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NBA Lockout Classics: ”Hello, my name is Michael Jordan.” MJ plants 63 in the Garden 

I was 3 years old when this game happened so I won’t even pretend I saw it on tv or even on VHS. In fact, I had only seen highlights and Sports Illustrated photos before I discovered this complete game footage on YouTube (thank you, technology Gods!). 

The second hardest thing to do after finding this game tape was to find a box score. Even the supreme Basketball Reference doesn’t keep playoff box scores that far back (25 years ago!). This was sort of a blessing in disguise because the search for the box score actually led me to multiple articles and factoids about the game that wouldn’t show up in a typical stat sheet. 

People don’t talk about it but Jordan had just put up 49 points in a losing effort in Game 1 and now had to go back into the Boston Garden knowing that he’d have to do better. 

He had to do better than a 49 point effort in the Boston Garden during the height of the Larry Bird era Celtics dynasty. 

Knowing what we know about Mike and his drive and his super-human abilities, that last statement doesn’t seem so absurd. But this was 1986, Jordan was just 22 years old, his team was terrible and this was Larry Legend’s Celtics we’re talking about.

Jordan didn’t care who he was playing and looking back, none of us are shocked at the outcome. The only person that could stop Jordan was Jordan (or a bad deck of cards, but that’s a different story for another time). This would be the game that would propel Jordan from stardom right past superstar and right into basketball deity. 

Don’t take my word for it, Larry Bird said it himself. “I think he`s God disguised as Michael Jordan”, Larry said after the game. And many believed it and have worshiped MJ ever since. Some of us even sacrifice 6 goats on the 23rd day of every month. 

The most interesting part of that Larry Bird quote is that it’s being said by Larry Bird, an NBA God in his own right. And on this night Larry was as legendary as ever. Bird put up 36 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists in the game and swore that MJ wouldn’t out-do himself again. “I’ll retire if he scores 77” Bird said. 

This game was so Jordan-esq. Down 2-points, MJ had to hit two free throws after he was fouled on a three point attempt to force OT. That’s pressure. He finished regulation with 54 points and 6 assists. 

Jordan did actually miss in this game and it came at the most inopportune time. After Danny Ainge had tied the game at 125, Chicago got the ball with 12 seconds left and MJ got a clean look with 4 seconds to go in the game, but he clanked the 15 footer and Boston had a chance to win with 2 seconds to go. No luck, double OT. 

Jordan’s 63rd point would tie the game at 131 a piece with 1:10 to go in the game. That was the all-time playoff record, two better than Elgin’s long standing effort. Unfortunately for Jordan, the Bulls and NBA folklore in general, Jordan wouldn’t score again and the Celtics would go on to win this game and the series. 

After the game, Jordan was labeled a ball hog and no one thought his style of play would net a single ring, let alone six. It’s true that Jordan adjusted his game slightly over time and learned to trust teammates but the Jordan we saw on this night was the same Jordan that would go on to become the greatest of all time. It wasn’t evident immediately after this game and in fact many thought that Jordan would go on to only win scoring titles, not NBA championships. 

But every epic tale has to have some sort of tragedy and this was the first of Michael’s career. I don’t think he minds, though, considering how the rest of his career turned out. Sometimes you have to lose before you can learn how to win. 

(Article #1, Article #2, Article #3)

@Suga_Shane

NBA Lockout Classics: 2006 - Gilbert Arenas comes home to L.A. and drops 60 on Kobe and the Lakers

Back in the day, when Gilbert was Hibachi, he was the second most lethal scorer in the NBA. On this night, he faced off with the most lethal scorer in the NBA, Kobe Bean Bryant. 

It was one hell of a duel on this night as the Bean dropped 45 and even got 15 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds out of Luke Walton. But the Hibachi was here to grill them all, laying down a whopping 60 points on his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. 

For everyone watching, this was the birth of the NBA’s next great scoring super-star. Sure, Gilbert had already made a name for himself since averaging over 29 points a game in the prior season but this was a game that would cement his legend in NBA folklore. 

Little did we know that Gil’s rising star had peaked. This was the top of the mountain. On second thought, this wasn’t actually the top of the mountain, but this was as high as Gilbert’s career would take him. I’d call his career a flash in the pan but that wouldn’t do him any justice. Gilbert didn’t fall off because 
his game reached it’s full potential or because he became lazy and he never reached his potential. Agent Zero’s career was curtailed by knee injury after knee injury. Gil and the Wiz would go on to make the playoffs this year, only to get swept by LeBron and their rival Cavs. Then the injuries would pile up and we’d never see Happy Gil again. 

It’s rare, especially in the NBA, that one can point at a specific moment or a specific game of a players career and say, “that’s the moment that his career peaked”. I think that’s why this game is so great to me. It’s not just the fact that Gilbert did this in his homecoming. It’s not even the instant-classic duel between an NBA legend and one man who’s legacy might get lost in the NBA mythos. This game is great to me because of the fact that one can sit down and draw Gilbert’s career arch and at the very top, this game would stand alone. 

(Box Score

via Myles Brown

@Suga_Shane

NBA Lockout Classics: 1995 Western Conference Finals, Game 6 - The Dream vs. The Admiral. 

Today on twitter I was asking about which move was greater, the Skyhook or the Dream Shake. The Skyhook was unstoppable and helped Kareem win 6 MVPs, 6 rings and finish as the NBA’s all-time scoring leader but the Dream Shake was something else. It was beautiful, it was masterful yet it was hard to master. It was such a great move that many of today’s low-post stars try to incorporate parts of it into their own arsenal while many others seek out Hakeem’s teachings over the off-season, yet no one has been able to master the Dream Shake like Hakeem. 

