Today in Sports History: January 5th


(Allen pulls back the ball on the final play. Photo by Paul Sakuma, AP Photos)

1/05/1983 - Erving cradles it over Michael Cooper

It's one of the most famous dunks in NBA history. In a regular season game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers -- the two teams that met in the 1982 and 1983 finals -- Julius Erving steals the ball from Michael Cooper and races towards the basket, with only Cooper near him. Before he went up for the dunk, Dr. J palmed the ball and moved his arm up and down, a move that Lakers announcer Chick Hearn likened to rocking a baby to sleep. He then leaped into the air and tomahawked it over Cooper, sending the Philadelphia crowd wild.

The Sixers won the game, 122-120.

1/05/1986 - Sonics game suspended from rain

A January game between the Seattle SuperSonics and the Phoenix Suns featured something that had never happened in the NBA before: a rain postponement.

With 10:28 remaining in the first half, and the Suns leading 35-24, the game came to complete stop. A thunderstorm was going on outside, and the rain had begun to actually leak through the roof of the Seattle Coliseum and onto the playing court. At first the officials waited to see if the rain would stop, but after a 55-minute delay, lead referee Mike Mathis called the game.

It was an odd occurrence if ever there was one. In baseball, games were halted due to harsh weather conditions all the time. But in basketball -- where the game was played indoors -- there was no precedent. NBA commissioner David Stern ruled that the game was to be continued the following day from the point of the interruption. It was the first time that an NBA game had ever been suspended to be continued at a later time.

The next day, the Suns and Sonics again took the court with the score remaining 35-24. Only 5,548 were in attendance, and many of the fans had their umbrellas open the entire game. The Sonics went on a 25-14 run to get back in the game; but Phoenix took control in the second half and easily won the game: 114-97.

"I don't want to have to do another game like that," said Suns forward Larry Nance, who made 12 of 15 shots for 27 points. "Any time you're on a roll like we were, you hate to have the game stop."

It was not the first instance of rain disrupting a Sonics game. In 1972, a Hawks-Sonics game was interrupted by a downpour. Water was leaking onto the floor, but the game continued nonetheless. Seattle bigman Spencer Haywood slipped on the hardwood and suffered a knee injury. The malady sidelined him for several weeks and Haywood later sued the city of Seattle for damages. He was awarded $55,000.


(Maravich on a 1969 Sports Illustrated cover. Photo by Richard Meek)

1/05/1988 - Maravich dies at 40

On January 5, 1988, former basketball star Pete Maravich was playing a halfcourt basketball game at the First Church of the Nazarene in Pasadena, California. One of the people who was there was James Dobson, a noted Christian minister. "I said, 'How do you feel today?' James recalled asking Maravich. "And I promise you his last words to me were: 'I feel great. I just feel great.' And I turned to walk away and I, I don't know why, but I looked back at him for some reason just in time to see him fall."

Maravich collapsed to the ground from sudden cardiac arrest. He was taken the hospital, where the medical staff was unable to resuscitate him. Maravich was pronounced dead at 9:34 AM. He was 40. An autopsy revealed that Maravich had a rare disease that inflamed the heart and weakened the flow of oxygen into his system -- it was the same illness that would later claim the life of college star Hank Gathers.

"You're dealing here with the most rare of the rare," said Dr. Frank Litvack of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "Until people die, nobody will know they have this."

Most doctors were baffled that Maravich had lived as long as he did. The defect he had been born with usually killed people off before they turned 20, yet Maravich had lasted twice that long. "This is the characteristic of the 16 year-old who collapses during a football game," said Paul Thompson, a sudden-death expert at Brown University. "But for a guy to go 10 years in the NBA and have a congenital anomaly like this is, to say the very least, very unusual. How could a guy like that run up and down the court for 20 years?"

Even crazier was the fact that Maravich had in fact predicted his death in a 1974 interview with the Beaver County Times. Pete, then just 25, said, "I don't want to play 10 years in the NBA and die of a heart attack at age 40." Andy Nuzzo, who had conducted the interview, was stunned when he heard of Maravich's death. "The story was laying on my desk when I got to work," he said. "I read it, and read it and read it and read it. I couldn't believe it. Everything matched."

At LSU, "Pistol" Pete Maravich had established himself as one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. In three years, he averaged a gargantuan 44.2 points per game -- nearly the equivalent of hitting 15 three-pointers a game for every game of his career. Maravich's numbers are even more impressive considering that the three-point line hadn't even been installed yet. More than his scoring average though, it was his incredible passing and playmaking ability that endeared himself to fans everywhere.

In the pros, Maravich's 10-year career was unremarkable. He continued to be an impressive scorer and finished with a 24.2 point-per-game average. In 1977, he even led the league with 31.1 PPG. But his scoring never translated to success; in fact, only twice in his career was he on a team that won more than it lost. He began his career with the Atlanta Hawks before he was traded to the New Orleans Jazz. He stayed with the Jazz when they moved to Utah and finished his career with the Boston Celtics, where he came off the bench behind Larry Bird, Tiny Archibald and Dave Cowens.

Maravich had been inducted into the Hall of Fame just a year prior to his passing. He was later named one of the 50 greatest players of all time.

1/05/2003 - Steelers topple browns in wilcard matchup

The Cleveland Browns had everything working for them in a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But at the end of the day, the Browns were the Browns. The Steelers were the Steelers. And Tommy Maddox had game worthy of his XFL accolades.

To read more about this story, click here for an in-depth Inhistoric article:

1/05/2003 - 49ers win on Junkin error

The San Francisco 49ers come away with one of the most fortunate wins imaginable. After trailing by three touchdowns and a field goal late in the third quarter, they not only managed to beat the New York Giants, they did it after the Giants had TWO opportunities to kick the game-winning field goal. And as if that wasn't enough, the Giants should have had a third opportunity to win the game... but they didn't.

To read more about this story, click here for an in-depth Inhistoric article:

Further reading:

It's raining in the Coliseum [The News Tribune]

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