walker.

16. Ernie Grunfeld, whose body was just not meant to play basketball, had a real good night.

17. Truck Robinson was kind of done at this point. Seeing him reminded me of a story from high school, though. A kid in my homeroom who wasn't even a basketball fan asked me if I had ever heard of Truck and I said of course. The kid said that he used to babysit for Truck and that Truck had an insane and depraved porno collection. Before there was Matsui, there was Truck.

18. The graphics on this show are truly appalling -- when I get my new mac I will whip something up and send it to them for free so they can replace the ones they have now.