ESPN Actually Does Something Cool With Its Celtics-Lakers Coverage

In an age of the Who's Now?, "gasbags on parade" SportsCenter, it's not often that ESPN actually does something I genuinely enjoy. But ESPN's re-airing of game six of the 1987 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Celtics was some of the best programming I've seen the channel ever air. ↵

↵I know that sounds far from thrilling, but believe me, it was excellent. Matt Winer and Tim Legler hosted an over three-hour replay of the Lakers-Celtics most intense game, and not only did they refrain from interrupting the game itself, but they even brought in some of the old players between breaks in the action. ↵Dick Stockton and Tommy Heisohn were on the call that night. As part of the special, they interviewed the play-by-play man Stockton, and also sat down with the face of CBS, Brent Musburger. Here are some of the highlights: ↵

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↵ ↵I can't stress enough how much this idea worked on multiple levels. The obvious is that it was a vehicle to promote the 2008 Finals. There's never anything wrong with advertising your product, but this show did that and more. The simplicity of the original broadcast, along with the unobtrusive and fan-like demeanor of Weiner and Legler let the rivalry speak for itself. The addition of all of the media folks and the announcers was just the icing on the cake. ↵

↵The game itself took us back to a time when Dick Stockton was at the top of his game and Tommy Heisohn added an unbelievable amount of unbiased commentary. There were no explosions, there were no intrusive and useless sideline reporters, and there was no crappy music or fancy graphics. It was just ridiculously talented basketball players who hated each other waging war, and it was awesome. ↵

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↵Now that's not to say that today's game is bad (it most certainly isn't most of the time). Sure, the game back then was different and you're not likely to see Kobe go and shake the Celtics' coaches hands (ala Kareem Abdul Jabar in 1987 as he left the game), but the allure of this year's Finals to NBA fans is just as great as it was back then. Of course, there's not seven (seven!) future Hall of Famers playing in Game One this Thursday, but it's still going to be fun. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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