Single page view By Alan Grant
Special to Page 2

EDITOR'S NOTE: A year ago during the NBA Finals, Page 2 lost one of its own, Ralph Wiley. As you can see, he's still deeply missed.


As Game 4 approaches, I find myself thinking about you. It was about this time last year that you left us. But it's more than Game 4 of the series. This series and these two teams really bring you to mind.

Manu Ginobili
If only Ralph could have watched Mr. Ginobili's coming-out party.

San Antonio is a team that, in terms of discipline, fundamental skill and innate desire, might be unmatched. The Spurs are intensely focused, yet cleverly understated at times. I think it's a team you would appreciate.

And Detroit is energetic, fiery, and plays with a sense of pride befitting the city it represents. The Pistons have guys who knock you down and tick you off. I think you would appreciate them, too.

I want to tell you more about the series, but there are so many things happening, I don't think I can concentrate on just the basketball court. But I'll try.

The Spurs didn't just win the first two games of the series – they toyed with the Pistons. I was thinking the joke was on us – and by "us" I mean American basketball fans. A foreign exchange team had set up shop in George Bush's Texas and was putting a very fine point on the fact that the highest level of basketball in America is indeed on loan.

Classic Wiley
A new book, "Classic Wiley: A Lifetime of Punches, Players, Punks & Prophets," will be available in book stores early next week. The book features a collection of Ralph Wiley's Sports Illustrated features, columns and excerpts from his books and screenplays. You can order the book now from

The Spurs' heart and soul is Manu Ginobili, that swashbuckling Argentinean who goes to the rim like a kickoff returner hitting a crease in the wedge. In fact, Ginobili and his South American mates won the gold medal in last summer's Olympics. America's team came in third, but I don't think anyone really liked them, anyway.

By the way, last year – and I know you saw it coming – the Pistons beat the Lakers in five. Afterward, Phil Jackson quit. And Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat – Pat Riley had only to part with Caron Butler, Lamar Odom and Brian Grant.

As for the Lakers, everyone blamed Shaq's departure on Kobe. But last I heard, Jerry Buss was writing the checks. And just this week it was announced he'd be writing them for Phil again. But things are different now. Rumor has it that Kobe has been watching tapes of "The White Shadow." The first time around, Kobe hadn't familiarized himself with the '70s television show. He wasn't aware that guys like Ken Reeves – well-intentioned former players from the hippie era – are sent here to rescue the wayward black youth. But now that Kobe has been schooled on the adventures of Coolidge, Thorpe, Gomez and Salami, things should run smoothly in L.A. I'll keep you posted on that one.

But back to the Spurs. Ginobili's backcourt mate, Tony Parker, is an interesting cat. Sometimes I think the court is too small for that guy. In Game 2, just when Detroit closed to within a few points, Parker went the distance, sliced in between two defenders, and scooped it in. And whenever Parker does such things, he does them with a little smirk on his face.



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