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Sometimes, Attention Deficit is in Order.
Posted Wednesday, May 5, 2004

by Bill Hogan


There certainly hasn't been much for the crowd at Madison Square Garden to cheer about in the past couple of years. The New York Knicks finally made the playoffs, and then were promptly dispatched by their cross-river rivals. The New Jersey Nets took 4 games in a row to sweep the first-round playoff series.

The atmosphere in America's most famous basketball arena was noticeably different thirty-four years ago when the Knickerbockers won their first-ever NBA Championship. They took down the favored Los Angeles Lakers in game 7 in New York City.


The Garden crowd was somewhat subdued before the final game because the Knicks' All-Star center Willis Reed was not on the court during the pre-game warm-ups. Reed injured his right leg in game 5. The Lakers took advantage of Reed's absence in game 6 and trounced the Knicks 135-113.

There was cause for concern. Without Reed, there seemed to be little hope that the undermanned Knicks would be able to stop Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and the rest of the high-powered Lakers.

One minute before the start of game 7, Willis Reed hobbled out of the Knicks locker room and onto the court. The crowd went wild. When Reed hit a 15-foot jump shot for the game's first basket, there was pandemonium. When his second shot hit nothing but net, there was no stopping the Knicks, who led by as many as 29 points in the first half.

Reed finished the game with 4 points, but his presence on the court was enough to lift the Knicks to a 113-99 victory and a NBA title. On May 8, 1970, Willis Reed provided basketball fans with one of the most unforgettable moments in NBA Finals history.

I doubt that anything that happens in the NBA Playoffs this week – or the next or the week after that - will have nearly the same impact. It can't. We're only a game or two into the conference semifinals. There are still eight teams left with a shot at winning the NBA Championship.

May 8th will come and go long before a player or team has a chance to produce any historically significant game 7 heroics. June 8th will come and go as well. Do I hear July 8th?

The Detroit Pistons beat New Jersey on Monday by 22 points with a suffocating defense that allowed the Nets just 56 total points. That's the kind of game I like to watch. Unfortunately, the teams don't face each other again until Friday. And if the series goes seven games, we won't have a winner until May 20th.

Frankly, I just don't have the attention span required to stay interested in a conference semi-final series for another two weeks. It's too long to wait for the outcome to be determined.

Maybe it's me. I choose to watch movies that are under two hours. I never get involved with a television mini series. And I have no idea how many contestants have been kicked off The Bachelor, nor do I care at this point.

Three act plays put me to sleep. I won't wait 20 minutes to be seated at a restaurant. Don't get me started on rush hour traffic. And tell me you don't hate it when you sit through a classic Matlock episode only to find out that the show is "to be continued."

When Willis Reed led the Knicks to the championship in 1970, the baseball season was barely a month old. By the time the NBA comes up with an eventual winner this year, we'll be more concerned with who should be the starting pitchers in the All-Star game.

Basketball is a great winter sport. A good Lakers-Kings game is a nice diversion on a cold, snowy day. But we're rapidly heading toward Memorial Day and the NBA isn't much closer to crowning a champion than they were on St. Patrick's Day.

If ABC, ESPN and TNT are wondering why their ratings are so poor, they should take a look outside. The golf course is open. The barbeque has been cleaned, the propane tank filled and little Jimmy has a tee-ball game.

And any semi-intelligent man will tell you that Mother's Day is not the time to grab a beer, hit the couch and turn on the game. Somebody give me a holler when they're down to two teams, I'll try to squeeze in a game between summer activities.


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