Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Running Diary: Michael Jordan scores 64 points against young Shaq

For this post you can thank Horace Grant’s hipstermatic, beyond-their-time glasses.

On Friday, I am walking back from dinner and literally stop in my tracks, tripping up the orderly line of people moving behind me, because I see a basketball game on TV. I stare through the windows of Outback Steakhouse and am transfixed, taken by the grainy footage – it’s Michael Jordan. More importantly, it’s Jordan’s sidekick, Grant, wearing a clunky pair of white goggles. I can’t stop staring. I push my nose to the glass and squint at the TV, then walk in and grab a beer just so I can watch. It’s not ESPN Classic: it’s Philippines Basketball TV. Get settled: this is my first ever running diary.

We're getting started in the 2nd quarter. 

2nd Quarter:

3:25: Cut to commercial. Call the Bulls hotline to order tickets! 1-900-454-BULL. Tickets through phone? Is there anything more antiquated about the 90s?

3:00: The score is 40-40, I think. I can’t tell, the scoreboard flashed for about 2 seconds. We've gone back in time to the 90s, where the scoreboard only flashes after made points. You expect me to be that vigilant, NBC??? At least they’re showing stats during the free throws. Turnovers, FG and FT percentage, points, and rebounds. They don’t call it “points in the paint” – they call it “inside points.”

2:00: All the white guys playing have blonde or brown locks that bounce up and down as they jog down the court. They look like male models. Would Ilgauskas and Nowinski even get drafted? They’re too ugly, right?

1:45 Bulls by 8. Apparently, Jordan has 40 points already.

1:25: Still can’t keep my eyes off Horace Grant. He’s literally wearing thick-rimmed white glasses, like the ones you secretly steal after riding that Universal Studios 3D roller coaster.

30 seconds: Everyone just seems slower and less athletic, but I can't tell if that's just the grainy camera footage.

No halftime break! Goooo Philippines Basketball TV!

Third Quarter:

11:00: Pippen just drove the lane and fully extended his right hand as he glided through the air to the hoop. Ridiculous. It looked like a Nike commercial in the middle of the game.

10:30: Phil Jackson's wearing a suit that's way too big for him. Nice mustache, Phil. Jeanie Buss is going to like that.

9:30: There’s a white guy on Orlando that doesn’t look beautiful, and it’s….Scott Skiles! He already has that fierce no-crap coach look to him. And he’s balding already. Hits two free throws.

7:45: Commercial. Oh hey there WNBA. What’s that, the championship is coming up soon? That’s cool. Remember when Lisa Leslie dunked in a game? Good memories. Here are the obligatory shots of jumpers swishing. I'm positive they made the ball striped so that replays of jump shots seem more exciting. Look, in the sky! It’s a colorful blur! (Aren’t we locked out? Why is the WNBA still playing??)

6:25: Trading buckets at this point. I haven’t seen many smiles. Actually, what I haven’t seen much of is showboating. There’s no Jason Terry pretending to be a fighter jet; there’s no Carter vroom-vrooming after every jump shot. We’re just playing basketball, men.

5:43: There are a ton of butt slaps though. Hit a jump shot: butt slap. Draw a foul: butt slap. Where is this in 2011?

5:40: Oh, right, the game. Remember Shaq? He’s on Orlando and is destroying the champion Bulls’ inside line. He’s skinny, nimble, quietly explosive. Amazing footwork. This is unbelievable. And he just hit a free throw!

3:00: O’Neil with two alley-oops in a row. Tie game. And Skiles is really killing it out there. He’s like the 90s version of JJ Barea: strong to the hoop every time, taking charges on defense, hitting the open man. Absolutely fearless. And he’s the shortest guy on the field. Are you watching this J.J. Redick? This is what you need to be doing!

2:45: Who is Donald Royal? I don’t know, but the crew cut looks straight out of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Actually, every black guy on the court has Will Smith’s haircut – nothing on the sides, and straight up high up top. It’s great. How do we bring this back?

