RED AUERBACH ACCIDENTALLY BECOMES A BAD INFLUENCE -- History of the NBA Finals Part 35
Before the junior skyhook in Game 4 at the Boston Garden in 1987, the lingering and haunting image of the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalry was an incident that occurred during Game 4 at the Great Western Forum in 1984. Lakers forward Kurt Rambis, on a fastbreak, is clotheslined by Boston's Kevin McHale (the only Kevin McHale, what the F-CK is the kid from Glee doing at the top of the search engine when you google his name? Is there a co-star in "The Vow" named Isiah Thomas? F-ck Glee and F-ck the Vow). Anyway, Rambis takes a fall that is so nasty that it can only be made to look less nasty by the same television optical effects that make a fastball seem reasonably paced. Rambis falls as hard as he ran fast. He rises and immediately starts trying to fight, but trips on the people sitting behind the basket and the rest of the Lakers and Celtics take care of the resulting little b-itchy cat fight. The Lakers would start playing mind games with themselves. The public perception of them as soft. The fact that any time they try to run the break from here on out, they risk being sent to the floor. And most importantly...does the fact that we're considering that...mean they're right about us?
It would result in Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar...losing their stripes with the basketball world.
They would get it back of course and more....but here was a team that was so successful up until the 1984 NBA Finals that they could get their dicks smacked in throughout the 1983 NBA Finals and even their coldest critics were saying "if Worthy (their rookie) and Nixon (their midget) had been playing, things would have been MUCH DIFFERENT"
In 1984, I was in kindergartin.
I didn't see the 1984 NBA Finals when it was on CBS, but I did watch alot of Dukes of Hazzard and He-Man.
That didn't have to do with anything, I just wanted to emphasize that this is a redo of an old hub I put up that turned out to be riddled with "hate speech".
I didn't mean to be hateful, but...yeah, yeah I did.
It seemed to be very hateful to Caucasians because I was talking about the early 80s Boston Celtics...a team filled with some of the most talented African American players to ever ever play. And yet...as I sat here, a big dumb white guy myself, I sounded like Malcolm X in describing Bird's cronies of the lighter persuasion. For this I apologize. So in the spirit of the ongoing Heat-Mavericks rematch (see ya Dallas), I'm redoing this hub to restore it to the level of real sophistication and class that you all have come to expect out of me.
There was no NBA Finals as important as the 1984 NBA Finals.
It was the turning point.
Sports was never the same again.
A race war almost started.
It very seriously, to a nation of African-Americans, looked like the establishment was showing us its' basketball version. Go to practice. Run. Jump. Excite. Win. Fuck it all. For Kevin McHale could just knock us out...make a sacrifical lamb out of Kurt Rambis...and still be allowed to dress for Game 5.
It would make even the most sophisticated of elder statesmen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, become a retaliatory goon...throwing an elbow at Larry Bird who was the only Celtic trying to help Rambis up...
It would make Bird then retaliate by ass-bumping Michael Cooper onto a canopy of Nikon cameras and journalists writing with pens with sharp tips when he's only got on shorts and a tanktop and can't even see where he's falling.
It would make James Worthy knock Cedric Maxwell into the seats.
It would make Pat Riley vulnerable, for when a series goes seven games with basketball's Bear Bryant, they're going to be worn out and exhausted.
It was a series that would result in David Stern, finishing up his first season, trying to make it easier for Pat Riley in future NBA Finals, for in addition to being the last Finals referred to as the "NBA World Championship Series", this will also be the last time before it's like the World Series in baseball...a 2-3-2 format. From 1985 on, they would have the first two games at home like always, but now you play three on the road instead of two. Game 5, 6 and 7 of the 1984 NBA Finals not only were gruelling and history-altering...but in Boston...then Los Angeles....then Boston. Jetlag, no air conditioning, and the officials in the horrible position of having to keep EVERYONE DRESSED WHO'S PLAYING DESPITE ALL THE HARD HARD SHOTS THE PLAYERS WERE TAKING ON EACH OTHER. That's right. The NBA did what any of us who like money would have probably done -- keep Kevin McHale and James Worthy and Kareem and Bird in the series no matter what happened to Rambis and Maxwell.
It's also the series that will demonstrate why Danny Ainge forever gets a reputation as a brat when he was the early 80s Charlie Ward and Deion Sanders and I'm not even freaking joking.
Read about Danny Ainge. Seriously.
The 1984 NBA Finals will be Danny Ainge's boot camp, as he knows damn well going in that he's at great risk of being Boston's Kurt Rambis at any time the Lakers realize they're probably the only 12 black men in Reagen's America who truly have a license to knock a white man the f*ck out.
He will become the BYU Danny Ainge by the 1985 playoffs...a true Celtic captain and leader...this persistent little white boy, until getting his first set of serious injuries in the 87 and 88 seasons.
