Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bizarre NBA videos six people will find interesting

If you don't have 10 or more minutes to waste, you might want to skip these two videos. If you're not a fan of the NBA, you can probably pass on them. If you're specifically not a fan of the NBA on CBS and their top-notch productions from the 1980s, move on. But if you like any of those things, and enjoy awkward silences, one-way conversations, groan-inducing double-entendres and the proclamations of a supposedly impartial Tommy Heinsohn, these gems are for you.

The videos come from the 1986 season. A February clash between the Celtics and Lakers, who always met in LA the Sunday after the All-Star game. The Celtics won the title in '86 and swept the Lakers during the regular season, cruising to victory in this game at The Forum. I can remember watching this game with my dad, who crowed that it proved the Celtics were impossible to beat that season. I knew it was true, too, but didn't want to believe it. I stormed out of the house to shoot hoops at the neighbor's garage, my head protected by a stocking cap and two pairs of gloves on my hands. If Byron Scott couldn't hit a jumper, at least I'd be able to make one.

But the video doesn't have any highlights. Instead it's Dick Stockton and Tommy Heinsohn preparing for the game, before the broadcast came on the air. It's a look behind the curtain, although there's no explanation about how the person who posted it acquired the material. Who saves this on videotape for 24 years, then finally decides to share it with the world? No idea. But I'm eternally grateful. I envy whoever possessed this tape, which was probably rotting away in a box down in the basement, lodged underneath the series finale of M.A.S.H. and some old St. Elsewhere episodes.

Some highlights:
* The teaser was blown off. I'm assuming this refers to the classic intros CBS always ran, narrated by Brent Musburger, which perfectly set the scene for each epic matchup between the teams. A second-rate golf tournament in Florida that Tom Kite won probably ran late before the game, forcing CBS to ditch the stirring introduction.

* At 3 minutes, the lovely - and talented - Laker girls make an appearance, as a cameraman zooms in while Tommy talks to a producer or some other member of the production crew. Tommy proceeds to talk about pumping people up and other oddities that could be interpreted a thousand different ways, none of them good. To top it off, Tommy draws an arrow on the telestrator, pointing at one Laker girl, while also writing what appears to be "OK," next to it.

* Key matchup, according to Tommy, which he wants to talk about at the start of the game: Rambis trying to stop Wedman. Huh? That'd be Kurt Rambis against Scott Wedman. Nice role players - one a banger, the other a gunner. But this featured Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, and Dennis Johnson (Kevin McHale was injured and didn't play). Yet the key thing to watch was...Wedman against Rambis.

* The two engage in some insightful commentary at 4 minutes, as Tommy actually makes some decent points, a shock for anyone who's listened to him on NBA League Pass the last few years. They talk about tempo and how the Celtics can run, just not like the Lakers. And they talk some more about Wedman at 5 minutes. Wedman!

Here's the SI story about the game, which, like my dad, basically crowned the Celtics, four months before they made it official in the NBA Finals. It includes a great line from Kareem, when talking about a hard foul by the immortal Greg Kite, a man known for an unfortunate name and nonexistent post game.

"It didn't surprise me," Kareem said. "They're known as a cheap-shot team." That's the type of quote that made the rivalry so fun.

And the story also shows that maybe Heinsohn was right about Wedman. It wasn't his offense that killed the Lakers - though it damaged them - but his defense. He helped check Worthy late in the game as the Celtics pulled away in the fourth.

* On the second video, Stockton makes jokes at the expense of the floundering Washington Bullets, who were 17.5 games behind Boston in the standings. If they'd heard Stockton talking like this, dozens of Bullets fans would have written to CBS, outraged by the mocking comments. But it's not just a joke, Stockton's actually trying out material for the broadcast. Later he ridicules the equally sad Pacers.

* At the 6-minute mark, Stockton announces he'll "announce anything," including Bar Mitzvahs, and weddings. Seems like a joke, except he delivered it with a straight face. I'd hire him, as long as Heinsohn wasn't part of the package.

But we need some hoops after all that. Not from this game, but Boston's previous one, the performance Stockton mentioned early in the broadcast. Bird lit up Portland for 47 points in an overtime victory. He added 14 boards and 11 assists, the type of performance that had people wondering that year if he was the best to ever play the game. This was before Magic began really dominating during the 1987 season and obviously before Jordan became Jordan. The guy could play. The game included a famous stretch when he started shooting left-handed, just for the hell of it. He hits the winning shot with 3 seconds left. Speaking of announcers, Bill Russell says Bird's shot put a lot of pressure on the Blazers. Indeed. It put Boston up 1 with three seconds left, which is about as much pressure as a team can face. Bill Russell: one of the best players ever...not one of the game's finest analysts.

After watching these videos - in their entirety, twice - it's obvious that I'm way too fascinated with NBA action from the 1980s. And I need hobby.


Dad said...

You are right about your watching too many of these, especially the first too. BUT the Larry one was sweet, no wonder he was one of my all-time favorites.

Shawn Fury said...

Yeah, he had his moments. And it's nice that I can appreciate him now. But he tortured me as a kid.