The First Shot.
(The latest in ‘The Jordan Series’ and part three of our trilogy that started with ‘Money’-Ball’ and ’45’, also a prequel to our first Michael Jordan piece ‘The (Real) Last Shot’)
“I knew the magnitude of the game, but I didn’t fully comprehend what it meant. It was 1982 and I was a Freshman at North Carolina”.-Michael Jordan From ‘For The Love Of The Game’.
Let’s take it back. Back before the championships and the MVP’s, the legend and the legacy. Let’s take it back before Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time in the NBA. Let’s take it back to the NCAA college days. Where a star was born when Kobe and LeBron where just pee-wee basketball tall kids. Before Michael donned a Chicago Bulls jersey (or even before he wore a Washington Wizards one or a baseball one) with the number 23 (or 45) he was gifted with a North Carolina baby blue and white one. Before Scottie Pippen and ‘The Worm’ Dennis Rodman where his teammates, Sam Perkins and ‘Big Game’ James Worthy where. Before Phil Jackson and Doug Collins (twice) where his coaches, Dean Smith was once. Before Patrick Ewing was a great rival in New York he was one in Georgetown. Before he made out of this air making deals with sneaker companies bearing his name this Converse baller had tar on his heels. Before Nike turned him into a symbol, this basketball king was a prince in his formerly known college years. It was all made with a made shot that sent North Carolina and it’s young star to the Cinderella stories of basketball history.
Number 23-15 Footer-Left Wing-Right Time-Spare Change Seconds-MONEY.
My sweet Carolina that was a sweet shot that carried them home. The kid out of Brooklyn moved to Wilmington, North Carolina with his family to look to cut down nets in college. Daydreaming of hitting the winning shot and the first of many clutch, greatest hit numbers of his life, his dad James knew he would do it like he dreamed of his son playing baseball. Some things where just meant to be. Like Mike-now owner of the Charlotte Bobcats-moving back to North Carolina this week in a mansion where his money and basketball making dreams began. The now 50 year old and leader of the NBA’s top 50 built a basketball house during his home dorm time in N.C.
From a toddler to taking giant sneaker steps this Brooklyn born boy was raised in Carolina and on the basketball playgrounds was where he spent most of his days. At Emsley A. Laney High, Mike played baseball, football and basketball at school. Still, by the time college called it was clear which of the Holy Trinity of American sports the God of hoop dreams would choose. Still, can you believe this 5 foot 11 kid was deemed to small to play with the big boys? Can you believe this greatest basketball player ever got cut? Then again this is a world where Sam Bowie is taken higher than you in the draft. It’s a crazy world. One that in the 1990’s Michael owned…but it all started it the late eighties.
A kid so competitive he would keep his dorm mate up all night until he won a game of Monopoly. If you thought he was a late night nightmare on the board game, wait until he got on the boards of the hardwood floor come prime-time, game-time. There was no playing around there, these are the beginning accounts of how Money would eventually become big business. It was more than dollars, it was a basketball sixth sense that invoked even higher spirits in those face-painted, brass band players. A chorus of North Carolina cheers, led by the pied piper of basketball and fellow later icon to Chicago like R. Kelly. Before ‘Space Jam’, Mike believed he could fly and take this game out of this world. You hadn’t seen nothing yet folks.
The All-American put up McDonalds numbers in High School, (29.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 10.1 assists) making everyone else look elementary like my dear Watson. Before over a billion where served in the big leagues, M.J. majored in cultural geography before redefining another one all around the world. From a junior, to a sophomore and then the freshest prince of freshman Michael Jordan’s three years in college made him a star in the making for a formidable future like the other M.J.’s, Magic Johnson or Michael Jackson and it was a trick shot out of the bag at the end of a fourth quarter thriller that made Air rise above them all.
More than the prestigious Naismith and Wooden awards. More than the prolific 17.7 points per on 54.0% shooting, and 5.0 rebounds per game came a night in history which the greatest describes as the major turning point of his basketball career. NOT his college career, BUT his basketball one. Before Chicago, before Nike, before Larry O’Brien and before the hall came the college corridors of young American dream making fame. Before all that came a pass he received on the right wing with 15 feet and even less seconds to go. A perfect fluid rise of a prototype shot for a perfect wet jumper from basketballs ultimate figure, kissing the trailing net as this young kid back pedaled-as Ewing’s Georgetown (like his Knicks) backed-down-with the same confidence that would define his shrugging, smiling and sometimes finger-wagging career.
Before Mike downed Byron Russell and the Utah Jazz for his last Chicago championship winning shot of NBA history, Jordan drained a defining final one of NCAA legacy in college. More than a game ending winning shot. More than a Georgetown goodbye. This was the start of something. Something that at the time only Michael and his proud father James Jordan watching could see before all eyes where on him. It all started here. The first shot.
“Your life will never be the same after that shot. Your life is going to change son”.-James Jordan.
The Warriors Came Out To Play This Series
Even without the fantasy Basketball of Kevin Durant in this series, the Golden State Warriors still brought out the brooms like ‘Fantasia’.
And swept out of Game 4 like Thanos click finger dust, the Portland Trailblazers may have only lost by a bucket (119-117)…and in overtime at that. But with all the Splash they had to contend with this series from brothers Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, they were left dealing with more leaks and holes in all of their own ones like Mickey Mouse in said Disney epic.
