INGLEWOOD, Calif. — I enter the courtroom, my arms stuffed with evidence. I am here to fight. I am here to plead. I have an appointment.
“Yes?” says the man in the robe.
“The people of Detroit versus the Los Angeles Lakers,” I say. “I had a 10:30?”
“Uh, well. . . . “
“Now then,” I begin. “Allow me to state my purpose. My purpose is to prove that the Detroit Pistons deserve to win tonight’s Game 7 of the NBA final. Far more than the Lakers. I will do that with evidence. I will do that with facts. If that doesn’t work, I will start crying shamelessly.”
“Sir, I really don’t think. . . . “
“Thank you, your honor,” I say, reaching into my duffel bag. “Now then, let’s begin. Exhibit A. Look at this! This was Isiah Thomas’ shoe before he injured his ankle in Game 6. Today he needs one twice the size just to fit his foot.”
“Uh . . . what happened?”
“What happened?” I shriek. “What ever happens? Some freak thing. Some weirdo bounce. He stepped on another guy’s foot. Can you believe that? Come on. Are you gonna’ let Detroit lose because of something like that?”
“Well, I really can’t. . . . “
“Of course you can’t. Who could? May I suggest, your honor, as an act of justice, that Magic Johnson be forced to stay home from tonight’s game — maybe watch it with Isiah in some hotel room somewhere — so that things are evened up?”
“Well, I. . . .
“Thank you. Onjection restained.”
“I beg you pardon?”‘
“Uh . . . never mind.” Riley wants too much
I reach into my files. I pull out a photo.
“Exhibit B,” I say. “Do you know this man?”
“Chuck Daly. Coach of the Pistons. He’s nearly 58 years old. He has never won a championship. In anything, your honor. Not high school, not college, not peewee football. Fifty eight, your worship. You know how many good suits he has ruined by sweating?”
“Listen, now, I don’t b–.
“Believe it? I know. It’s hard to believe.” I pull out another photo. “Now check out this guy.”
“Pat Riley, your holiness. Lakers coach. The guy has more rings than a shower curtain. He lives in the sunshine. A tornado could strike and his hair wouldn’t move. He is rich, successful, he even has a book. Yet he wants another championship. Can you believe it? He wants thirds before some of us get firsts.”
“Gee, that hardly seems fair. . . . “
“Precisely! So you’ll agree that his presence alone dictates that all calls must go against the Lakers this evening, right?”
“Calls? Well, I. . . . “
“Thank you. Motion redressed.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Uh . . . never mind.”
I dig into the bag. I pull out a basketball. I toss it over the railing.
“See that, your highness. Hold it. Squeeze it. feels like you should be able to sink a basket right? Yeah. Well. That’s the ball Joe Dumars used when he missed that last shot Sunday afternoon. It has happened to him before. Against Boston. Twice. He’s the sweetest guy, your graceship. Quiet. Unassuming. Do you want him to walk around his whole life saying ‘I coulda made the shot. I coulda been a contendah.”
“Well, no, I. . . . “
“Right. So we agree that the Pistons begin with a 10 point lead tonight, so that it won’t come down to a last basket this time. OK? Fair?”
“Now look. . . . “
“Thank you. E pluribus unim.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Uh . . . never mind.” Pistons deserve paradise
I run through the whole bag. Piece by piece. Rickey Mahorn’s ice pack. Adrian Dantley’s career statistics. Some melted snow from the time the roof caved in on the Silverdome.
I talk about the 31 years without a championship. I talk about lean years for Isiah. I talk about Bill Laimbeer’s poor old father. I make that part up.
I say the Pistons have been through too much. I say the Pistons have come too far. I say this journey cannot end short of Pistons paradise or something is terribly, terribly wrong here.
The judge says: “Approach the bench.”
“The bench!” I say. “But of course! There’s James Edwards, who’s waited forever for this opportunity, and Vinnie Johnson, who has been in Detroit since the bad old days, and John Salley, who admittedly is young, but lets face it, he would be so good on the talk shows. Can you see him with Letterman? I mean. . . . “
“Counsel,” says the judge. “I would like to help. I really would. But this is traffic court.”
“Like . . . speeding and that stuff?”
I hang my head. I pack up my bag. I stuff in the photos and the sneakers and the basketball. The Pistons will have to do it the hard way. They will have to win it themselves. The biggest game in the history of Detroit basketball will come down to 48 minutes tonight.
Unless. . . .
“You think we could do something about the Lakers’ team bus?” I ask.
“What did you have in mind?” he answers.