The first NBA Finals I remember, 1988, lends itself to my strongest NBA Finals memory. I grew up (and remain) a Cavs fan, but my best friend was a Pistons fan. I’ve always been a contrarian by nature, so that meant I was pulling hard for the Lakers.
Game Seven is remembered for a lot of things and a lot of strong visual images, most notably the sheer number of people surrounding the court on all sides in the final moments, and the storming of the court that followed the Lakers’ win. I couldn’t join in those fans’ celebrations, though, because moments before I’d swapped allegiances and become a Detroit supporter, if only momentarily. What did it?
It’s one thing that the Pistons scored five points in what seems like five seconds to narrow the lead to one. But that they did it by having their center, a guy who terrified me (and excited my best friend) with his menacing, animalistic play, hit a three-pointer (and one that would have made Larry Bird proud) turned it for me. Suddenly, a game I was only marginally interested in became the defining moment of my childhood (if I knew what such a thing was or meant at the time, which I most certainly didn’t), and I was instantly the biggest Bad Boy on the planet.
A minute later, I was a Cavs fan again, but it was an important early lesson in how to watch sports and appreciate the myriad reasons why there’s always a reason to be pulling for one team or another in any matchup, regardless of how arbitrary that reason may be.
Tim Burke is a college professor and media researcher from Jacksonville, Florida. He operates Mocksession.com, a series of websites that highlight the hidden moments in sports television through still and moving pictures.
More from “Talking To Talking Balls Week” at the Good Men Project:
Bethlehem Shoals: The Absurd Talking Balls
Peter Schrager: The Great Frank Brickowski
Tom Ley: The Ballad of Adam Morrison
Andy Hutchins: Nice Try, Kobe
Eric Nusbaum: Lakers Flags
Patrick Hayes: Patrick and The Admiral
Graydon Gordian: Sprewellian Anxiety
Alan Siegel: The Hypocrisy of Jordan’s Ball
Andrew Bucholtz: Chuck, This Is Goodbye
Holly MacKenzie: Everything Is Possible
Kurt Helin: Lee’s Layup