This was meant to be the showdown between Dell Curry’s boys Steph and Seth which divided a household. And although the youngest gun stepped up to the plate, swung big in this carnival and knocked them down, big brother was always watching.
Steph Curry averaged over 36 points a game this series. Just read that again. 36 points. Right now we don’t need to talk about Kevin.
The Warriors are a dynasty for the ages even without their best player (although this writer thinks he wasn’t missing this entire series). The first team to make it to five straight finals since the Boston Celtics. The 1960’s Bill Russell Celtics. That’s King James crowning legendary. And Steph Curry with the shot and that facet of the game is just as iconic and dominant as a Bill block.
Give some credit to a blazing Portland side who never gave up despite the box score. They can hold their heads in the PDX. Even in their Moda Center home-stand City Of Roses end in RIP City. Their season eulogy should read as a celebration and commiseration, not a trolling condescension from critically entitled fans who have done nothing to determine the outcome of these games and could never make it this far in their wildest memes. They call themselves “influencers”? Well no one’s going to remember them in 50 years.
The NBA will remember one of their Top 100 greatest of all-time in a half century though. As after hitting the biggest buzzer beater in playoff history against Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, Damian Lillard played through the pain of separated ribs this series and still made the Basketball God’s look down from the hoop heavens with praise. Like New York singer St. Vincent tweeted, “Damian Lillard is my hero”. Even his backcourt brother of splash CJ McCollum in the only small man set up to rival Curry and Klay came out to play against the Warriors after midrange mining the Nuggets into submission in Denver just over a week ago.
But Curry’s red hot triple double, starter, mains and dessert dish of 37, 13 and 11, to go along with a playing not crying, Draymond Green’s day of 18, 14 and 11 assists also was just too much in the clutch. As Stephen and Dray became the first teammates in NBA history to have a triple double in the same playoff game. Forget how much this team can unbelievably keep winning, how does this ball manage to get shared this much?
Well that just may be the secret of success?
The real test is dubbed next however in the Warriors last season in Golden State before they move across that Golden bridge to the Silicon Valley of a digital age in San Francisco. They will play the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks (probably…Giannis…MVP. Sorry Toronto but come on!) and Raptors series. But by then they should have some guy called Kevin back.
I mean come on. This has been getting crazy. This is just out of hand like said ball in Splash City.
Now Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics’ record of eight straight finals and wins doesn’t look far out of reach for Steph Curry and the player and team with the biggest range in the association over the gate of the Pacific.
Welcome to the Toronto Raptors’ Jurassic Park
“In Jurassic Park, Raptor fans wait until after dark. Even if the cold might eat them!”
Fans find a way.
An ace serve or two away from being as legendary as Wimbledon’s ‘Murray Mound’ or ‘Henman Hill’ outside the Scotiabank Arena, the Toronto Raptors Maple Leaf Square’s “Jurassic Park” may just be the ticket for this sold out crowd.
Raptor Klaw, Kawhi Leonard ruled the earth last night. He and the T-Dot at the final tick beat the Sixers in The Six, as his shot bobbled like a beach ball on the surface of a swimming pool before making the biggest splash of these postseason playoffs. Taking longer to fall than Leonardo DiCaprio’s spinning top in ‘Inception’. But this was no dream.
And if you thought the Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto erupted last night, then outside in Maple Leaf Square it was like the volcanoes that killed the dinosaurs after that big ball dropped. An Armageddon even Bruce Willis couldn’t save like he wish he could his career.
Welcome to Jurassic World.
With all due respect to the Linsanity of Jeremy Lin, or pick your poison whoever is your flash card pick of the bench mob pack, but the Jurassic Park crowd fenced in outside of Scotia is the
Forget rain or shine. You see the slickers. These faithful fans will pitch a spot waiting for game time like the ball to drop in Times Square for New Year in New York, sleeping bag lining up all day in their hordes huddled for warmth. These beautiful fans will brave the harshest, most frigid temperatures to be the coldest fans in the game in more ways than one. Part of the ‘We The North’ community in the 6 that the Basketball God’s look down on with pride, whilst other armchair fans watch this game for the throne from home. Or leave early like those suit and tie corporate seats trying to catch that last red eye Matt Bonner home.
Can you imagine of they called game early before Kawhi last night?
I could imagine Drake taking in the CN Tower looking up views of the Jurassic
Well those in the park for recreation stayed until the beautiful end to a game Butler almost delivered bitter. And you could could phantom cam see every emotion in slow motion last night as Leonard’s buzzer beating ball toyed with the rim like three dots on messenger, or Damien Lillard even further downtown in Oklahoma City.
This is the spirit of the stadium and the soul of the squad, expanding the capacity arena and the Canadian ballclubs worldwide fanbase watching on their own Jumbotrons.
And the Toronto Raptors are going to need all the north they can get if they’re going to stop the Bucks in Milwaukee.
But this club has the claws to do it. And if you don’t think they can win in Wisconsin on their own road to being the first franchise outside of the United States to be NBA finalists and who knows what next against the Warriors(?), then just watch this Canadian cornerstone from the Jurassic era.
Extinct in six? Nah! Get ready to hear the North roar.