I don't quite understand what happened. They were up nine midway through the third, busy choking the Spurs like they were Wayne Brady's ho. And then... poof! Gone.
The Spurs are champions again, and the world is a little poorer for it. Tim Duncan will not parade around with a championship belt next year. Whoever the part-time accountant who does the Spurs' PA can't hold a candle to Mason. And no one in San Antonio wears a mask or looks like a vampire or wears his socks way up high classic style (miss you, Corliss) or busts out a magnificent afro and makes All Star teams on sheer will. And there's no Spurs Darko. Just the boringest superstar in history, a man who should foul out in six minutes every game, a big-nosed salmon ripped from the sea and hurled on the deck of a boat, and a French guy screwing Eva Longoria. Y'all can keep Team Mexico.
I could go into the what and why of it and break it all down but I think that's beside the point. The point is, despite losing a Game 7 that wouldn't have had to happen but for a huge mistake in Game 5, I don't feel particularly crushed. I should, I know, but it's hard to get upset when the Pistons picked themselves up again and again, punch drunk and staggered, but never stayed down. Yeah, the Spurs got to play Apollo Creed but it was Rocky's movie.
That's what I never understood about the media and their love affair with player-hating the Pistons. For God's sake, we've got a guy who wears a mask all the time! And belts, and Cool Hand Chauncey, and a pterodactyl man, and Ben Goddamn Wallace. In the entire scheme of things, has there been a championship team more likeable, more approachable, more admirable than the Pistons in the last twenty years? No. It's all aloof superstars, singly or in pairs, coupled with anonymous role players and usually a prick coach who thinks he's a genius for tagging along with Jordan and Shaq. The Pistons are weird and beautiful, a team that turned me from a lukewarm, fair-weather NBA fan into someone who long after "3" and "1" hang in the rafters of the Palace will probably sit and watch a lottery-bound team with the same anticipation Bill Simmons hilariously gets whenever Danny Ainge tries to screw up the Celtics some more. I love these guys, and will love the team even when they're gone--as long as the teal never comes back.
So. They got up, and then they did it again, and again, and again. They couldn't one final time, down six with the clock winding down and history staring them in the face. But goddamn the last two years were fun. Thanks, guys. Let's do it again in the fall.
Saturday, June 25, 2005