The NBA Finals go back to the future with the Lakers and Celtics. It's 1987 all over again, people! Break out your Max Headroom commercials on Betamax and chug down a New Coke.
For those of you who have been in a 21-year coma, there's a lot of catching up to do when it comes to the NBA.
And for those of you too young to remember how the NBA was "back in the day," let me offer a few things to notice when you are catching one of the ESPN Classic replays of the '87 series.
Yes, that was the "style" back then. Nobody can explain it. Nobody can justify it. To see grown men, some of them 7 feet tall, wearing shorts no bigger than Daisy Dukes is truly troubling. It is a sure sign that the players union was horribly weak back then. If you tried to bring back the old-tyle shorts now, the league would shut down for a year and a half.
You may notice that ink wasn't real big back then. League-wide, tattoos in 1987 didn't even eclipse the "front" tattoos on Carmelo Anthony today. I suppose players in the '80s only cared about their game, not looking like extras in a prison movie.
Yes, they called them back in 1987. Even on stars. You would even see Hall of Famers like Kareem Abdul Jabbar get into foul trouble. I remember hearing Dick Stockton on CBS exclaim: "Oh wow. That's Kareem's fifth! Pat Riley is going to have to bring in Mike Smrek." And Kareem was a finesse player. Shaq only fouled out when he had put three or four defenders into the locker room for x-rays.
Two was enough. And they didn't gamble on the games or eject players for laughing at bad calls while sitting on the bench. Then in 1988, the league started to realize that maybe the players were getting too physical. Here's a quote from a 1988 New York Times story: 'The game has become faster and quicker and is being played by bigger people,'' said Rod Thorn, the executive vice president of operations, ''and it's our opinion that an extra pair of eyes would aid in covering the entire court more.'' He forgot to add: "And it gives us another guy who can help influence outcomes in the playoffs to boost big market teams. Oops. Was that my out loud voice? I didn't say that, did I? Off the record! Off the record!
For some reason, CBS couldn't just open their telecast with an intro from Dick Stockton and Tommy Heinsohn. No, they needed a little known broadcaster with thinning hair, but rugged good looks and a fabulous mustache. Pat would set the scene, voice over some sunset shots of the Forum and people filing in, then do the whiparound of celebs sitting courtside. He had one little hit at halftime, and then it was cocktail time for Pat. Nice gig.
Corporate Naming Rights
Uh ... what? Today, you have the T.D. Banknorth Arena, which they ham-handedly insert the word "Garden" at the end instead of "Arena." Like you might close your eyes and think: Wow, I'm back at the old Boston Garden! And you have the Staples Center. Back in 1987 it was Forum and Garden. Forum and Garden. Period.
Today, you will have A-list recording artists playing at halftime, helping to contribute to absurdly long games lasting sometimes over 3 hours. Back in the day, here was the entertainment. The Lakers had "Dancing Barry" who was a dude in a white tuxedo who danced like a white guy on speed in the aisles. The Celtics half time entertainment? Go take a leak. Second half is starting soon.
Not many back then. Watch the games. It's almost like teams thought doubling a particularly tough player was somehow unfair. Even when teams doubled, they usually did so with one or both players simply standing flat-footed with their arms up.
What? Who did this? Magic Johnson as a point guard, looks laughable by today's standards. A 6-9 guy pounding the ball at waist height while backing his way into the frontcourt would work for about 30 seconds in today's game. Basically, only James Worthy had the ability to cross up a defender and take the ball aggressively to the hole. He was the player that scared the Celtics to death. Kareem would get his. Magic was key to the break. But Worthy was a B-I-T-C-H.
Each team had two kinds. Home and away. Now, both the Celtics and Lakers have special "third alternates." The Lakers "Sunday Whites" and the Celtics with their "black number" road greens.
Now, other than those small almost unnoticeable differences, everything else is the same. The rim sits 10 feet off the ground. The shot clock is 24 seconds. And first team to 100 usually wins the games.
Oops. Wait a minute. That scoring 100 thing is only applicable today. In fact, they give you free tacos if the team scores 100. Back in 1987, scoring just 100 meant you went home in the car griping about "How can we win if we're only going to score 100 points!?"
Then you would call your local sports talk radio show, and vent about the loss.
Oh, wait again. I'm forgetting. There wasn't all-sports radio back then. Never mind.
Can I still buy some "New Coke" online?