It’s Not (Just) About Basketball

On Dramatic Comebacks, Earned 2nd Chances, “The Greatest,” and Bernie (and/or Hillary) or BUST.

Hello fellow hoops fans, Warrior lovers (long-timers and bandwagoners both!), and spectacle appreciators-

It’s a hectic time of the year for us educators, parents, spouses, uncle’s of graduates, etc etc…so though I’ve hoped to crank out a more timely missive, this has been my first chance. There has indeed been some exciting and thrilling developments on the Warriors front, that’s for sure. I’ll briefly re-cap where they’re at, and include a couple links for your reading pleasure.

Down 3 game to 1 to the menacing Oklahoma City Thunder, the Warriors had their backs against the proverbial wall. Not only were they down 3–1 in a race to 4 wins, they had looked absolutely mortal, confused, and sloppy in games 3 and 4 back in OKC, suffering two fairly resounding defeats. Letting Game 1 slip away in Oakland started to look profoundly ominous. The fear of being eliminated bore down on the team and fans, compounded by the dreadful reality that their record-setting 73 win season would become an asterisk and place them firmly in infamous company with other historically great regular season teams that went quietly into the night when it mattered most, in the post season. (See the 2001 Seattle Mariners and 2007 New England Patriots).

Pressed for time this last week-plus, and in an attempt to capture and convey the magnitude and drama of the moment — on a sports-fan and mythical level of course — I posted the following on my Facebook page, right after OKC went up 3 games to 1.

“As a lifelong lover of basketball, being able to follow the Warriors has been pure fun and joy. This game about to start right now is the latest gift we get to appreciate in this story. I’m grateful no matter the outcome.”

It was a not so unusual attempt from yours truly to was philosophically and give some perspective to the moment, but it also sounds a lot like somebody bracing themselves for an inevitable and inescapable disappointing — and crushing — outcome.

What were they up against being down 3–1? Well, in over two hundred (200!) instances when a team had been down 3 games to 1 in NBA 7-game playoff series over the years, only NINE TIMES had a team won 3 in a row to comeback and take a series. Of course, we know now that the number is now 10.

The Warriors held court at home in Game 5 as they began to reclaim their defensive and rebounding formula that has brought them this far. It was Game 6, back in Oklahoma last Saturday night, that would present their biggest challenge to stay alive. Though the W’s had won Game 5 at home, OKC had battled and clawed and remained close the whole way, enough so that they returned home for Game 6 feeling confident that they’d be able to seal the deal and advance to their first Finals appearance since 2012.

In maybe the most exciting and genuinely epic basketball game I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen, um, more than a few basketball games!) Klay Thompson led his team to a thrilling and exhilarating victory, shocking the home crowd and forcing a Game 7 back in Oakland. It was the rare sports battle that actually lived up to the superlative cliche of “epic”, and the team lived to fight another day.

I really hope you all got to see that game, and the following Game 7 on Memorial Day where the W’s finally extinguished the last flickering flame of hope for OKC. Whether you saw the game or not, here’s a 9 minute re-cap of Game 6 in OKC that is sure to re-deliver goose-bumps and chills to Warrior and basketball fans alike.

I was extremely fortunate to be able to be at Game 7 in person, and the Roaracle home-town Oakland crowd and energy was as frenetic, joyous and alive as I’ve ever experienced. Considering that this was the last game I will see in person in this magical season, it was a satisfying and unforgettable capstone to a great year. (It will be very interesting to see how the legendary devotion, knowledge and home-court advantage the Warriors have enjoyed in Oakland all these years exports to San Francisco in 3 years when they make that move.)

Meanwhile, the NBA Finals is one-game in, and the Warriors defended home court Thursday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s a re-match of last years’ Finals, except Cleveland — led by one of the greatest players of all time, Lebron James — has a healthy roster (unlike last year) and waltzes into the series after barely being tested in the playoffs. (On a side-note: I have tremendous respect for Lebron James, both the person and player, and I think he gets a bad rap…he’s an unselfish superstar that has had a tremendous career, and he’s helped many of his teams overachieve. He definitely made a PR/image mistake when he had “The Decision” press conference announcing he’d be going to Miami 5 or 6 years ago, but he grew up in the ESPN Sportscenter era of massive media attention, which I think accounts for that poor choice. He has since then always conducted himself as a true professional, and a player who respects the game and has humility and gratitude for the opportunity and gifts he possesses.)

Game 1 went to the Warriors, and their offensive output was led by none other than back-up point guard Shaun Livingston, who had a playoff career high of 20 points. Of course, one of the great qualities of this Warriors TEAM is that they are a self-less, trusting group of players that have zero interest in individual accomplishments or accolades, but Livingston’s individual story is indeed remarkable and inspiring.

Marc Spears of ESPN wrote a nice re-cap of Livingston’s journey to this moment. It’s a beautiful and uplifting story, I highly recommend it.

By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA — Shaun Livingston, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Just how big is the Warriors (and Steph Curry) story nationally these days? Here’s a piece my brother sent me from The New Yorker this week on Steph. (It’s semi-long, so maybe you can bookmark it for after the Finals are done and you find yourself (basketball) jonesing for some Dub-love.)

And, how big is the Warriors phenomenon right now locally? Well, Steve Kerr and some of his family went out to enjoy some live music last night. So much for any hopes of anonymity for the Kerr’s, as this short article on SFGate reveals.

Last couple items here, switching first to politics then to the passing of the Muhammad Ali…

I’m very much looking forward to Tuesday’s California Primary, and the opportunity to enthusiastically vote for Bernie Sanders. As many have said throughout this campaign, I believe that Sanders represents the level and kind of change this country — and world — desperately need, especially in the areas of addressing climate change, income and wealth disparity, health care, college costs and student loans, mass incarceration of people of color and the poor, and so on. Then, looking beyond the Tuesday primary, I fully expect to wholeheartedly support the candidacy of Hillary Clinton for President. Though far from a perfect candidate, and despite many of her flawed and lackluster positions, I think she would be a decent, establishment President, and MOST importantly, keep the extremely terrifying and embarrassing Donald Trump from wrecking havoc in a position of power. Don’t forget to VOTE!!

Finally, the passing of Muhammad Ali creates a prime moment to reflect not just on his incredible life and the many facets of this complex, courageous and outspoken man, but more specifically on what qualities made him such an important and loved person in our history. To me, perhaps his greatest quality was the courage and clarity to speak truth to power. Obviously he wasn’t the only person with this position, but he had a bullhorn, and he used it to cut through the bullshit, as this quote here so eloquently illustrates:

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?
No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.
But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…
If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”

I’m gonna try to channel a little Ali and a lot of Shaun Livingston today.

Peace out, and in, my friends~

johnfike

(as usual, please feel free to comment, and pass along to anybody who might enjoy this. Also, I’m new to using Medium.com…this is my 2nd post, check out my first post called “5 things casual basketball fans should know about the Golden State Warriors” (written a couple weeks back…thanks for reading!)

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