Here we are, one game left in the 2013 season.
In the months since I stopped updating this blog—at least as frequently as I had the previous couple seasons—I quaked at the prospect of a muted response to the greatest basketball game of my lifetime (game 6) and the greatest NBA Finals I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing™: this one.
Perhaps it’s fitting that all the pieces for this magical series came together in David Stern’s final season as commissioner. He’s the übermensch that saved the league from drugs and an apathetic public. In the time since I was born, in the year before Stern took over as commissioner, there have only been five game 7’s in the NBA Finals: 1984 (Lakers-Celtics), 1988 (Lakers-Detroit), 1994 (Knicks-Rockets), 2005 (Pistons-Spurs), 2010 (Celtics-Lakers).
The first two happened when I was too young to possess a lucid understanding of the stakes involved. The third one was just hard and grimy because Starks combusted and went 2-for-18 while the Dream outplayed Ewing. The fourth one I watched with friends from college who didn’t care, while the rest of the world yawned and pretended they gave a shit. I reveled in it—every tough-nosed defensive sequence after another. The last one featured a 6-for-24 NBA Finals MVP shooting performance, and one very upset apartment owner who couldn’t understand why I felt like throwing empty beer bottles off her balcony onto 33rd street below (sorry REDACTED).
Now we’re on the precipice of the sixth—and certainly the most confounding—game 7 in my lifetime. It’s a game 7 prognosticators and gamblers are justifiably terrified about; anyone that claims to know what’s going to happen is simply lying, and you should probably cut them out of your life because it’s the worst sort of lie, one you don’t need to tell.
There are so many narratives and talking points, I just stayed away from them for the majority of the series. It was a lot more fun just watching basketball and enjoying it the way I did when I was a little kid.
Running concurrently with those unfortunate saps who took the Spurs plus the points in game 6, are the elated fans. We fans have gotten exactly what made us fans in the first place. Fans, not just of the NBA, but fans of basketball as a whole. This game, nay, this series AND this game, was enough to keep my waking life immersed in a sort of bottled exultation that I haven’t experienced since basketball was still more important than jobs, girlfriends, bills, and the rest that life has thrown at me.
So I had to write some words about it and actually throw them on here regardless of whether or not I miss a couple deadlines today. This had to come first.
There’s a word doc on my desktop with about 10,000 words from throughout the playoffs. Scribbles mainly, and probably half of them stemmed from that sweat-soaked game 6 that led to my first genuinely sleepless night since I quit doing New York the way you see in the movies.*
There are rambles, at one point I must have written 800 straight words without a single mark of punctuation; there are soliloquies about ‘Bron and Duncan because, well, they’re LeBron and Duncan; there are rants at the people I follow on Twitter who vacillate between opposite sides of the analysis spectrum so frequently it renders them completely ineffectual basketball pundits; there are homilies about the salad bowl vs melting pot dynamic for foreign NBA players, like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, which I placed on the periphery of a sociological debate about ethnocentrism and assimilation (I even took the time to make an Al Pacino gif from Carlito’s Way).
I didn’t publish any of that ish here or the various other sites who kindly publish my words on occasion. I didn’t have the time.
But tonight’s game, this past Tuesday’s game, and the rest of this series has been written about enough. I’ve got a lot of work still uncompleted as I jab at my keyboard right now, just a couple hours before game 7’s tip off, but I had to say something, anything.
The best I could come up with, besides the unctuous homage to myself at the beginning, is what I said while trying to explain my fervent need to watch every second of this series to my girlfriend. She is understanding and has dated me on and off for so long she knows the NBA’s playoff schedule by heart.
But my constant whining over the last week and a half that “we have to get back for the game,” was getting bothersome.
So I told her: “This is it. This is what all the arguments, rebuttals, analysis, hyperbole, effusive praise, cold criticism and everything else just fly out the window,” pause, deep breath. “This is the ultimate.
“I don’t know why this happens. I get a tingling sensation along the base of my brain that’s similar to a particularly large dose of MDMA. I can’t explain the feeling except with drug metaphors. It might not even be related to a cognitive chemical imbalance, but it’s my emotional zenith.
Now this syrupy speech was/is ridiculous because we’re talking about a game at the end of the day (and Sammy Clemens would kill me for my “literary offenses”). But for a large number of people, it really is like Coleridge said, “It was a miracle of rare device, A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice.”
This is my pleasure-dome. Right here, right now: game 7 of the NBA Finals.
My lady is watching the game tonight, even though I won’t be with her. You’ll be watching the game tonight, even though I won’t be with you. We will all be watching the game tonight, just like we were all watching game 6 on Tuesday night.
Game 7’s are why we watch sports. They are why I will be cremated with a basketball when I step off this mortal coil.
If my name were Kanye, I’d write, this is why I exist. But I’m not Kanye, so I’ll just write that it’s not just a game tonight, it’s The Game. We get to watch history in real time, knowing that we’ll all be talking about what happens tonight for the rest of our lives.
But we should have fun too, wherever we’re watching. I know I will, even if I don’t speak to you for a few months after this.
Gotta give my heart time to return to its normal rate.