Listening to the radio yesterday I learned with interest that the Celtics and the Lakers were contesting another NBA Championship series. When I moved to America in the mid 1980s I had never heard of Larry Bird or Magic Johnston and I doubt that I had ever watched a game of basketball. I had also never heard off or listened to the voice of the NBA, Brent Musburger, whose voice I would get to know well in the first few years of living there.
We played it at high school for gym for about six weeks a year. I hated it with the heavy ball and the impossible hoop. This story is how I came to love the game for a short period of time.
We stayed for a while in Vermont where all the finals games were on television on CBS. My future father in law was born and bred in Boston and he filled me in on some of the important details. The names from that era are very clear in my mind. I can remember many late nights gripped by the intense theatre from the dusty old Boston Garden and the razzmatazz of Los Angeles . The rivalry between the teams was stark.
During this period, this rivalry took on many dimensions, such as East Coast vs. West Coast, Working class grit vs. Hollywood glitz, old tradition vs. air-conditioned luxury, and some believe white vs. black (the Celtics teams of the 1980s were predominantly composed of Caucasian players, while those of Los Angeles were mostly African American). Additionally, prior to the 1980s, the NBA had been struggling financially, with low attendance and television ratings. The battles between the two teams contributed mightily to the success of the league.
All this prior to the arrival of Air Jordan. The Celtics had intensity embodied, Larry Bird, gangly Kevin McHale, ambling Robert Parish and playmaker Dennis Johnston and the Lakers had Kareem Abdul Jabbar with the impossibly good hook shot, Magic Johnston, playmaker extraordinaire, Kurt Rambis with the glasses and the elegant James Worthy.
I have not watched or followed basketball much since.