1:30: Shaq has his own shoes! The cameras close-up: turquoise indents that spell out “Shaq.” This must be a big deal. Shoe endorsements must have just been starting to get big. Madonna's song, "Holiday" comes on in the bar. Perfect timing.

4th quarter:

9:00: 99-94, Orlando. Skiles is such a boss. Splits two Bulls big men for a layup. Meanwhile, Pippen is on the other side of the court, rocking that black arm band like no other.

7:32: Live weekly games for the WNBA!

7:20: Michael Jordan is 22 of 35 from the field. The Bulls are up by 8. How can this be a classic game if the Bulls blow out Orlando?

6:00: Jordan pump fakes at the 3-point line, swerve-steps inside to 18 feet and rises to swish a shot. 101- 98 Chicago. Now that I’ve seen 2 quarters of this man, I’ve realized that his post-up game was violently underrated by me. The drives and dunks show up on highlights, but half of his points tonight have come from posts at 10 feet. One shake, one dribble, one pivot, and a little rise, turn, separation, and it’s two easy points. This man’s footwork is amazing.

5:35: O’Neil gets tripled in the paint. Kick out to Skiles, who immediately cuts to the basket, then hits a wide open man. Pippen comes back with a full speed dribble down the court , and goes behind-the-back going 100 miles per hour. Nobody bats an eye.

5:00: Cut to cheerleader shaking poofy pom-poms. Cut to crowd. Does that girl’s ugly Christmas sweater have cotton balls taped to it?? I definitely missed this cultural period while I was in China/Canada.

4:00 O’Neil is getting the ball every possession. Another bucket. Cut to Phil Jackson. Is his face implying, “Wow, I’ve got to have that guy!” right now? Is this the Inception point for an O’Neil-Jackson pairing with the Lakers?

2:12: Jordan hits after 4 uncharacteristic misses in a row. They’re up comfortably by 5. He's getting an absurd amount of separation during his turnarounds in the key. When he elevates, nobody is within 2 feet of him, there are no hands in his face. I can’t tell it’s his leaping ability or just his deception. I should ask this on Quora.

2:00: I really want a Jordan vintage jersey.

1:30: Steve Kerr enters…for Orlando! He’s a 4 years pro at this point.

33 seconds: Interesting sequence: Horace is fouled with 23 seconds left, Orlando down 4. Misses both free throws -- and Orlando grabs the ball. Then Nick Anderson gets 2 free throws and misses them both -- but Shaq gets a putback dunk! Cartwright then goes to the line for Chicago (why didn't they get it into Jordan?) as a 45.5% FT shooter. He’s grimacing at the line, and his free throw form is tragic. He pounds the ball and brings his arm up in rigor mortis, in a semicircle, like catapult and then jerks it forwards. It's like a backwards set shove heave. He makes one of two after a lane violation. 6.8 seconds. 112-109 Bulls. The big men for the Bulls are so, so bad.

3.9 seconds: Nick Anderson from 26 feet!!!! Who is this guy????

1.4 seconds for Jordan magic. Pippen puts a pass across court on the money but Jordan’s turnaround 3 bounces off the rim. Overtime.

Overtime tipoff: the camera angle is directly looking down. This is enough to make up for everything else.

4:15: Another O’Neil dunk. Jordan can’t answer in the key. Jordan’s definitely taking the harder shots. He looks like Allen Iverson being chased around the perimeter. Skiles is everywhere, committing hard fouls, hitting open jump shots.

1:40: Bulls down 1. Orlando’s bench is jumping up and down after every score. What camaraderie! Why’d they break up this team?

:36 Jordan strips the ball and has a fast break! He gets fouled and Anderson tumbles into the stands. He slaps the camera on him in frustration. Jordan’s at 60 tonight. Hits 2. Tie game at 123.

Here, the game tape skips to :04 seconds, as Jordan hits a meaningless three to pull the Bulls within 4. And, right on cue, Philippines basketball TV switches to Denver vs. Portland. After an hour of investment, the payoff of crunch-time has eluded me. And there's a bill for 212 pesos for a Corona I didn’t touch.