Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Win It For...

One of the most authentic elements of the Red Sox run to the 2004 World Series title was a thread posted on Sons of Sam Horn, entitled it simply "Win It For..."

SoSH readers then contributed there own stories -- of grandfathers, brothers, friends -- who were life-long Red Sox fans and who, in many cases, were not living at the time the Sox appeared to be ready to win the long-awaited title. (Former Sox players, like Johnny Pesky, still alive then and now, and Ted Williams, not, were also featured.)

The SoSH thread was then turned into a book that was published to modest acclaim.

With the Celtics firmly in command in the second half last night, thoughts turned to a "Win It For..." thread for old Celts.

Red Auerbach would be featured prominently in any such thread; the new-look Celts, with hard-nosed defense and an unselfish core group of KG, Ray-Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, would have been appreciated by Red even in today's NBA.

...Johnny Most.

...Reggie Lewis and ...Easy Ed Macauley (the only Celtics with their numbers retired without a World Championship ring; Macauley was traded in 1956 for Bill Russell.)

The wags had some fun with some other memories of Celtics past:

...Acie Earl.

...Todd Day.

...Dino Radja.

...Xavier McDaniel.

But perhaps the most compelling "Win It For..." would be a young man, who 22 years ago tonight, flew back from Boston to his dorm at the University of Maryland, having just been selected as the 'heir apparent' by the then-World Champion Boston Celtics.

Before 9:00am the next morning, Len Bias' dream was gone.

And it took the franchise until last night to get back on top.

Hat tip: AH

1 comment:

Andrew said...

The Number 34.

The number 34 figured very prominently in the Celtics NBA Championship clinching victory on Tuesday night. After all, it is the jersey number of Paul Pierce, Celtics captain and series MVP. When Pierce came to Boston, one of his main concerns was that the number 34 still be in circulation (not retired) as he had worn #34 in high school and college, and really wanted to wear it in the pros.

Pierce, described by some as "country strong", originally came by #34 the old-fashioned accident. Said Pierce, "My sophomore year in high school, it was the biggest jersey, the only one I could fit into at the time." Pierce, as it has been well documented, grew up in Inglewood, in the shadow of the old Fabulous Forum, and originally got interested in basketball watching the Celtics / Lakers series in the 1980's. (Of course, he was a Lakers fan at that time).

In a twist of irony, the speculation in Boston this week is that Pierce's performance these past few months has solidified him as an all-time Celtic great, a near-certain Hall of Famer, and the next to have his number retired in the rafters of the Garden.

Speaking of the Lakers and #34, this was also the jersey number worn by former Laker (and current Phoenix Sun) Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal and Lakers star Kobe Bryant famously feuded during their time together in LA, leaving the Lakers no choice (more or less) but to discard O'Neal in favor of Bryant a few seasons back, but not before the two combined for 3 NBA championships. Perhaps the most glaring weakness of this current Lakers team was the lack of interior toughness and strength. This was supposed to be solved by the addition of Pau "Soft" Gasol; that is, until everyone outside of Tennessee and Spain actually got a chance to watch Gasol play and realize that the Rookie of the Year award he collected with the Memphis Grizzlies was probably mostly on account of his offensive prowess (and a lack of another viable ROY candidate).

Had the Lakers still had ol' #34 (even his older and larger incarnation), would this series have gone a different direction? If nothing else, it might have been closer.

Finally, the #34 was very likely the number that would have been worn by Len Bias. Bias had worn #34 at Maryland. The only thing standing in his way with the Celtics was that journeyman Rick Carlisle was currently wearing #34, up until his departure from the team following the 1986-87 season (what would have been Bias' rookie year).

However, one can't help but think that Bias might have (as is the custom from time to time) bought number 34 from Carlisle, given that he was flush with cash from his rookie contract (2nd overall pick) and his $1.6 M deal with Reebok that he had negotiated and was about to finalize. Perhaps the Celtics brass might have even given Carlisle some "encouragement" to make the rookie feel comfortable, that is assuming Carlisle would have still been on the roster, had Bias actually joined the Celtics. If nothing else, Bias might have switched his number after Carlisle departure from the team, following his rookie year, to the more familiar #34.

So, had Bias been granted #34, perhaps Paul Pierce would have been very disappointed to arrive in Boston after his 1998 draft day to realize that it was no longer available, as 12-year vet Len Bias was occupying the jersey. (That is, assuming a relatively stable spacetime continuum, that would still have Pierce being drafted by the C's.) What if...

Of course, as the Celtics board the Duck Boats today to take them through Boston on their NBA Championship "rolling rally", it marks the 22nd anniversary (to the day and almost to the minute) that the world was learning about the tragic death of Leonard Kevin Bias.