First of all, Dirk Nowitzki won an NBA Finals game with a fever that topped 100 degrees. Second, he hit the game-winning shot. Third, according to teammates, he couldn't even speak during the game. Think about how absurd all that sounds.
"This is the Finals," Dirk said afterward. "You have to go out there and compete and try your best for your team. So that's what I did." It was incredible. Struggling through poor shooting and obvious fatigue, he eventually hit the game-winning layup. Thank God he did, because he honestly might have collapsed if it'd gone to OT.
But for the record, watching Dirk wasn't quite as triumphant as it sounds. Yeah, it was impressive that he played, but he also struggled all night. You could see it on his face. You could see it in his footwork. Bobbled passes, blank stares, dumb mistakes, and 6-19 shooting from the field. It was the sort of game that announcers would call gutsy, but like a lot of other gutsy performances, it was also incredibly ugly.
For me, what Dirk did more than anything else was put Michael Jordan in perspective. I started watching basketball just as Michael Jordan's reign at the top of the NBA was beginning. So for a while, MJ winning just seemed like a given. The same way young kids think their parents have the answer for everything, I got to know Michael Jordan as the guy that always wins at everything.
Later, Jordan came to play for the Wizards just as I turned 13. So around the same time I realized my parents didn't have all the answers, I realized my childhood hero was a washed up, bitter tyrant, who was ruining my favorite team on the floor, and acting like a complete douchebag to everyone he met in Washington. Plus, I'd just hit puberty. Strange time.
At 8 or 9 years old, though, life was simple. Rules were just rules. Bedtime was at 10:00 pm and I could wake up the next morning to watch whatever game I was missing overnight.
I remember one night in 1997 because this was the first time my dad let me stay up to watch a game. It was Michael Jordan's Flu Game, and he was in the middle of scoring 38 points to single-handedly kill the Utah Jazz and take control of the NBA Finals. My dad wasn't even much of a basketball fan, but he told me, "Watch what's happening right now. This is incredible."
You know what happened from there. The Jazz led for most of the game, but Jordan scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, including a dagger three to bury Utah in the final minutes. I stayed up past midnight to watch the whole thing, but in the end, staying up past midnight seemed more amazing than anything Jordan did.
Intellectually I understood that Jordan was sick and could see that he was sweating a lot, but at that point in life, rules were rules. Regardless of the circumstances, "Michael Jordan always wins" just seemed like a universal axiom. So I went to bed with my Dad rhapsodizing about Jordan and me saying something like, "Well duh, that's why he's MJ."
It's hard for a 10 year-old to put that in perspective. Which brings us back to Tuesday.
What Dirk did was incredible, and fighting through that fever enhances a legend that's already ballooned out of control this spring. He deserves every ounce of praise he's gotten. But as a basketball fan, I'll always remember how crappy Dirk looked when he was sick, and how that made me appreciate what Jordan did.
Dirk's performance may down as one of the gutsiest efforts in Finals history, but watching him flail around on Tuesday reminded us that even the gutsiest superstars are human. But then... More than a decade after his last Bulls game, thinking back to Michael Jordan still makes me wonder.
With that, let's get into Talking Points.
Please God Let This Happen. Isiah Thomas is reportedly a candidate for the Pistons' head coaching vacancy, which would be just about the best thing ever. It'd be one thing for Isiah to make a triumphant return to the bench, but there could be no better team than these Pistons.
"Charlie Villanueva! Ben Gordon! Jonas Jrebko! And your head coach... ISIAH THOMASSSS!!!"
This past April, Zeke said, "It would be an honor," when somebody asked him about coaching the Pistons. Now it could happen. HONOR HIM, DETROIT.
By The Way, Dennis Rodman Was Pretty Much The Greatest. One thing people forget about Jordan's Flu Game... Before it happened, the story of the series had been Dennis Rodman openly bad-mouthing Mormons to the media in Utah. As he told reporters, "It's difficult to get in sync because of all the asshole Mormons out here. And you can quote me on that." He later clarified himself, "If I knew it was a religious-type deal, I never would have said it."
God it would have been fun to have Dennis Rodman around for the blog era.
Fake Rex Ryan Should Run For President. SINK OR SWIM, America.
Planning On Watching The Stanley Cup Tonight? You probably should.
I've watched that clip at least 500 times since yesterday. TIMMMMYYYY TAWMASSSSS.
The Bats**t Insane Horror Story Of The Day. FLYING F***ING BEARS:
Police in Quebec said a 300-pound male black bear wandered onto a road and was struck by an eastbound Pontiac Sunfire. The impact sent the animal hurtling through the air, where it smashed the windshield of a westbound Nissan Pathfinder sport utility vehicle and went out through the back window, regional police spokesman Officer Martin Fournel said.
"It was a 300-pound bullet," he said.
The SUV's 35-year-old female driver and a 40-year-old man sitting behind her were killed; a 28-year-old front-seat passenger suffered minor injuries, Fournel said. In the Pontiac, neither the driver, a 23-year-old man, nor his 19-year-old male passenger was hurt.
Absolutely terrifying. (ht: DangerGuerrero)
Auburn Remains The Most Ridiculous Program In College Football. To wit:
Did The Washington Wizards Predict Contemporary Hip Hop? The title alone guaranteed this piece would be great, but dig a little deeper and think about it. Is there really a difference between Waka Flocka and Deshawn Stevenson? They're the same person, right?
This point was dead-on, too:
3) The Internet making something sorta mediocre very beloved.
Those "glory years" Wizards weren’t actually that good. The team never won more than 45 games in a season and won just a single playoff series during its run. Yet they became darlings of the NBA. Why? Easy — the Internet. From Gilbert Arenas’s groundbreaking blog (he was called the league’s "first blog superstar"), to the countless locker room anecdotes doled out by our main man Dan Steinberg on the D.C. Sports Bog, to the absurdist ramblings on fan site Wizznutzz, the Wizards kept us constantly entertained. Sounds a lot like the constant tweeting, tumbling, YouTubing of today’s hip-hop young’ns. When it comes strictly to rapping talent, Lil B feels a lot like one of those 42-and-40 Wizards teams. But throw in a never ending stream of online extra-curriculars and you’ve got a sensation.
Finally, Happy Birthday To Bryant "Big Country" Reeves. It's also Kanye West's birthday, along with my buddy Sherman, so there's celebrations all around. But really, if MJ was the first superstar of my life, then Big Country was the first awkward white guy I ever truly appreciated. Gotta show some major love to Big Country today. More like Big Sexy, amirite?!