It's the stuff playoffs lore is made of. It's the stuff of legend. Of rivalry.
A story to add to the history of an already storied franchise. A story to go side-by-side with the Kevin McHale/Kurt Rambis clothesline moment and the Kareem/Bird elbow to the face, jaw-to-jaw smack-talking moment.
It's the first game of the much anticipated final round of the 2008 NBA playoffs.
The Celtics are being worked over by the Lakers as many expected they would be.
Why, Kobe isn't even scoring and still the Lakers seem to be in control. Why, the score isn't even that lopsided and, still—the Lakers seem to be in control.
The Celtics' team is looking downtrodden. The crowd is getting antsy—the way people get when they know a storms a'brewin'.
Then it happens.
Paul Pierce, the resident hero, the golden child, the prodigal son, goes down, hobbled by his own teammate.
It's bad. There's sobbing. Hysterics. A wheelchair. (When was the last time you saw a wheelchair in the NBA?)
I'll be honest. I am a Lakers fan. But when I saw Pierce go down, I was heartbroken. I don't like seeing a guy get hurt. I prefer for my team to beat a team that is healthy, complete, and on its best game. I don't want my championship to have an asterik next to it.
I believe in sportsmanship. In fairness. In honest gameplay.
So, when Pierce—having been so injured that he succumbed to tears, flailing, and a WHEELCHAIR—came back to the game mere moments later with nary a limp, I was mightily turned off.
Here's my opinion: (And, no, I have no facts or evidence. This is why it's an "opinion"). I don't doubt that it hurt. Perkins is a big dude. I can imagine that all that man coming down on you hurts.
But if Pierce was hurt enough for, again, a WHEELCHAIR, where was the limp?
Why was he gone for just a few minutes? Do the Celtics have some magic healing potion in the locker room? Can I have some?
Seems to me that it was a way to inspire the team—and the crowd.
And, hey, it worked. But if I want drama on ABC, I'll watch "Lost" or "Grey's Anatomy."
This is the NBA.
And just as I thought it was ugly when some of my fellow Lakers fans cheered when Pierce went down, I thought it was ugly to turn the moment into a melodrama. And a badly timed one.
You know you're in trouble when you're pulling out the dramatics for Game One.
All that being said, I have to be honest about one other thing: When Andrew Bynum went down with the knee injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season and eventually led to his recent surgery, I got off my couch and screamed at him through the TV to walk it off and stop being such a big baby.
So, clearly, I lack a certain, shall we say, sensitivity? I thought Andrew was overreacting. And I was really wrong about that.
The difference is, Andrew didn't come back to that game to go score-crazy on his opponent. If he had, I would have held it against him much like I hold it against Pierce.
I open up the floor to angry comments. And...GO!