Text messages I sent to friends during Game 1 of the Spurs-Suns series:
This is otherworldly — Holy [bleep]!!!!! — ESPN Classic! — Best G-1 ever? — I'm gonna pass out — DUNCAN!?!?!? — Best Rd. 1 game ever? — Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue — WHOAAAAA!—There are no words.
We couldn't have gotten a better tip-off to the most anticipated playoffs in 15 years: a pantheon game on Day 1 that somehow exceeded the hype. Well, what if this entire postseason were to exceed the hype? What are the possible outcomes that could possibly rival Spurs-Suns, Round 1—and that could actually happen?
After narrowing my list to 10, here's what was left on the cutting-room floor: Pistons-Suns (the most even Finals possible), Lakers-Mavs (star power, plus the inevitable Cuban-Jackson pissing match), Cavs-Suns (an enjoyable romp), Mavs-Suns (this isn't top 10?), Celtics-Mavs (this either?) and Spurs-Pistons (just kidding; this is ABC's worst-case scenario, narrowly edging the cast of Lost being eaten by a polar bear).
Here's what made it, in reverse order from "thrilling" to "I won't be able to sleep the night before Game 1":
10. Lakers-Pistons (Finals) Maybe it could even end like 1988: LA prevails in a hard-fought seven after Detroit can't get off a series-saving three because its best player has gotten bodychecked just as Lakers fans prematurely storm the court. Right now, Pistons fans are nodding and saying, "We thought we were the only ones who remembered that!"
9. Magic-Suns (Finals) Forget about the quality of play — this would break the record for "most sunburned media members using a playoff series as an excuse to play golf for two straight weeks." I can just see Jay Mariotti and Woody Paige arguing on Around the Horn, all maroon faces and blisters as dried skin flies everywhere.
8. Hornets-Jazz (West Finals) This one appeals only to roundball dorks like myself, but I'm not gonna apologize. The thought of Chris Paul and Deron Williams pulling a Corrales-Castillo on each other for the Point Guard Championship of the World makes me giddy. Along with a Finals berth, the NBA could put the team name Jazz on the line. If New Orleans wins, they get to take back the name. Who's with me?
7. Celtics-Pistons (East Finals) You think this would be just a battle between two old rivals for Eastern supremacy? It's way more than that. This is KG and Sheed locked in a chest-pounding, eyeballing, trash-talking, somebody-better-separate-us-before-this-gets-ugly frenzy. This is former UConn Huskies Ray Allen and Rip Hamilton chasing each other from baseline to baseline. This is young Rajon Rondo — and if he can't do it, Yoda Cassell — trying to handle wily vet Chauncey Billups. This is Flip Saunders and Doc Rivers playing checkers and looking confused, and Tayshaun Prince using his octopus arms to shut down Paul Pierce, and Big Baby, Leon Powe and Jason Maxiell playing undersized forward rugby underneath. If that's not enough, think of the inevitable deluge of highlights of Larry Legend's famous steal and The Chief punching Laimbeer in the face. Yes, please.
6. Hornets-Lakers (West Finals) By the time this took place, we'd know if the 2008 MVP was the enigmatic Laker who bashed his teammates and wanted to flee before "coming around" or the unselfish point who saved basketball in Katrina-scarred New Orleans, redefined the ceiling of his position and took a lottery team to a No. 2 seed. It's always fun when lingering MVP debates can be resolved in seven games or fewer. Unless you're Karl Malone.
5. Celtics-Suns (Finals) There's some sneaky but powerful history here from the '76 Finals, plus at least three likable stars who will have their careers altered if they win a title. We'd also have definitive proof that it's worth rolling the dice with a monster trade — which means they'd be made more often, right? I have no idea who would win this series; neither do you. That's a good thing.
4. Spurs-Lakers (West Finals) Here's another action-packed affair with high drama (the champs vs. the up-and-comers), a true villain (Bruce "The Anvil" Bowen, pulling out every one of his evil tricks to frustrate Kobe, short of hitting him with a steel chair), superior coaching, two of the greatest players ever, two premier clutch shooters and two exquisite low-post scorers. Still not sold? Wait until this "joke" scenario makes me a legend when it actually comes true: The Spurs are derailed in Game 7 by WWE-worthy officiating along the lines of that in the 2002 Kings-Lakers series, followed by everyone's being cool with it because we all were hoping for a Celtics-Lakers Finals anyway. Screw you, San Antonio! The NBA — it's FANNNNNN-tastic!
3. Celtics-Spurs (Finals) Beyond undercard matchups like Pierce-Manu, Allen-Bowen, Rondo-Parker and Cassell-Horry, plus the obvious parallels in styles (two superb defensive teams built around one good slasher and one good big man), this one has historical significance (San Antonio going for a dynasty, Boston trying to revive one) and a fascinating individual matchup that ranks somewhere between Russell-Chamberlain and Ewing-Olajuwon in Finals lore. We've always wondered if KG would have had Duncan's career if they'd been picked by each other's teams in 1997. Let's find out. For once, we'd get a real answer to a rhetorical question. (Important note: Like every other Celtics fan, I love KG as much as I can platonically love another man, but Duncan's proven crunch-time prowess pushes him to another level. In big moments, Duncan either gets a quality shot or gets to the line, whereas KG settles for fallaways and has a disturbing tendency to pass up big shots. It's no contest. Right now, Duncan is slightly better. How's that for a reverse jinx?)
2. Cavs-Lakers (Finals) "Kobe! LeBron! It's the NBA Finals on ABC!" Yeah, that works. By the way, we've had a bunch of Finals with two transcendent players, but rarely have they actually guarded each other. In my Scenarios 2 and 3, they would. Sgfdggdg fjgjgjijgrkj fhejfrefjrkj fjekfjrkjfk fkoek.
[Ed.'s note: The previous sentence was "written" when Bill's head hit his keyboard after he briefly blacked out. We were able to revive him to finish the column.]
1. Celtics-Lakers (Finals) Just the mere possibility of this one has me so energized, I wish Kurt Rambis were in my office right now so I could clothesline him into my desk. Imagine seeing those uniforms on the same court in June again. We'd have Kobe and KG fighting for a career-altering ring, Phil Jackson going for Red Auerbach's record for coaching titles, Allen and Kobe renewing their bizarre feud. I live for the emotional revival of those "Beat LA" chants that meant something once and the tons of Magic-Bird highlights that would offset the startling impact of seeing the two icons show up for Game 1 weighing in at a combined 620 pounds. LA's celebrity fans vs. Boston's ("Hey, that's Tom Brady sitting next to the Wahlbergs!"). The chance to boo Kareem one more time. ABC's making a gazillion bucks if the series goes seven, then using the cash to bankroll my sitcom, Everybody Loves William. I could go on and on.
So God, man up: Give us a Celtics-Lakers Finals. That's right, I'm calling You out. Show us what You got. Rttghfnf ljmbkkk nmhgjk wqptrs ghdscv.
[Ed.'s note: We did everything we could. He's gone.]
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