Saturday, February 24, 2007

A short sermon

Basketball great Dennis Johnson died the other day, and I suddenly miss pro basketball.

There was a time in the mid-eighties when basketball season actually meant something. You had Magic and Kareem running the Showtime Lakers out West, and the in the East the battle for supremacy meant that whoever got the Finals had already run the gauntlet to get there.

Bird, Parrish and the Celtics.
Dr. J and Seventysixers.
Isiah and Pistons.

Those were playoffs you watched like March Madness, roaming the day after a game with oft repeated "Did you sees?" at the physical artistry that was a pro basketball game. The Sky Hook. The Finger Roll. The wild momentum shifts and the last second heroics better than anything on the movie screen.

Then came Jordan.

Some consider Jordan the greatest basketball player of all time. I'm not one of their ranks. Much like the old "Evander Holyfield-Charlie Steiner" commerical from ESPN...I not sure I would put him in the best 50 basketball players. Of all time, you ask? In the Eastern Divison.

To me Jordan, who seems like an affable fellow mind you, represents what went wrong with pro basketball. Before Jordan there were stars, but those stars were attached to teams. After Jordan there were only players.

Players obsessed with shoe contracts.
Prima donnas who swear they're the best thing for basketball.
Ball hogs who don't even remember the fundamentals.
Players with more going on off the court than on.
Players who won't be remembered for their game.

Dennis Johnson was from another era of basketball. Back when you rooted for the team, for pride. When the team meant more than a place for the player to collect his paycheck. Dennis Johnson, who was for a long time THE Ugliest Man in Basketball, played on a real team, not a supporting cast for this year's basketball prodigy. Teams that ran plays, had well coached people contributing off the bench, and in many cases at the final buzzer you couldn't concentrate on keeping it out of one players hands....cause all of them were liable to toss it up.

DJ. We'll miss you.

Barkeep...just some vodka and ice.