Over the span of the next thirty years, there will be many glorious NBA Finals series. But the 1984 NBA Finals proved to be even more important to the direction of sports then
a) The 1989 NBA Finals, in which thugball officially became a VIABLE STRATEGY TO ACKNOWLEDGE AS A COACH AT ANY LEVEL!!!!
b) The 1991 NBA Finals, in which the greatest individual player in history faced the greatest team player in history as like a final exam of a class called "So What Did The Pistons Teach You About The Importance Of Involving Even Guys Like Vlade Divac?" Jordan by the way would do just that...beginning the series in predictable fashion (kicking their ass all by himself with pure aeronautical lift)...culminating on p.25 of the screenplay when act two begins...Magic winning by passing...illustrating the protagonist's problem and ultimate goal...
c) The 2006 NBA Finals, in which the referee scandal actually reached the world championship round, and caused the Dallas Mavericks to lose their title when they had just about their only shot. Good God Miami is loaded. It sucks. I love the Miami Dolphins but not the Heat. Pat Riley is OUR coach. Not Miami's. Screw Miami. He's a Knick coach. KNICKS. Crap.
d) The 2008 NBA Finals, where Red Auerbach's glorious tradition was rejuvenated two years after his death by an all black Celtic team....ASSEMBLED BY DANNY AINGE!!!!!....against Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher who I respect but always hope lose to the Celtics. 2010 was BULLS*IT. You better be Derrick Rose if you're going to beat my Celtics and Knicks.
So the 1984 Finals were significant.
For as we watch the old MTV and Reagen and BAA elements join the NBA with the appointment of Mister David Stern, we see a league that is trying to dispel the image of black hockey...with white lacrosse.
The Boston Celtics of Larry Bird would, by the 1986 season, be so thoroughly fluid that the Lakers (in my opinion), knew they didn't have a chance and so let Houston beat them so the Rockets could go get embarrassed by the Celtics instead.
The Boston Celtics are historically the New York Yankees of basketball because they won 8 championships in a row and 11 in 13 years by integrating when only Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were talking about it. It officially becomes cool to be colorblind in America in 1967. It wasn't a big deal after 1967 to have integrated teams. It was from 1957-1966.
Red Auerbach will, as president of the Celtics, continue not to see color.
That's the only way I can explain how the Boston Celtics of the 1980s would be so very very very white.
In the South, the way they got past black codes was by poll taxes.
Create an environment where you have to be rich.
Lots of white people are left out when you do this, but a hundred years ago, it was deemed by a few tools that it was worth it if it meant keeping the majority of blacks out.
So Auerbach may have possibly been seeing Larry Bird's poor white self the same way he saw Bill Russell's African-American self.
The Celtics also had the "misfortune" of two things -- a) being around before hip-hop and baggy clothes were so ingratiated into pop culture and b) the fact that the top three white guys in the game were all on the Celtics in 1984. That looks kinda racist. And even more racist when you add Scott Wedmen, Bill Walton, Jerry Sichting, Greg Kite and Fred Roberts, the next seven best in the whole league (maybe Kiki Vandeweghe would be under Walton) to a team with Bird and McHale and Ainge.
The NBA in the 80s and early 90s was healthy and unearthly competitive and marketable and awesome...and now it's like the 70s. Hillbillies would not like the NBA in 2011 any more then they did in 1978. Once those guys like Havlicek and Pete Maravich and Dave Cowens and Dan Issel were gone, what you had was a league where you had to actually like black people because freaking honestly man...white guys will attempt in their youth to test their NBA potential when you got a guy like John Paxson to start mimicking...then as you get better there are guys like John Stockton and Chris Mullin...then you can start mimicking the black players as you get decent...then Larry Bird and Michael Jordan if you get amazing...
Well since 1998 there's only been Steve Nash. And Steve Nash can't play defense and is regarded literally as a fly on the windshield to any big time team that wants an NBA title. He discourages dreams. We don't want to be boring point guards. We want to be dunkers. Personalities. Instead of the pretty girl, we want the pretty girl butt naked in our kitchen wearing nothing but our Boston Celtics jersey. OWWWWWWW. Hey you know what -- maybe by the end of this hub we'll actually get to what happened in the 1984 Finals. I don't know what's with me today.
So anyway, because there are no white players to look up to, most young white boys in America today play stupid stuff. Even the most baller of us need something on TV to copy.
Enter white guys from every other country on Earth....who are the only other white guys besides yours truly who probably just got done watching the 1985 NBA Finals video with the romanticized music as Kareem and Worthy are celebrating in Boston and Kevin McHale is sitting and reminiscing about the year before.
Is it any wonder I'm typing right now with the 1984 NBA Finals on my mind?
For this is the final NBA world championship series before Stern's ideas bake. This was his business model. It was from the heavens.
