Category Archives: NBA

June 9, 1987 – Magic’s Junior Sky Hook

In Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics, the Celtics had led by as many as 16 points but with 12 seconds left were only up by two, 106-104.

The Lakers came down and passed the ball inside to the leading scorer in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who was fouled on the shot and sent to the free throw line.

Kareem made the first free throw but missed the second one.

However, in the scramble for the rebound the ball was knocked out of bounds and given back to the Lakers.

The Lakers called timeout and set up a play to throw the ball back inside to Kareem but instead Magic Johnson drove into the middle of the key and shot a perfect Kareem like hook shot over Boston’s Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish.

The made shot gave the Lakers a 107-106 win and propelled them to go on and win the NBA Championship 4 games to 2.

Magic Johnson, who shot what announcer Tommy Heinson called a “junior sky hook” was named Finals MVP.


June 4, 1976 – Possibly the Greatest Game Ever Played

PlayoffsSome basketball purists have called the June 4th game between the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns in the 1976 NBA Finals one of the greatest games ever played!

Despite being down 18 points at the end of the first quarter and 16 points at halftime, the Suns fought back and briefly held a one point lead with just seconds to go in the game.

With time winding down, the Suns fouled the Celtic’s John Havlicek who could’ve won the game if he had made both free throws but since he only made one the game went into overtime.

In the first overtime both teams scored six points and were once again tied when the buzzer sounded.

In the second OT the Celtics led 109-106 with about 20 seconds left to play but the Suns scored, stole the inbounds pass and scored again to take a 110-109 lead with six seconds left.

The Celtics inbounded the ball to Havlicek who banked in a jump shot off the dribble to seemingly give Boston the win at the buzzer.

However, the official (no, it wasn’t Joey Crawford) ended the victory celebration said there were actually two seconds left on the clock when Havicek scored.

What followed was one of the smartest plays in the history of the NBA.

Instead of taking the ball the length of the floor in two seconds, the Suns’ Paul Westphal called a timeout even though his team didn’t have any left.

A technical foul was called and the Celtics Jo Jo White made the free throw to give Boston a 112-110 lead. But since they had inbounded the ball and called timeout Phoenix now got the ball at half court.

They inbounded the ball to Garfield Heard who then hit a turn around jump shot at the buzzer to send the game into a third overtime!

The Celtics went on to win the game in the third overtime 128-126 but after nearly 40 years it still remains as possibly he greatest game ever played!

Here is a clip showing Garfield Heard’s buzzer beater.

If you get the chance do yourself a favor and watch a replay of the entire game.

May 26, 1987 – Larry Bird Steals the Ball (and the Game)

Larry Bird’s entire career was a highlight film but one of his most famous moments came on this day, May 26, in 1987 during the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

The Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons were tied at 2 games apiece and the crucial Game 5 was being played at the historic Boston Garden.

Detroit was ahead 107-106 with only seconds remaining in the game when the ball was knocked out of bounds as Boston’s Larry Bird tried to score.

Surprisingly (especially if you were a Celtics fan) the ball was awarded to Detroit and Isiah Thomas got ready to inbound the ball with only five seconds left on the clock.

All Detroit had to do was inbound the ball safely and they probably would’ve won the game and taken a 3 games to 2 lead.

However, as Thomas tried to inbound the ball to Pistons’ center Bill Laimbeer, Bird jumped into the passing lane and stole the ball.

As soon as he caught it Bird turned and passed the ball to a cutting Dennis Johnson who laid the ball in with only one second on the clock to give the Celtics the win.

Even though he finished the game with 36 points, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists it’s his steal that has gone down in NBA history.

You can watch Larry Bird’s iconic steal below. (Notice the reaction of the Celtics’ bench – especially Bill Walton’s!)

Will the Refs Determine Who Gets to the NBA Finals?

I certainly don’t want to take away from what they have accomplished this year but is there anybody in America, outside of their home cities of course, who are hoping to see a Houston Rockets & Atlanta Hawks match-up in the NBA Finals?

I’m willing to bet most fans want to see LeBron & Steph square off against each other and so does the NBA!

The best player in the game versus the best shooter in the game would surely draw HUGE television ratings as well as sell a boatload of NBA authorized replica game jerseys.

Of course for that to ever happen the Warriors need to beat the Rockets and the Cavs need to beat the Hawks in the finals of their respective conferences.

Even though many people think that’s going to happen anyway, what if it doesn’t? Or what if it starts to look like it’s not going to happen?

Would NBA game referees ever take the matter into their own hands?

Is James Harden going to shoot as many free throws as he normally did during the regular season?

We all want to think that would never happen; that the NBA or its referees really don’t care who plays well enough to win or who doesn’t.

Is that wishful thinking? Are we being naïve?

Before you answer those questions watch the following interview with former NBA referee Tim Donaghy and hear how he and some of his colleagues intentionally influenced certain games.

Could something like this ever happen again?

Curry or Westbrook? Shooter or Scorer?

Shooter or ScorerCharles Barkley has stirred up some controversy lately by going on the record and saying he doesn’t believe a team that relies primarily on jump shots can consistently shoot well enough to win an NBA championship.

While we will all know soon enough if he is right or not, this does seem to be a good time to wonder which is “better” a shooter or a scorer?

Shooters shoot plain and simple. Think Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Ray Allen, Kyle Korver, and JJ Reddick – all great shooters who can stretch defenses and light up the scoreboard with minimal possessions and touches.

Now think of Russell Westbrook and James Harden who are not necessarily great shooters but who are definitely great scorers. They score their points 7 different ways:

  1. Transition layups
  2. Attacking the rim in the half court
  3. Midrange/pull up jump shots
  4. 3 point shots
  5. Post ups
  6. Offensive rebounds and put backs
  7. Free throws

Which type of player is “better”?

