I am a basketball guy. I love the sport, especially the NBA.
And on Wednesday night, I was in heaven. It started out with the Celtics and the Miami Heat with playoff positioning on the line.
Then we had Kobe Bryant’s final game. And then the cherry on the sundae: The Golden State Warriors going for the NBA record of 73 wins.
It started off on a real downer. The Celtics were just horrible in the first half trailing Miami by 26 points. It was legends night at TD Garden. Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Bill Walton, and Kevin McHale were all in the house. The ’66, ’76, and ’86 championship teams were honored. And at halftime, Brad Stevens let his team know that their play was unacceptable in front of these Celtics greats.
“Nothing otherworldly,” Stevens told reporters later of his message. “I mean, I don’t know. We just sat there and talked in this tenor and said, ‘Who do we want to be?’ You know? There’s guys sitting around this building that hung banners. Like, ‘How do you want to play? How do we want to feel about ourselves?”
Stevens speech worked. The Celtics were a different team in the second half. They turned up the defensive intensity and held the Heat to a mere five points in the third quarter. They outscored the Heat 60-26 in the second half as they beat Miami by 10 in the end, 98-88.
The Celtics win created a three way tie in the East between, Miami, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Boston. All four teams have 48-34 records. But because of the tie-breakers, the Celtics get the fifth seed and will play the Hawks in the first round with Atlanta having home-court advantage. Not a great matchup for the Celtics.
Then came 10:30 p.m. — Kobe’s final game on ESPN2 and the Warriors on ESPN.
I had to see how the Lakers would handle the pregame ceremony for Bryant. It was typical Hollywood showtime. There were the video tributes, the crowd shouting MVP, the greatest Laker of them all, Magic Johnson, introducing Kobe and calling him the greatest Laker of all time. Then Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed the worst national anthem in history on his guitar. Only in LA.
I had enough of Kobe so I switched over to the start of the Warriors-Grizzlies game. Golden State is a fun team to watch. They play at a fast pace and move the ball around. It’s offensive basketball at its best.
And of course they have the greatest shooter in history: Steph Curry. He hit five three pointers in the first quarter to give Golden State a lead they would never relinquish as tje Warriors went on to an NBA record 73 wins. It was so refreshing to see a team embrace history and not be burdened with it. This is the greatest regular season team in NBA history. How they perform over the next two and a half months will determine their place as one of the all time great teams ever.
Curry was amazing — hitting ten three pointers to set and NBA record of 402 three pointers for the season. Let’s put this in perspective. He broke his own previous record of 286 set last year. No other player has made 300 in a season let alone 400. He is that much better than anyone else now or in history.
Speaking of history, it was time to check back in on Kobe. It seemed like every time the Lakers had the ball Kobe was shooting. That’s because he was. In his final game, the Black Mamba turned back the clock and played 42 minutes, scoring 60 points while taking 50 shots.
That’s right 50 shots. No other Laker took more than 10.
So today, everyone is celebrating Kobe’s 60 point performance. But what happened last night is the reason I never liked him. He is the most selfish player I have ever seen. It’s always about Kobe. Make no mistake, he was a great player — focused, with a killer instinct. Bryant has five championships and countless records to prove that. But I always hated his game. He was the perfect player for the “I, me, my” culture of Los Angeles.
Curry can put up the incredible numbers in the context of being a team player. For Kobe, it was always all about him.
As a basketball fan, Wednesday night was as good as it gets. Can’t wait for the playoffs to begin.