In the late 80’s and early 90’s I was addicted to NBA basketball. The teams, the players, and even the coaches. I couldn’t get enough. I would watch any team, didn’t matter if it wasn’t my favorite team (The Phoenix Suns), I just wanted to see tall dudes in cool uniforms shooting hoops, make amazing passes, and doing incredible dunks.
I had to enjoy it in secret though. I was into skateboarding, and had mostly skateboarding friends. Most skateboarders, especially during that time, hated jocks and sports. Which was understandable as most jocks hated skateboarders in the same way. It was like the Sharks and the Jets from West Side Story. Each having very shallow reasons for the hate towards the other.
So I would make up excuses to get out of skateboarding or hanging out with my friends just so I could watch an NBA game. I didn’t feel bad about it either, because some of the friends I had were pretty lousy and I was better off avoiding them.
The NBA during this time was, I feel, at it’s prime. The Internet was not really a common thing, and only Zack Morris goons had cell phones. So there wasn’t 24 hour access to see pro basketball except on TV. So I would relish the time watching the pre-games, the games, and the post games. I would even try and watch highlights on national TV to see what non-home team analysts had to say.
The top players were all future Hall of Famers like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, and David Robinson. They all went on to play together on the Olympic team, named the Dream Team, for good reason.
They were all recognizable and it was amazing to see them playing together, more than any all-star game would provide. It created an iconic team of which all teams, Olympic or not, would be compared to. It was epic!
The games were so entertaining because all the teams seem to have one or two superstars, so it felt more competitive then games today. The games were less flashy, and there were no fireworks during the introduction of the lineups, and not all the teams had cheerleaders. It was about the game itself, not the sideshow antics like today.
It also felt like the rivalries were more intense also. The Knicks vs the Pistons, Pistons vs Bulls, Bulls vs 76ers, Knicks vs Celtics, Lakers vs Celtics, Lakers vs Suns, Suns vs Trailblazers, Lakers vs Trailblazers, etc. Every game had potential to be a classic.
The NBA also used to make video tapes to rent or buy. Further expanding their brand and the personalities of the NBA. It was impossible to not catch the commercials for some of these tapes, like NBA Bloopers, NBA High Flying Dunks, Hardwood Champions, etc.
These videos would usually show highlights from all NBA history. You’d would get to see iconic players like Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy, and Bill Russell. These were made even more amusing when hosted by Marv Albert, the most recognizable NBA announcer of the time. Even better is when he was paired up with the coach of the Utah Jazz, Frank Layden, who played the bumbling sidekick.
Recently, a ton of these videos can be seen on Hulu. Its a blast! Re-watching highlights from classic games, seeing players in their prime, and seeing them in their old uniforms and arenas! I only wish I had the old SEGA Genesis and Super Nintendo games to play afterwards.
And if that wasn’t enough, Netflix has a few of the ESPN “30 for 30” videos to watch. These are made recently, but reflect back on some of the classic players or teams, such as Reggie Miller, and the Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” era. Back when the NBA has so much character and personality.
It’s kind of a shame that this era went away. There are too many expansion teams, and there are too many young, inexperienced players now. Drafting kids straight from high school, or with only one year of college basketball experience has flooded the NBA with mediocre players.
It’s not rocket science that so many of the superstars of the late 80’s and early 90’s were all players that completed college. Look at Tim Duncan, one of the last players I can recall that played four years of college basketball. Numerous championships and awards, and he is still playing. He is a throwback to the glory years and will definitely end up in the hall of fame.
It’s pretty tough to watch the current era of players where they have mediocre skills, and you have to invest into them for years before they achieve the skill level they would have in college. It’s a waste.
I will never be super into the NBA again, unless they start making blooper tapes again…
PART II COMING SOON