A lot depends on your personal preference as well as the overall makeup of the team involved.

Personally, I like scorers because if their jump shot isn’t going in that day then they can still score in other ways but you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would turn down the chance the coach or even watch a player like Steph Curry!

The Rise and Fall of the Miami Heat

Rise and FallAbout 20 years ago Pat Riley wrote a book called “The Winner Within,” which was a business leadership book that used basketball teams, players, and situations as teaching tools.

In the book he describes the natural cycles that most teams often experience. These include The Innocent Climb where everyone starts to put the team first and move towards their goals.

The next stage is The Disease of Me when some players start acting selfishly and believing they are more important than the rest of the team. The Core Covenant  is another term for the culture that is established among team members – sometimes the culture is productive and sometimes it’s negative.

In the 2014 NBA Finals all we heard about was what a great culture the Spurs have established. The fourth stage of the cycle is called Thunderbolts. Thunderbolts are those inevitable bouts of adversity that hit all players and all teams from time to time. How these thunderbolts are handled is usually the difference between success and failure.

The next to the last stage is The Choke which in this case is synonymous with underachieving and possibly failure.

The final stage in the cycle is The Breakthrough when teams and organizations realize that changes must take place. This could include personnel changes, leadership changes, or strategic changes.

If you ask me, these cycles that Pat Riley wrote about two decades ago describes perfectly the Miami Heat’s “Big 3″ era of the last four years. Did Reilly see it coming? Would things have been different if the Heat had beat the Spurs? I’m guessing only Pat Riley and LeBron James know for sure.

10 Things I Learned from the Spurs and the Thunder

  1. spursthunderEvery position matters – point guards, posts, shooters, shot blockers, etc. They all matter.
  2. Every phase of the game matters – offense, defense, rebounding, timeouts, special situations
  3. Stick to your overall game plan but adjust when necessary
  4. Boring and efficient can beat wild and exciting
  5. Coaching and culture do make a difference
  6. To be a champion you can’t let the outcome of your last game effect the outcome of your next game
  7. To be fully prepared you need to sweat every detail
  8. Believe you can do it
  9. Don’t listen to the haters
  10. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.



The 1985 Memorial Day Massacre

Memorial Day MassacreNearly 29 years ago, Monday, May 27, 1985 was Memorial Day and also the opening game of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The series marked the ninth time the two iconic teams had met in the Finals and the Celtics had won all eight championships, including the one the year before in 1984.

During the 1984-85 season the Lakers won 62 games and the Celtics had won 63 and both teams won their respective conference finals with a 4-1 record.

Everything was pointing to a close, hard fought series.

However, in the opening game the Celtics blew out the Lakers right from the opening tip and won 148-114 in a game that’s been known ever since as the Memorial Day Massacre.

The Lakers were thoroughly embarrassed and all Lakers and Celtics fans were thinking the exact same thing – “Here we go again!”

But in the second game Kareem Abdul-Jabbar responded with 30 points and 17 rebounds and the Lakers won 109-102.

More importantly  they got their confidence back and went on to win the NBA Championship in 6 games.

Never, ever could anyone say again that the Lakers couldn’t beat the Celtics in the Finals.

People who remember that game, or who have even heard of that game, no longer get too excited over a single win or loss.

Winners and losers alike all remind themselves that the scores don’t really matter; what matters is who can win four games before their opponent.

In a playoff series, as in many aspects of life in general, how you finish is much more important than how you start!

Coach Wooden Would’ve Loved Watching the Spurs

Coach Wooden and the SpursLike a lot of basketball purists, I’ve really enjoyed watching the San Antonio Spurs play during the NBA Playoffs, especially when it comes to their offensive execution.

Many in the media have called it “old school” basketball and in a lot of ways I suppose it is. Years ago legendary coach John Wooden wrote that there four essentials for offensive basketball:

Conditioning – physical and mental condition is necessary to maintain effort and execution throughout  the course of an entire game.

Skill Instruction – Teaching players quick and proper execution of the basic fundamentals is a prerequisite for any tactical instruction. Not even the finest strategic instruction can overcome poor execution of the basics.

Team Spirit – A coach must ensure that every member of the squad is eager, not just willing, to sacrifice personal glory for the benefit of the team.

Flexibility – Every offense must have a defined structure yet offer many options that allow a team to diverge from the pattern to take advantage of a mismatch or a one on one situation.

The next time you watch San Antonio play, pay particular attention to Coach Wooden’s four principles and notice how many times they are evident in the Spurs’ offense. They really are playing old school basketball and that is one of the reasons they are so successful.

The Leadership Effect of KD’s MVP Speech

LeadershipKevin Durant’s recent MVP acceptance speech is being called one of the best speeches ever given by an athlete. It was touching, it was funny, and it gave us all some insight into KD’s off the court personality. However, what has been overlooked by many is the impact of that speech as a leadership tool.

Instead of just accepting the award, Durant took advantage of  the opportunity to build up each and every one of his teammates. Thank you; I appreciate you; you have my support; keep being you, and I love you were all repeated over and over again in many different ways. You, you, you was the speech’s central theme – not me. me, me.

If the Thunder had lost Game 2 of their playoff series against the Clippers they would have gone down 0-2 and would have had a nearly impossible time trying to recover and win the series. However, after KD publicly built up each one of his teammates while sharing his special night with them, was there ever a doubt about the kind of effort the Thunder were going to give once the game started?

Great leaders have the ability to live in the moment while at the same time understanding the big picture. While Kevin Durant has already been named as the NBA MVP, if the Thunder go on to win the series against the Clippers he could very well be the series MVP for his leadership ability off the court as well as his playing ability on the court.