I don’t care about 1987
Four things sum up Boston basketball since 1987, the last time the Celtics went to the NBA Finals:
The death of Reggie Lewis.
Alonzo Mourning's buzzer-beater and the Charlotte Hornets'
subsequent playoff victory over the aging Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale in 1993.
Losing out on Tim Duncan in the 1997 NBA Draft.
The trades that brought Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to the city, creating the "Big 3" along with Celtics stalwart Paul Pierce.
So, for those under 30, there is little nostalgia in the Celtics' finals matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers thanks to over two decades of putrid play and bad breaks for arguably the finest franchise in the NBA.
Sixteen championship banners hang from the rafters of the TD Banknorth Garden, the last arriving in 1986. Only five of Boston's 26 division titles have come since Magic Johnson dropped 16 points, 19 assists and eight rebounds in Game 6 of the '87 finals to give the Lakers one of the 30 NBA titles the two franchises share and effectively ending Boston's dynasty.
The Celtics are just 903-869 (.509) during their finals absence, which isn't exactly knocking down the doors of greatness.
They're the New York Knicks. The Kansas City Royals. The Cincinnati Reds.
No one 30 and under is old enough to remember the dominance of the Royals in the early 80's, with players like Brett Saberhagen, George Brett and Willie Mays Aikens. To us, the Royals are a perennial doormat who has become essentially a triple-AAA team for bigger teams with larger profit margins like the Red Sox and Yankees.
To my generation the Celtics are just that: Another team whose dreadful moments have outshined their few notable ones.
That's not the case for, seemingly, everyone else in the world.
Watching television or reading newspapers since Boston's win over Detroit on Friday, you'd think we were in H.G. Well's time-machine whisking ourselves back 20 years to the good ole' days. Former players like Larry Bird, McHale, Parrish, Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell, Magic Johnson, Byron Scott and James Worthy have been interviewed by national outlets about the Boston-Los Angeles rivalry as we steamroll towards Thursday's 9:15 p.m. (which is ridiculously late, but that's another column) tip-off.
It's been difficult to focus on this year's series because the collective conscious of most sports writers â€“ who are much older than 30 â€“ is overly nostalgic.
The writers want to reminisce about how it was during the greatest era of NBA basketball, ever. They pull out their nap-snacks, cassette tape singles of Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian" and talk about how awesome "The Untouchables" was.
Then they descend into a negatively-charged diatribe about how pure the game was then and how the spoiled athletes of today can't put on a show like those greats did. They start through a normal and overused list of things to blame for it not being like it was in 1987: hip-hop, Allen Iverson, hip-hop, David Stern, Michael Jordan, hip-hop, etc.
While we certainly acknowledge our elders and can appreciate the wonderful games the Lakers and Celtics played in their three finals tilts, it's past us. It's over our heads.
And to be more frank, I don't care about 1987.
I was a curious, well-behaved 5-year-old in 1987, more concerned with getting the new Teddy Ruxpin doll than Danny Ainge's contributions off the bench.
Now that I'm of age I can see the wonderfulness of the NBA during that time, but the focus should be on today.
This series has so many great stories without even mentioning the past.
You've got Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce finally reaching their first NBA finals, despite being hall of fame players. There are the general managers of the two teams who pulled off great trades â€” some might call it larceny â€” that got their teams exactly where they wanted to be.
There is the best player in the NBA, Kobe Bryant, seeking to etch his name on the list of all-time greats and get one step closer to being better than his idol. He is Tiger Woods to Jack Nickalus, taking a dogged approach to surpassing everything Michael Jordan accomplished â€” whether Kobe admits it or not. That alone is one of the most fascinating storylines that I've seen in some time.
So enjoy this year's finals for this year's players.
Former Celtics coach Rick Pitino said it best:
"Larry Bird isn't walking through that door, friends. Kevin McHale isn't walking through that door, and Robert Parrish is not walking through that door. And if they did, they'd be old and gray."