Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Forgotten Mementos: The Greatest Game Ever Played

Hands folded, lips pursed, Chuck Daly stole a glance from under the veil of his tinted lenses, pupils contorting, for the night before had been a two-Ibuprofen, three-Aspirin kind of night. His neurons, dulled by the augmented effects of select mischievous neurotransmitters, labored to transmit signals that would bring into consciousness what had been unfolding before his very eyes: the greatest basketball game ever played. He let out a breath, and out of the corner of his lips unfurled what an optimist might have called a smile.

They called it training camp.

And to a certain extent it was, no matter that they decided to hold it in one of the most luxurious destinations in the world: Monte Carlo, elegantly sandwiched between the home of the croissant and the Great Sea. Two-hour practices were French-dipped in-between twenty-two hours of golf and gambling and dinners where even Monacan royalty bowed to basketball royalty, where his highness bowed to his Airness.

After all, this was the Dream Team.

In the same year that Sharon Stone crossed her legs in Basic Instinct, FIBA uncrossed its metaphorical lower extremities to allow professional basketball players to participate in the Barcelona Olympics. The pinnacle of USA basketball was formed. “It was,” said Coach Chuck Daly, “like Elvis and the Beatles put together. Traveling with the Dream Team was like traveling with 12 rock stars. That’s all I can compare it to.” The Dream Team won all its games with ease, beating its opponents by an average of 44 points to capture the gold medal.

In the 1800s, Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics, coined the term ‘dominance,’ referring to alleles of genes that mask the expression of other ‘recessive’ alleles in pea plants. The Dream Team was the embodiment of the dominant allele. The rest of the world: recessive.

This is all to say that the most competitive games played that summer were not played in Barcelona. In fact, the greatest games ever played in the history of professional basketball may have been played in the most unceremonious of places, the principality of Monaco.

Magic Johnson’s Team versus Michael Jordan’s team. John Stockton, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler versus Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing plus their respective captains (some sources have Malone and Barkley flip-flopped). Unbelievable talents sized up against unbelievable talents, and perhaps for the first time ever, basketball was played the way it was intended to be played.

Allegedly, there was a singular scrimmage that stood out above the rest.

As the story goes, Magic’s team took off to an auspicious 14-2 start leading to a quick time-out. As Jordan’s team huddled together, Magic tapped Jordan on the shoulder, playfully verbalizing a string of derisive taunts. The NYTs reported that Magic "told Jordan that he had better ‘get into his show’ or the outcome of the scrimmage would soon no longer be in doubt.” It is more than apparent that a few less benign phrases were lost in translation.

On the ensuing possession, Michael Jordan, in premeditated fashion, took a dribble and sank a three, 14-5.

A quick missed shot led to another Jordan three, 14-8.

Magic was short on a jumper. And then with full tongue extension, Jordan connected on his third long-range jumper in so many attempts, 14-11.

The next moment would later be described by Magic Johnson as “the greatest basketball play I’ve ever seen.” Jordan stole the ball and vaulted at the chance of a fast break -- only to rendezvous with David Robinson at the rim.

Jordan jumped. Robinson jumped. Jordan, cradling the ball on his side, looked as if he was playing out a few scenarios in his mind while in midair. Just as the force of gravity brought Robinson back to the hardwood, Jordan turned 360 degrees and dunked the ball. The Admiral had been relegated to a cadet.

Like in any Shakespeare (Edward de Vere?) play, there were several other titillating subplots. Barkley versus Malone, Robinson versus Ewing, all of which certainly incite one’s neocortical and thalamic neurons. Yet, from the few reports that recount this legendary game, it is clear what storyline subjugated the rest: Michael Jordan and his obsessive, contagious, incendiary will to win.

The final score is hazy at best. More than one source reports a final score of 40-36; others report a one-point difference. Needless to say, Jordan’s team prevailed.

No video footage has ever been released, contributing, no doubt, to the mystique of this game. A mystery comparable to the incomprehensible allure of Downton Abbey, my predilection for mixing things salty and sweet, and the reasoning behind my lack of facial hair. Apart from a few quotes and a few interviews, all else is mere conjecture. Everything else left to the human imagination.

That is the beauty of it.


Not a playoff game, not even an All-Star game.


Not for outrageous contracts or sponsorships or even championship rings.

But for the undervalued incentive of pride and for the joy of playing the game itself.

We're talking about practice. I mean listen, we're sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we're talking about practice. How silly is that?”
– Allen Iverson

Photos and video courtesy of Sports Illustrated and Youtube


Credit to Albert Nguyen for sending me the link that spurred this article.

Sick article man. There are rumors of a documentary on this game. We will watch it together. #USA

Magic Johnson spoke of this game in the special edition BS report yesterday after "The Announcement."

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...