On the Lakers, it was Kareem, Larry Spriggs, Jamaal, Magic, Worthy, McAdoo, and the newcomer Byron Scott. They were a dynamic group...and the 1984 NBA Finals would lead to them getting beat up so f*cking hard that coach Pat Riley would beginning to draft big bruising defensive players to help them out such as Michael Thompson and A.C. Green. Pat Riley would from this point grow addicted to the idea of showing opponents that his team was tough because of how everyone called the Lakers "homos" following the 1984 NBA Finals. Addicted. That's why in the 90s, his Knicks and Heat would be almost uniformally night club bouncers and goons to the point where their only shooter would go 1 for 24 from the field in Game 7 in Houston like Starks.
On the Celtics it was Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Larry Bird, General Henderson, and Dennis Johnson. On the bench were three guys who got lots of playing time -- former big stars M.L. Carr and Cedrick Maxwell...and the very young Ainge.
They split the first two in Boston. Kareem thoroughly dominated Robert Parish. James Worthy could not be caught by Larry Bird when he was running. Dennis Johnson managed to keep Magic from doing much though, and as the series goes on, it is Dennis Johnson's continued brilliance that keeps these Lakers down.
Thoroughout the series, Boston fans camped out 24 hours a day outside the hotels the Lakers were staying at. Hotel workers after all don't keep secrets like that when half a city assembling outside and keeping them up all night before a game can work so very well.
As they got on the plane to Los Angeles, the Lakers were called chokers and morons for the way they lost Game 2 in Boston. Worthy threw the ball away to Gerald Henderson who laid it in to tie it with about 19 seconds left, and then Magic took his time to come down floor as if he knew what his next move was gonna be. He didn't, and they didn't even get a shot off. Overtime. And so in Game 3, they kick Boston's ass with everything they got.
After which, Larry Bird begins the thug ball era.
You remember in Alpha Dog how Justin Timberlake and his friends had been accustomed to making people do whatever they wanted who owed them money? That was the Celtics....until the Lakers came around in the form of Ben Foster...high on meth and owing 1,200. Foster throws Emilie Hirsch the leader into a glass coffee table, Hirsch pulls a gun, and Foster, in the midst of this big incident where everyone's holding him back says "YOU MIGHT HAVE EVERYONE FOOLED BOSTON!!! BUT NOT ME!!!! I WILL TAKE YOU DOWN!!!!!"
Well that was the Lakers kicking Boston in Game 3.
And so Emilie Hirsch, Johnny Truelove, Jesse James Hollywood, whatever....that's Larry Bird...he tells them it's time to make them fear us.
When interviewed, he tells reporters that the Celtics played like sissies, and says "we got some great players on the team but we don't have the players with the heart sometimes that we need".
This is why Ben Foster's little brother Kurt Rambis will end up clothslined in Game 4 by Kevin McHale.
They go into overtime because Robert Parish steals the ball from Magic!
And then in overtime, despite the brilliance of this Laker legend who puts up 22 points and 24 assists in Game 3 and another triple double here in game four...he will go to the line for two free throws and the game tied.
Magic misses them both. Bird rebounds. 28 seconds left.
And so Boston coach K.C. Jones (who's black in case anyone's wondering), is now in alot more control then anyone realizes, because the Celtics, who proved that they could be focused despite fights and drama, are also the NBA's greatest team in the late 80s when it comes to getting a nice white boy jumper like in the driveway to win the game.
A turnaround jumper over Magic. By Mister Larry Bird.
Boston's up by two. What patience. The Lakers' weapons had been played with, as those very patient Celtics spent twelve seconds trying to set up a shot for either Dennis Johnson or Cedric Maxwell.
Lakers have a chance to tie....they inbound it...
Then M.L. Carr steals it.
And jumps around.
Boston ties the series at 2. As Dick Stockton of CBS said "The Boston Celtics are acting like they've won a championship and Tommy (Heinsohn), I would have to say...it's probably as important as a championship."
And it was.
For Game 5 would be played in a non air-conditioned Boston Garden, the temperature was 98 degrees on the court, there were big fans and oxygen tents and the fans with their big potbellies and swarmy chest hair out their unbuttoned shirts taunting Kareem with "YOU NEED TO PUT ON SOME BIFOCALS SO YOU CAN SEE YOUR OXYGEN MASK, GRANDPA!!! KAREEM PUFF!!! KAREEM PUFF!!! KAREEM PUFF!!!!"
There proved to be only one man on this night who could brave the conditions --
These Finals from this point on would be like a trip out to Grant Park during the summer. Before the NBA's big Michael Jordan Air Show...when people looked up in the sky that was the NBA...they were watching the Birds.
The Boston Celtics were 1984 NBA World Champions.
The MVP of the league would also be the Finals MVP.
Setting the bar so high that only Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Bill Walton, Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O Neal would ever climb over it.
This is why, despite whatever LeBron James has done so far, people will always say he's got higher to go. Just ask Kobe Bryant.
Boston celebrated Red Auerbach's 15th NBA title as Larry Bird avenges Indiana State who lost to Magic Johnson's Michigan State Spartans in the 1979 title game. It was forevermore regarded as an upset, for the Lakers had been loaded. The Lakers had been heavy favorites. The Lakers had choked.
Because the Lakers didn't have Larry Bird.