(Shaq was traded the day Jackson died. Photos courtesy of Getty Images)
6/25/1999 - Johnson jay ends '99 Finals
The Spurs entered Game 5 of the 1999 NBA Finals with a 3-1 series lead, an insurmountable advantage with two more games to be played in San Antonio if necessary. But the New York Knicks weren't going down without a fight. They had entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and made it all the way to the championship round, even with Patrick Ewing suffering a season-ending injury in the conference finals.
Game 5 turned into a thrilling game as it became a one-on-one duel between Latrell Sprewell and Tim Duncan. Though he was only in his second year, Tim Duncan had already established himself as the best player in the NBA. He finished with 31 points including 14 of his team's 15 at one point in the second half. But Sprewell was even better, scoring 35 points and 25 of his team's final 34 as his teammates disappeared down the stretch.
"Spree was awesome," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "He got on one of those rolls where it didn’t matter if you got on him, off him -- he’s going to figure out a way to get it in the hole. When he gets on one of those kinds of rolls, you just know it’s going to be scary. He gets into his zone."
"It was a terrific battle by two terrific players," said Spurs guard Mario Elie. "Spree was just rolling, but man, when you’ve got a seven-footer shooting 18-foot bank shots, that’s amazing. (Tim Duncan) is a phenomenal talent."
The showdown ended with under a minute to go and the Knicks holding a precarious 77-76 lead. As Knicks players double-teamed Duncan, the regular season MVP passed it out to Sean Elliott, who in turn dished it Avery Johnson in the corner. Two years earlier, Johnson had been called out by Blazers point guard Damon Stoudamire, who claimed that no team would ever win with with Avery in the starting lineup. But Johnson proved Stoudamire wrong and hit a wide-open 15-footer to give the Spurs a 78-77 lead.
No other points were scored in the contest, and a final desperation lob to Sprewell that was too far under the basket sealed it for the Spurs. The win was San Antonio's first NBA championship, and was the first time a team from the old ABA had won it all. Duncan won the Finals MVP award, one of three that he would win over the next decade.
6/25/2006 - Mikulik Disagrees With A Call
In a game between the single-A Asheville Tourists and the Lexington Legends, Koby Clemens (Roger Clemens' son) was called safe on a bang-bang play at third base. Tourists manager Joe Mikulik went out to challenge the call and was promptly ejected. After that, Mikulik went just a tad overboard.
Gotta love the background music too. Nothing like seeing a manger go ape to the tune of Abbot & Costello, A Few Good Men, and Marry Poppins. Mikulik was the Tourists all-time wins leader, but who cares when you got footage like this.
6/25/2009 - Shaq heads to Cleveland
After one-and-a-half seasons of mediocre success in the desert, the Phoenix Suns trade Shaquille O'Neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace, a second round pick in 2010, and $500,000. The deal had been on the table for Cleveland since the beginning of February, and after losing in the third round of the playoffs to the Orlando Magic, and with LeBron James just one year from free agency, there was no reason for the Cavs not to pull the trigger; Pavlovic and Wallace were both coming off the bench and in the grand scheme of things were completely expendable.
If ever there was a deal that made NBA executives smile, it was this one. In one fell swoop, the two most compelling storylines in the NBA -- Kobe Bryant possibly facing LeBron in the Finals and Kobe's ongoing rivalry with Shaq -- were merged into one potential super matchup: Kobe versus Shaq AND LeBron. Everyone had been awaiting a Cavaliers-Lakers encounter in the 2008 NBA Finals, but with the Cavs' loss to Orlando, the public was instead treated to a five-game series with the Magic and Lakers. Now that Kobe's other counterpart was on the same team as his primary one, a Lakers-Cavaliers Finals was all anyone wanted to see.
6/25/2009 - V.C. heads to Orlando
On a busy day that included the 2009 NBA Draft, the Cavs trading for Shaq, and the surprising death of pop sensation Michael Jackson, the Orlando Magic were also in the news. Just a couple weeks removed from their appearance in the NBA Finals, Orlando traded Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, and Tony Battie to the New Jersey Nets for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson. For New Jersey, the deal was a way to clear up some cap room; for Orlando, the deal was an attempt to compensate for the loss of starting forward Hedo Turkoglu, who would go on to sign with the Toronto Raptors.