Put on your parachute pants, get out your boom box, and pop in your Thriller casette tape. The Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers, the two teams with the NBA’s best uniforms by far (if they had a throwback game, no one would notice – unless they cut the shorts like they did back then, in which case everyone would be appalled), are renewing their historic rivalry for only the second time in close to 30 years, and the nostalgia’s so bright, you gotta wear shades.
After watching the first three games of this series, I can’t name the starting lineup for this current Sixers team. But I can still rattle off all five starters from the 1982 squad that beat the Celtics at the historic, hallowed, still highly missed Boston Garden. That Sixers team went on to lose to Magic Johnson’s “Showtime Lakers” (in front of a younger but still sunglasses-wearing, courside Jack Nicholson), but not before being serenaded by the Garden crowd with the original “Beat L.A.!” chant. Eastern conference comraderie for the City of Brotherly Love.
That series, broadcast on CBS, was called by legendary play-by-play man Dick Stockton, who has done the first three games of this current series for TNT. (Stockton, a Philly native, met his now-ex-wife Lesley Visser, at the time a reporter with the Boston Globe, when he was in Boston doing the NBC broadcast of the 1975 World Series, where he made his famous call of Calton Fisk’s Game 6 walk-off home run.)
Back then Boston featured a young Celtics shooting guard named Danny Ainge, now The Green’s President of Basketball Operations. As well as a certain “Legend” in the making from French Lick, Indiana. Now manning the front offices of the upstart Indiana Pacers, Larry Bird just won the award for NBA Executive of the Year, making him the first person ever to win awards for executive, coach, and player of the year in the NBA. Legendary indeed.
The 1982 series came a year after Doug Collins, current Sixers coach, played his final game as forward for Philadelphia. Collins was teammates for much of his career with a certain UMass grad named Julius Erving. Dr. J was center court pre-game for Game 3 of this series, still looking like he could finger roll the ball into the hoop from beyond the foul line.
Of course, with oversized jumbotrons, corporate box seats, and exorbitant player salaries, much has changed since the Eighties glory days of the NBA. But nostalgia is forever, and often even better the second time around.
Ahh, the Eighties …
I would go on and on. But Magnum, P.I. is on in half an hour, and I want to get in a little Frogger before then, 1982 style.