Mike Lantry, 1972
Five things I love about the NBA Playoffs
Marv Albert and Steve Kerr. Kerr is unbelievably good as a color man. He picks up on all those niggling little details that a color man should and explains things clearly--he and his TNT crew were all over the strange situation with Indiana's timeouts last night and the technical foul that was upcoming at the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Ultimately, it was a useless piece of information but I'm willing to wager Bill Walton wouldn't have mentioned it until the free throw was actually occurring and then he would claim it was because someone mouthed off to the officials. Kerr noticed something unusual and interesting and told me about it. Now I am smarter about basketball. Kerr does this all the time.
Kerr's also funny, and I have high standards for funny. He and Albert have great chemistry, bouncing insults off each other with a casual aplomb that lets you know that they actually respect and like each other--night and day from earlier this year when Mike Fratello was part of the broadcast crew and would sit there the whole game pissed off and bitchy. Now Kerr and Albert merrily insult each other and throw in the occasional shot at "the Czar" that can be interpreted as innocent fun but probably shouldn't be. (It's clear that everyone who worked with Fratello hated his guts. I would pay to see TNT studio dude Ernie Johnson go twelve rounds with Fratello.) That's the best part--envisioning Fratello stewing at home, gripping the armrests of his solid-gold armchair with a white-hot fury and frantically calling the TNT studios to threaten slander suits aplenty.
Marv Albert is Marv Albert, with just the right level of idiosyncracy to be weirdly entertaining but not grating and a honey-smooth voice that makes him one of the top play by play guys working today in any sport. Plus every once in a while you get to think to yourself "I can't believe Marv Albert likes biting hookers' asses really hard."
It gets no better than this. Other than Keith Jackson and anyone circa 1997 and maybe Gary Thorne and John Davidson there is no broadcast team better that Kerr and Albert anywhere.
In a related story, Charles Barkley. The man is a national treasure. Clear, blunt, hilarious, and completely un-PC, somehow the exact opposite of both Bill Walton and Stephen F-minus-minus Smith. Please go into politics, Charles. Please.
White bench scrubs beating the Pistons. That's right, I love it. Largely because every night that some floppy-haired guy from somewhere like Pepperdine does not start raining threes and dropping dimes like he came straight out of Compton there is an 80 percent chance of a Pistons victory. And even when that happens it's sort of amusing, because fans of the opposing team immediately make the scrub out to be the next Larry Bird until the Pistons crush his soul the next game and he shoots 2 of 14. (Don't worry, Mr. Scrub, they do that to Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant, too.)
The list here is getting pretty long: there was Brian Scalabrine and his weird red halfro, Luke Walton making me want to strangle his father even more than usual, Austin Croshere and his bald spot raining threes, and now Jeff Foster and his rebound machine. The Sixers would have taken their first round series against the Pistons to six games if they just had the common sense to start Aaron McKie and bring Korver off the bench for thirty minutes a game.
Darko. Darko was dubbed the "Human Victory Cigar" by Bill Simmons but I prefer to think of him as a seven foot two middle finger extended towards the rest of the league. Let me get this straight. The Pistons blow the second overall pick in the best draft since Jordan entered the league, missing out on Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and DWAYNE WADE in the process, and then proceed to steal certified lunatic Rasheed Wallace from the Hawks in exchange for about four Zeljko Rebracas and the stick of gum that came with the pack, rally back from a 3-2 deficit against the Nets, win the ugliest playoff series in NBA history against the Pacers, and then annihilate the Lakers to win the championship anyway? It was as if Joe Dumars decided this whole being a GM thing was just too easy so he needed to handicap himself because he couldn't put the thing on "Heisman."
In all seriousness, has something like this ever happened before? Usually picking the total stiff in a draft that good tanks your team for a decade or more as a sort of "We could have had him?" malaise sets in and everything the team touches turns to lead. The Stiff becomes a tragic story retold again and again by drunk fans of that team wherever they gather. It's late, the entire world is dark and you're with a bunch of guys so you can't cry about your wife leaving you or whatever, so you recount the Tale of The Stiff. It's practically guaranteed.
Not so with Darko. Even if Darko never turns into anything approximating an NBA player (and the returns at the moment do not look good), the Tale of Darko will be a merry comic farce. Chad Ford telling the world that Darko was a cross between Kevin Garnett and Jesus. The tape over his newly pierced ears in last year's playoffs. The rise and fall of the crowd with every Darko shot with two minutes left in a thirty point game. It would all be darkly comic, except there's no darkness here. Because no Piston fan will ever recount the Tale of Darko without remembering that he hilariously broke his hand in garbage time of game five of the 2004 Finals. The same game five that destroyed the Lakers once and for all, soured the entire country on Kobe Bryant, and ended with Ben goddamn Wallace holding the NBA trophy above his head and nobody rioting anywhere. That felt good. That felt Inigo Montoya "I want my father back, you son of a bitch" good. And Darko was the icing on the cake.
Can anyone explain this? Can anyone explain this site? It appears to be a deranged twelve-year-old Japanese girl's tribute to the 2004 NBA Champion Pistons. I'd be cynical and horrible about it, but that's exactly how I feel about Ben Wallace so I think it is the best website ever.