Saturday, February 13, 2010

The majesty of Tommy Heinsohn's thighs

All-Star Saturday's tonight. So there will be the Slam Dunk Competition and the 3-point shootout. A-list celebs will mingle with B-list ones. But one thing missing is an old-timers game.

Back in 1984, the NBA dusted off an old idea while also dusting off some old players. There had previously been old-timers games - Legends games - in 1957 and 1964. In 1984, guys like Rick Barry, Pete Maravich, Connie Hawkins, Tommy Heinsohn and Johnny "Red" Kerr crammed into impossibly tight uniforms and performed in front of a - according to Dick Stockton, at least - sellout crowd. Paramedics were surely on hand, clutching phone numbers of everyone's next of kin.

They played the game through 1993, when it was replaced by a Rookies game. They finally ended it because of the number of injuries that occurred. There are some surprising names on the all-time rosters. In that final 1993 game, Hot Rod Hundley - who was 59 at the time - played for the West. The league did have to stretch the definition of Legend to fill the rosters. Spencer Haywood? Some real legends, meanwhile, like Kareem, never did play.

There isn't much online video of any of these games, perhaps because NBA Entertainment burned all known tapes. America can only take so many white, pasty thighs.

A brief video of Pistol Pete at that 1984 game is available. By this point, though, it was more like Cap Gun Pete. But he did still score 18 points, according to the note at the end of the video. An old gunner never quits shooting. Maravich died only four years later, at the age of 40.

Oddly, Dick Vitale provided color commentary on this game. He seems sedated when compared to the college-obsessed Vitale most people know, perhaps because there were no Duke grads like Art Heyman playing in the game.

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