I love a hype-machine as much as the next guy. I really do. I believe that marketing hype is like sex and baby-making – it makes the world go ’round. Without marketing hype, would any of us have made it through the last season of the Sopranos? Isn’t marketing hype the only reason why anyone still watches ‘Lost’? My neighbors say “it’s because of all the cute guys.” I still haven’t seen the show. I’ll take their word for it. The hype machine got rolling this week when the Detroit Pistons were roughed up outside of a local school yard and had their lunch money stolen by some ruffians from Cleveland. The word is that the band of young Turks was led some kid named LeBron who did the greatest thing since man invested the wheel and round things. It seems he scored 48 points and did some other stuff that people in the media swore they’d never, never, never, ever seen before anywhere on the entire planet earth in the history of the world. I thought they were lying at the time. I know they’re lying now.
I saw a rookie win an NBA championship (on tape-delay, damn it!!) in 1980, one year after winning a national championship. To win that NBA title (the first of five), he replaced arguably the greatest player in the history of the game, played five positions, and defeated a team led by none other than the league’s leading physician of the era: Julius Erving. I saw that.
I saw Isiah Thomas run around on one ankle (as if he were looking for another ‘a’ to spell his name) and score 40+ on the Los Angeles Lakers and their elite defensive guard Michael Cooper. I saw Cooper look like a motherless child as he faked from here to there and left in the rear view with nothing but shadows. Isiah was gone.
And, just last year, I saw a team with aging veterans on the brink of elimination at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. This aging team was “saved” by this young blood from Chicago, via Marquette in Milwaukee. In the next four games of that finals contest, Dwyane Wade went for 42, 36, 43 and 36. In a two-point win in Game 3, Wade added 13 rebounds and shot 18 free throws, making 13. Game 4, a 20+ point blowout, Wade managed 36 on 8 of 9 shooting from the line. Game 5 was an overtime thriller. This time, Wade went for 43 and converted 21 of 25 free throws. In the final game, Wade hit for 36 again, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks. 16-21 from the free throw line…that’s living in the paint.
That’s some week. There was a time when memories like that would last longer than a single season. In some places, they still do.