The Greatest Game We Never SawBREAKING NEWS, NBA, News Friday, May 18th, 2012
If you read back into accounts of the ones that witnessed, the few that saw this epic scrimmage between captains Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan say it was the greatest basketball game ever played. The final score only read 40-36 but the quality of play on both ends of the floor by some of the greatest players ever to put on a pair of sneakers has not been seen since. A lot of the players don’t even discuss it. It’s almost like they want to keep those 60 minutes to themselves. An hour where they knew how they measured up against the world’s best. It’s almost like they took the world’s 12 best players, and shut the doors so they could see where they stood with each other. ( It was actually 10 that played John Stockton and Clyde Drexler were injured ) There are no video’s of the game. So all we have are the few player’s accounts of what transpired. So here is what is said happened.
After a sluggish effort against France in their first exhibition game a few days before (which saw the Americans actually trail 16-13 seven minutes into the game) the Americans were able to overcome poor effort with talent, and pull away with a 111-71 victory. There were some major concerns after the game. France had hit 17 three-point field goals to the American’s seven. Head coach Chuck Daly and top assistant Lenny Wilkens knew that the European style of basketball was to hit the 3’s, get a lead, and play a slow down game to protect it. They were concerned that the Americans were not putting their best effort forward and were enjoying their time a little too much on the Riviera. The coaches decided to shut the doors and challenge the Americans’ pride. And out of that comes tales of the most intense, well played game since the great James Naismith invented the game in the 1891, and has not been seen since.
The teams were: Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippen, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing
Magic Johnson, Christian Laettner, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, David Robinson
The game started with Magic’s team taking a commanding 14-2 lead. Then Magic says to this day he has no idea what made him trash talk Jordan. The record states he said “better get into his show or the scrimmage outcome will never be in doubt”
From that point forward Jordan took over with a few dunks and long jump shots. When the players were finished, they said not a person in that room doubted that Jordan was the greatest of all time. The game turned into a bunch of individual battles. Barkley would dunk on Malone, and they would tell Malone you can’t let that happen. Malone would go down the court and hit a fade away jump shot over Barkley. Jordan would dunk on Magic, and Magic would go down and score on Jordan. Magic was quoted “ I would say to myself I got to stop him, when in the back of my mind I know I cant”.
This coming from one of the top twenty players in the history of the game. Saying he couldn’t stop Jordan shows without a doubt he was the game’s greatest. The game was tight in the final minutes when Magic was called for fouling Jordan. On that long walk down the court to the opposite foul line Magic was yelling at the refs saying it’s like they moved Chicago Stadium right to Monte Carlo; obviously at his displeasure of the calls Jordan was getting. Michael Responded to Magic “ It’s not Chicago, it’s the 1990’s”.
Jordan’s two free throws with 1.5 seconds left iced the game for his squad. And the rest regarding the Olympics is History.
I wonder how that felt, first to be considered one of the world’s best, then go all out and against your peers and leave it all out there on the court. It wasn’t like today where there would have been one (or a few) huge corporate sponsors, and television rights being sold. This game was played by the last of a kind, the players who played for the love of the game. They weren’t paid. Their agents weren’t going on ESPN talking about how much money this team was generating for everyone else. If this game was played today, so many vultures would want a piece of it. It could never be the same.
I love the NBA, and basketball in general. Over the last 20 years the game has gotten bigger on a national, and global, scale But has it gotten better ? Physically the players have gotten bigger, stronger, faster. But I challenge anyone to say there was a better period from the mid 80’s to late 90’s. We were all nervous at first to let go of the Magic-Bird rivalry, but soon realized the game was in good hands with Jordan, Stockton, Drexler, Malone, and Barkley. These players not only played for themselves, but for their teams and the integrity of the game. It seems like the commissioner is happy that the direction the game has gone. More teams, more money, more exposure. But the talent is watered down. Free agency, although necessary, has killed most of the rivalries that we grew up with. I don’t know anyone who missed a game when Larry and Magic squared off, or Doc and Larry, or even Jordan and Isaiah. Today we have a bunch of skilled players but it’s a me-first league. The game now has four or five teams with multiple superstars. Stern thinks this Is good for the game. Call me old fashioned but at this point, I am grateful I got to see what it once was.
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