The game? Bah.
Now becomes an opportune moment to mention here what I've not mentioned before.
I'm getting married.
As it happens, in eleven days.
To Astro-Girl, of course.
Today Astro-Girl reminded me of her theory that, in her opinion, the NBA Lottery should work in the reverse system than it does. Never mind the teams, she said. What you should do is list all the teams in order--doesn't matter, alphabetical, record, reverse record. Then, a commission should be studied to pick the thirty best players.
Then, (can you sense her excitement?) the players' names should be put on ping-pong balls and drawn from the hopper, one at a time, for assignment. Atlanta, you get Yi. Boston, Noah.
And so on.
Okay. Some solace here.
As Bill Simmons has noted, has any team in sports had such buzzard's luck for the last two decades than the Boston Celtics? In the spring of 1986, coming off an incineration of the Houston Rockets (maybe the only 4-2 series ever properly described as a blow-out), the Celtics were primed for three more championships, maybe more. The frontcourt of Bird, McHale, and Chief was being called the best ever; Bill Walton had found the fountain of youth as Sixth Man of the Year (were there a Sixth Man of All Human History, he might have won that); Wedman and Sichting were there for off-the bench brio; DJ was the point guard/defensive god. Ainge knew what his role was: wait for the double team to kick in on the front court and drain three-pointers.
David Thirdkill could play defense.
Rick Carlisle was smart.
Greg Kite tried, at least.
And then there was Len Bias, the incoming rookie, who could do what none of the Celtics could do (play above the rim, with tomahawk slams if need be). Red Auerbach made it clear: as a forward, Bias would have to come off the bench at first, behind the power forward, McHale, and the godlike forward, Bird.
But nobody with that much talent stays on the bench for long. I envisioned Bias--no kidding--as a black John Havlicek, a swingman who could play forward or guard, who could score, rebound, pass, defend, whatever was needed.
Coach K once said there was one player in the history of the ACC who he'd put ahead of Len Bias.
I believe him.
My parents remember Kennedy. John and Bobby both.
Not to diminish those awful days.
But I remember, for various reasons, four other events.
Belushi. The Challenger. 9/11 of course, the worst day in the history of the world.
I was home for the summer, home in the same living room where my mother had dug out the wine and toasted the Celtics' championship a few weeks earlier.
Bias had been drafted two days before. I was resting, getting ready for my evening's assignment as a night watchman at the Phoenix Civic Center. My senior year in college awaited--and so, I thought, did a string of Celtics's championships as Bird and McHale rounded out their brilliant careers and gave way to the new superstar.
My brother, Robby-Boy, called me; he was a lifeguard at a city pool and heard the information on a radio, and then called me.
"My God," he said. "You won't believe it. Len Bias died."
Yeah. Not that sports, in the end, mean much of anything, but that was the start. Walton's broken leg, Wedman's torn ankle, Sichting's catatonic (and career-ending) shooting slump, Magic's junior sky hook, the emergence of the Bad-Boy Pistons, Bird's bad back, Reggie Lewis's death, ML Carr, Rick Pitino, the Duncan lottery fiasco, the Vin Baker trade (this, courtesy of Bill Simmons) . . . . all of the preceding beat a path to tonight, where the two men who could have helped salvage this franchise were placed hopelessly out of reach.
Anyway, I'm getting married.