Monday, February 18, 2013

Dave's Thoughts of the Day: February 19th

I'm still thinking of the legacy Dr. Jerry Buss left all of us here in Los Angeles.   Some may find it difficult to cite the "most important" or "most meaningful" championship for either Buss or the Lakers.   To me, a little voice inside me points to 1985.   I really think that when the Lakers, for the first time, beat the Boston Celtics in an NBA Finals, not to mention the first team to *ever* close out an NBA Finals at the Boston Garden, it signaled the absolute turning point of both franchises.

One really has to put it into perspective, and I was able to do some of this with my Dad's old Beta tapes.   Up until 1985, the Celtics were the end-all be all for NBA powerhouses.  No one else could conceive of continued success for multiple decades.  Leading up to 1985, the Celtics won championships at least twice in every decade going back to the late 50's.  '74 and '76.  Too many to count in the 60's.   '81 and '84.  With a hard working, hungry group like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and Dennis Johnson, it seemed like America was in for yet another Celtics dynasty.

In those days nobody came close.  Even the Lakers' three peat in ancient NBA history was construed an anomaly.  No team had even won back-to-back titles at that time since the aforementioned Celtics won their repeat title in 1969.  Michael Jordan was just a goofy kid out of North Carolina who could score bunches of points on a pitiful team.  The Spurs were still trying to cling to the good ole days of the ABA with George Gervin and scattered success.   The Heat didn't even exist.  LeBron James was an infant.  In 1985, the Celtics had fifteen championships, the Lakers had eight and nobody else came close.  Really, the Lakers had three in LA and zero against Boston.

The Lakers had their closest call a year earlier in the 1984 Finals, but what bitter heartbreak to see the Lakers done in by their own mistakes.  Could it have been Celtics' trickery or simple destiny... perhaps it was time for LA to once again know their place.

Then, even after the Memorial Day Massacre in Game 1, and a thrilling last second game winner by Dennis Johnson in Game 4, the Lakers made a turn that to this day most Lakers fans will point to as when the Franchise became the true force in the NBA.   The Lakers, who at times looked like the better team one year prior, proved it for good in 1985.   Not only did they win some of these games against the Celtics, but in some cases they flat out annihilated them.

It took us to Game 6 at the old crumbling Boston Garden, despite flashes of life from the C's, the Lakers put away the Celtics and sent a shot heard 'round the world.   For the first time, L.A. had beaten Boston and all of the torment of the 60's, and all of the torture of the "Beat L.A." chant was put to rest.

The exuberance and confidence I saw in that locker room on that fateful June evening were palpable.   The Lakers finally got 'em.   From that point on, the Lakers won title after title, and it was THEY who became the team of the 80's.

Even watching it go down decades later on an old videotape brought chills to my body.  I could feel it even on old magnetic footage that the Lakers had suddenly become the go-to franchise in Los Angeles.   By that I mean, it was no longer the Rams or Dodgers or any of the other jokers, but the LAKERS who were the team of record.  No team today is identified more with Los Angeles than our fellow Lakers.

It didn't stop there.  As the 90's and 2000's rolled on, more big moments followed.  A three peat and I bet you know the rest.   It's staggering to consider the amount of excellence the Lakers accrued in all of those years.  No wonder the rest of the NBA hates the Lakers.  It was a Purple and Gold standard that no one could touch for so many years.

I grant you the Bulls were electric and THE team of their decade, but they didn't do squat before or since.   The Heat are tremendous, and will continue to be through the 2020's, but I'm eager to see if any one of those franchises could sustain a run where their team made at least one NBA Finals in every decade for eight decades.  To date, no other team has, but it would never have happened this way if not for Jerry Buss AND if it were not for that turning point in 1985.

Perhaps, if things broke differently, we could be talking about the Celtics' drive for Title #25.  Staggering.  The Lakers became their own dynasty in 1985.

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