JUNE 15, 1991 — “Welcome back, everybody. It’s halftime here at Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Detroit Pistons and the Phoenix Suns, and what a whale of a game it’s been! How about those gutty Pistons? Seven broken legs, six fractured cheekbones, five sprained ankles and four cases of the chicken pox — and still they battle on! Their team bus came from the hospital! Their pre-game meal was through a straw! Dennis Rodman will play the second half walking on his hands! Wow! And they still lead Phoenix, 65-62! Scott Hastings, a shoo-in for Series MVP, has 34 points and 13 rebounds! What a performance!
“And, folks, while we’re waiting for the Pistons’ team doctors to scrub up, let’s take a look at this year’s NBA highlight film, fresh from the lab. It’s a glance back at the marvelous 1990-91 season, beginning in November, when Larry Brown was still coaching, and Senator Earvin Johnson was still playing . . .
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?
Roll ’em! NOVEMBER: Here you see Opening Night at the Palace, where the Pistons were awarded their 1990 championship rings. There’s Isiah Thomas, smiling at the crowd — except people from Channel 2 — and there’s James Edwards, hugging his mom and, oh, this was a fun moment. Remember when Jack McCloskey had two extra rings, and Adrian Dantley came out of the stands and said “Gimme one.” And Jack laughed. And Adrian said “Gimme one.” And Jack laughed. And Adrian said “Gimme one. Now.”
Here you see the Palace guards escorting Adrian back home.
Yes, what a wild and crazy month it was, everywhere in the NBA. The Lakers traded for rookie Bo Kimble, after Magic Johnson agreed to give up some of his salary. “I got plenty of money,” said Johnson. In Houston, an emotional night when Eric (Sleepy) Floyd was reunited with his long-lost family, Mark
(Sneezy) Floyd, Charles (Dopey) Floyd, and Joe (Grumpy) Floyd. They whistled to work. Oh, look! Here you see the three latest Michael Jordan ads, for Skippy, Jif, and Planters Peanut Butter. “Michael’s so popular, even competitors don’t mind using him,” said his agent . . .
. . . from his yacht.
DECEMBER: As the weather turned chilly, things began to heat up in Detroit. The Pistons were smoking. Victory on Monday. Rest on Tuesday. Victory on Wednesday. Another championship looked so easy, Chuck Daly even stopped yelling at John Salley. And then, in a single night, Thomas, Joe Dumars and Vinnie Johnson all went down with injuries. Twisted ankles. “PALACE GUARDS CRIPPLED!” read the headlines. McCloskey was seen weeping. The Pistons were forced to go with a backcourt of Lance Blanks and Scott Hastings. “Uh, coach?” Hastings said, the night of his first game. “What?” said Daly. “I never learned how to dribble. I mean, I never really had to, you know?”
The Pistons lost their next six games. Meanwhile, Chicago and Cleveland were making moves in the Central Division. Boston was hot in the East. And out West, the Lakers traded for Roy Tarpley, after Magic Johnson agreed to give up part of his salary. “I still got plenty of money,” Johnson said. Oh. Look. Here were the next three Michael Jordan commercials, for Ford, GM and Chrysler. “They all love him, what can I say?” said his agent . . .
. . . from his mansion.
JANUARY: Things got worse for the Pistons when Johnson pulled a hamstring, Edwards slipped a disc and Rodman developed a bad back, bad ankle, bad leg and bad shoulder. He continued to play, of course, averaging 13 rebounds a game. Oh. Remember this scene? Detroit vs. Portland at the Palace, for the first time since the NBA Finals? Here you see footage of the players shaking hands. And here you see Portland’s Danny Ainge bite Detroit’s Tree Rollins.
“I’ve been waiting to do that for 10 years,” Ainge says, smacking his lips.
“Now we’re even.”
Things are friendlier in Philadelphia, where Manute Bol provides hours of entertainment for Rick Mahorn and Charles Barkley. “Yo, Manute,’ says Barkley,
“tell me that story about you and the goat. I love that one. HA. HA. AHHHAHAHAHA.” In Phoenix, the Suns pick up another Johnson, Dennis, to go with Kevin and Eddie. The announcers have a field day. “Here’s the pass from K.J., into E.J., now down to D.J., back to K.J., E.J., K.J., D.J., OK!” In San Antonio, David Robinson is averaging 37 points a game. He smiles whenever he see the Spurs’ general manager. “Can you spell contract renegotiation?” he asks.
Look. Here are the newest Michael Jordan ads, for Pepsi, Coke and Dr. Pepper. “He has transcended everyone!” says his agent . . .
. . . from his airplane.
FEBRUARY: Under the new collective bargaining agreement, all NBA players could take February off. And they did.
MARCH: This, as you recall, was a big month for exits. Larry Brown, after swearing he would never leave, quit his job with the Spurs and took over at Notre Dame — coaching the football team. This, after Lou Holtz, who swore he would never leave, took over as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. This, after Jerry Burns, who swore he would never leave, was told to get out of town by sunset.
Things were also pretty bad in Denver, where the Nuggets went on a 30-game
losing streak. Coach Paul Westhead, a noted poet and literary scholar, tried to spur his players with Shakespeare: “Frailty, thy name is defense! . . . All the world’s a stage, so dunk it! . . . Wherefore art thou, jump shot?” He was fired, but got very good reviews.
Look, here’s when the Pistons traveled to New York, beat the Knicks, then went to see Bill Laimbeer and his mask star in “Phantom of the Opera.” “I don’t get it,” said Dennis Rodman, who had both arms in casts, but still scored 28 points. “Bill said he lived on a lake, not a river.”
In LA, Magic Johnson surrendered more of his salary so the Lakers could trade for Kevin McHale. Said Johnson: “I got plenty of . . . hey, where’s my wallet?”
And here, of course, are the Michael Jordan ads for Sony, Panasonic, RCA, and Hitachi. Michael then fired his agent, saying “What has he done for me lately?”
APRIL AND MAY: As usual, NBA action got fannnnntastic in the playoffs. Boston ousted Phildelphia, on Robert Parish’s 57th birthday. Here you see Robert blowing out the candles, then falling over. Easy, big fella! And of course, the Lakers upset Portland. Sadly, that was the last game for Magic Johnson, who quit the team to run for the Senate. “I hate to go,” he said,
“but I need the money.”
In the East, the Pistons went to five games against Cleveland, seven against Indiana, and seven against Chicago. Here you see the shot that put Detroit in the NBA Finals, a 30-footer from Hastings, who has turned into the league’s biggest story at point guard. “All these years, I just had the wrong position,” he says. “How dumb can I get?”
And well, folks, I see we’re about to return to the action. Who’s gonna win the NBA crown? We’ll find out. But first, let’s go to our color analyst Adrian Dantley, who is with Commissoner David Stern in a small room that holds this year’s championship trophy. Adrian?
Adrian? . . .