On how many occasions over the years — in the NBA and other sports — has an athlete’s dramatic return from an injury been compared to hobbled Knicks C Willis Reed emerging from the MSG tunnel prior to Game 7 of 1970 Finals against the Lakers? Though long considered one of the last century’s crucial hoops moments, the New York Times’ Harvey Araton reminds us, just 6 days before the game’s 30th anniversary, “what today™s young fan would find unacceptable and utterly preposterous about 1970 is that there was no free network access in the home-team market….hence, most of us only heard of Reed™s classic appearance and his two early jump shots that fueled the rout.”
I recently spoke to some old friends about that splendid Friday night. With one exception ” a guy whose cousin lived on the East Side and had early cable ” those memories all centered on a radio, like early 20th-century snapshots.
In a living room with a father and a brother; in a basement with lights dimmed and a couple of carefully rolled marijuana joints; in a Chinese restaurant during a family dinner out with a transistor pressed to an ear. One poor sap was afraid to break a date with his girlfriend but escaped to the popcorn stand to press the attendant for a first-half score.
I was a high school senior, nine days from my 18th birthday and too nervous to risk some infuriating family interruption. I went across the street to the grocery store, bought a bag of chips and a bottle of Royal Crown Cola and locked myself in my 1961 Mercury Comet ” purchased for me by my father the previous summer for $500 and parked in the lot of our Staten Island housing development.
My tactical mistake was refusing to waste the little gas I had ” as usual ” in my tank. I didn™t start the engine and the battery died just before halftime. Fortunately, by that point, the Lakers had more or less expired, as well, trailing, 69-42.