Thursday, July 30, 2015

Haven't We Been Here Before

This year's Miami Heat rings a bell.

Haven't We Been Here Before

Both Dirk Nowitzki, left, and Bill Walton upped their games to defeat the favorite contenders and win NBA titles. (AP Photos)
Both Dirk Nowitzki, left, and Bill Walton upped their games to defeat the favorite contenders and win NBA titles. (AP Photos)

Let’s see if I got this right:

♦ Superstar basketball player joins two other established stars on a team in a deal that involves a lot of cash. Expectations for said team go through the roof and the public wonders if there will be enough basketballs available for all the players on the team.

♦ Team stumbles slightly at the start, but finds its footing and becomes the team to beat as the playoffs begin.

♦ Team makes it way into the Finals and is a definitive favorite, despite having won just one more game during the regular season than its Finals opponent.

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♦ Nonetheless, team wins two early games and its fans begin to map out parade routes in their head … when all goes awry, thanks mostly to a tall, scraggily, white guy who has taken his game to another level and teammates whose talents mesh in precision with his.

That team, of course, would be …

The 1976-77 Philadelphia 76ers.

Julius Erving (purchased from the New York Nets just before the season started) joining George McGinnis and Doug Collins.

Losing their first two games and starting 4-4 en route to winning “only” 50 games.

Taking a 2-0 lead over the 49-33 Portland Trail Blazers, only to see Bill Walton (averages of 18.5 points and 19.0 rebounds in the Finals) and company win four in a row.

For me, that Sixers team was without a doubt the most fun team to watch in Philadelphia sports history, even though it led to one of the most heart-breaking endings.

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About this blog

Boop – who goes by Bob Vetrone Jr. when he is undercover or paying bills – has been at the Daily News since 1982, after working for five years at the Philadelphia Bulletin up to its closing. Along with helping to build the sports scoreboards most nights, he has had great input into the papers’ special sports pullouts – March Madness, Broad Street Run, Record Breakers, Greatest Moments – as well as its day-to-day, award-winning event coverage.

A 1980 graduate of North Catholic, he took some evening college courses. Those lasted right up until the first conflict with a Big 5 doubleheader.

His favorite books growing up were the NBA Guide and the Baseball Encyclopedia, which was, for all intents and purposes, the Internet before there was an Internet.

He has been immersed in sports statistics since the early 70s, when his father (long-time sports writer, broadcaster and the Daily News’ Buck The Bartender), would take him into the Bulletin newsroom overnight in the summer and let him update the Phillies statistics in a little, black spiral notebook. But things have changed tremendously in the decades since … He now uses a big, black spiral notebook.

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Bob Vetrone Jr.
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