Rasheed Wallace's run of successful playoff guarantees came to an end last night, thanks to an inspired effort from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Of course, it helped that the Pistons shot a cadaverous 25-of-75 and therefore couldn't keep up with the Cavs' blistering 42 percent shooting.Gak. Seriously, was that game painful to see or what? It was like watching two old ladies fight over the nickle cans of cat food at your local supermarket. Sure, it's sad and disgusting, but on the other hand it's also completely pathetic.
Just how bad was it? The bricks were flying so fast and furious that players on opposing teams were quailing in fear and hugging each other for support. You think I'm kidding? Well, see for yourself:"If this is the end, I just want you to know...I always loved you."The best part of the whole ordeal, besides the fact that it ended, was that 'Sheed couldn't even back up his own words, thanks to a sprained an ankle and a pitiful 3-of-13 shooting performance. His public humiliation was my happiest moment since, well, since Kobe pulled a Shoeless Joe Jackson in Phoenix a couple weeks ago. Rasheed Wallace is a douchebag, and I love hating him. It gives my life meaning.But I'll give Wallace this much: he tries (wittingly or no) to make things interesting. He says things nobody else has the guts to say anymore. Remember back in the 80s and early 90s, when it was okay to hate the guys you were playing against? Back then, players were constantly woofing it up to the media. Take 1984, for example. Prior to the Celtics' semifinal matchup against the Knicks, Cedric Maxwell proclaimed that he was going to shut down the league's scoring champion, Bernard King (who, by the way, was fresh off a first round series in which he'd averaged 42 points a game...with dislocated fingers on both hands). Max said, "I'm gonna stop the bitch. The Knicks are going to lose. There's no question about it." He then added a little spice by mimicking King's distinctive gait and saying, "No way a guy who walks like this is gonna get 40 on me." After the Celtics went up 2-0, Kevin McHale said, "They're in the grave right now, and we've got the shovel in our hands." Did all this talk inspire the Knicks? Well, King scored 40 twice, and the Knicks pushed the series to seven games, so maybe it did. But it made for a much more intriguing series.And the trash talk wasn't limited to the opposition, either. Bird blasted his teammates after the Lakers blew out the Celtics in Game 3 of the 1984 Finals. "We have a lot of great players on this team, but we don't have the players with the heart sometimes that we need. We played like sissies tonight." Then, after the Celtics came back to win Game 4 in L.A., Bird was asked whether the team had responded to his criticism and played their best. "Nah," Bird said, "We just played like a bunch of women tonight. We can play better." So in a three-day span, Bird insulted everyone on his team (himself included) and an entire gender. Can you imagine the outrage if somebody did that today? Especially someone controversial like, say, a Kobe Bryant? The sports writers and analysts would be all over it. In 2006, Bird would have been skewered. Back then, his words were inspirational. How times have changed.Another thing to remember about Rasheed's guarantee. He was only stating what most fans, experts, and bookies were already thinking: that, all things being equal, the Pistons were the superior team and should have won the game. Of course, all things aren't equal, and the best team doesn't always win. Which, of course, is why they play the games. But basketball, like anything elese, is much more intriguing when there are heroes to love and villains to hate. ANd 'Sheed is that rare player who is secure enough in himself and his ability that he isn't afraid to be booed, isn't afraid to be hated. In fact, he seems to enjoy it. So thank you, Rasheed Wallace, for being so wonderfully hateable.
I have hundreds of MJ-era games on VHS and DVD, look forward to hearing from you ....