That’s what makes the move so great, it was just beautiful, it wasn’t just hard to stop, it was nearly impossible to master, on either end of the court. 

In 1995, the Rockets were fresh off their first title yet struggling throughout the season. They finished with just 47 wins and had to make a blockbuster move to acquire Clyde Drexler just to salvage their season and try and win a second title before Michael and the Bulls could figure things out again. 

That same year, the Spurs, with a spunky Dennis Rodman and league MVP David Robinson won 62 games and were the favorites going into the playoffs.

Hakeem felt spited that he didn’t win the MVP that year, a year in which he led the Rockets in points, blocks, steals, rebounds and minutes played. Hakeem was the Rockets and the Rockets would go as far as Hakeem’s 32 year old legs would take them.

Like a perfect storybook, Hakeem and the Rockets caught up with the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals that year and Hakeem would finally get an opportunity for revenge.

The Dream would shake his way to 39 points and 17 rebounds in this game, finishing the series with averages of 35 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.3 steals and 4.2 blocks a game. The Rockets would move on to their second consecutive finals appearance, where Hakeem would school Shaq and the Magic on the way to a sweep. Hakeem averaged 33 points 10.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in the 1995 playoffs and was so good, the great Shaquille O’neal would willingly call Hakeem “The Master” for the the rest of his career. 

It’s amazing to think about how many phenomenal centers the NBA had in the 1990’s. From Hakeem to Robinson to Alanzo, the talent was breathtaking.   

(box score)

@Suga_Shane

NBA Lockout Classics: 1995, Michael Jordan drops a double-nickle at MSG. 

Jordan had just put the world on notice. “I’m Back” he said. It was that simple, that short and that sweet. But his return to the NBA wouldn’t be that easy.

Or would it? 

Jordan had only 4 games under his belt when he made the trip to New York and turned the Knicks, MSG and the entire NBA on it’s ear. The basketball God would march into the Mecca and burn the place down and there was nothing Riley or Ewing could do to stop him, short of throwing Spike Lee at him with a catapult. 

What makes this game so beautiful and an instant classic is that no one knew what to expect from Jordan coming into it. Jordan had retired for over a season and a half to unsuccessfully peruse baseball and was trying to make a come back at the age of 32 in the middle of an NBA season. 32 back then was ancient, especially for someone who hadn’t touched a basketball or seen a locker room in nearly 2 years. The NBA was a lot rougher back then, medicine, training and sports science was no where near as advanced as it is today and athletes just didn’t try to play into their mid 30’s, especially not guards and swing-men. The chances of Jordan’s second tenure being as successful as his first seemed as impossible has Jordan waltzing into the NBA without any preseason training or practice and dropping 55 on the Knicks, who were fresh off an NBA Finals defeat to Hakeem and the Rockets.

But this was Jordan, the man who would go on to score 51 points just two months shy of his 39th birthday. While NBA fans the world over were amazed by Jordan’s double-nickle performance, no one was surprised. Scoring is what Jordan did. He could score on anyone, in any game, at anytime and any age. He could score 40 in a bathrobe and slippers if wanted to, or so the legend of Jordan would have us believe. If anything, I’d say people were more relieved by this game. Relieved that the once-great Jordan was still great and that the NBA, once again, had a legend operating within it’s arenas.

Not to take away from Hakeem or anyone else that played in Jordan’s prime, but without Jordan, the NBA just felt dull and empty. MJ was the one man that you could love, hate, fear and respect all at the same time. 

While this season went on to be a disappointment for the Bulls — losing to the upstart Orlando Magic led by Shaq and the ill-fated Penny in the Eastern Conference Finals — Jordan’s second-coming would prove a success when the Bulls would start off their second three-peat by winning 72 games the following season. 

I was going to post up MJ vs. ‘Nique today, but I took a vote on twitter and this game won. Enjoy!

(Box Score)

@Suga_Shane



NBA Lockout Classics: Dr. J vs. Magic & Kareem, 1982 NBA Finals, Game 6. 

Yesterday we had a game that featured Jordan, Pippen, Kobe and Shaq. That’s such a surreal game, if you think about it. Four legends sharing the same court, battling for a lot more than just a ‘W’, especially between MJ and Kobe. Today we have Kareem, Magic, the man that no one can hate even with his terrible ESPN commentary, and Dr. J, one of the greatest players that people forget about.  

Lakers came into this game leading the series 3-2 after stealing the first game of the Finals on the road. Dr. J put up 30 points while Magic went for 13-13-13. 

Philly and Los Angeles would meet again the following year in the 1983 NBA Finals, where Philly would sweep Magic and the Lakers in the infamous “Fo-fo-fo" Sixers’ championship run. 

This game predates Basketball-Reference’s boxscore database but here’s the Wiki page for the series

Tomorrow we’ll have some classic Jordan vs. ‘Nique action.

via @Marco_Romo

@Suga_Shane

Since the NBA is still locked out, let’s enjoy some classics: 1998 Jordan vs. Kobe & Shaq. 

This was the second meeting of the season, Lakers won this one 87-112 (click for the box score). 

I’m going to be posted a lot more classic Jordan full-game videos for the next few weeks to satisfy our NBA hunger. 

via Myles Brown 

@Suga_Shane

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