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June 23 - Memories of NBA Finals Past

I have been very fortunate to have seen 6 complete NBA Finals in my lifetime, corresponding to the 6
NBA Championships of the Chicago Bulls. Traveling to L.A. in 1991 for games 3, 4, and 5 was what I
thought to be, a once in a lifetime opportunity. When Portland came about in 1992, I informed my wife-
who was not particularly happy about my one week “vacation” in the Pacific Northwest without her- that it
was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a second year in a row.

By 1993 and Phoenix, there was no question of whether I would follow the team or not. My presence was
a certainty no matter the expense, the time off from work, or the pain of watching your team lose among
strangers.

Looking back these many years later, it is memories I value greatly. Fortunately, I was able to hook on
with NBC and get nearly the equivalent seat at each road game as I had at the home scorer’s table.
However, two events stick out in my more than any of the shots, passes, turnovers, comments or events
that happen on the road that I’ve been told that are supposed to stay on the road.

In 1996, the Bulls played Seattle in the Finals and about 6 crew members of our stat crew spent a week
there for games 4, 5, and 6. We rented a van and spent a day island hopping and sight seeing. We
heard about the nuclear submarine naval base and inquired about the opportunity of getting a tour and
were told that the base was closed to the public. Simple rejection like this was not a deterrent to my
traveling companions who decided that getting on the base was more important than winning the Finals

Upon returning to our hotel, one member of our group put in a call to the naval base and identified
himself as being “from the Chicago Bulls” and asked if he could arrange a tour for some of the group.
After being a couple of call transfers and very little questioning, we had our invitation.

At 2 PM the next day, our traveling party of middle-aged, balding, overweight white basketball
statisticians and clock operators slowly unfolded ourselves from the van after the ride and was greeted
by the base brass who kept looking into the van expecting that surely at least one large African American
person “from the Chicago Bulls” would emerge. These officers, who were definitely ranking officials,
were expecting a bit differently looking group “from the Chicago Bulls”. We got our tour of the nuclear
subs which was quite fascinating. But I’m sure someone paid for not asking whether it was Michael
Jordan and Scottie Pippen asking for the tour- or at least Jud Buechler and Luc Longley.

The second event that remains with me coincided with the great Michael Jordan “shot” that won the
1998 championship for the Bulls. Being the sixth game over two years that I was in the same seat in
Utah, I was getting to know the people around me pretty well. The fans directly behind me were a family
of four that I learned had sat in those seats since the Delta Center opened. They were devoted Jazz
fans- never missing a game.

I also learned that they were devoutly religious Mormons who were quite guilty about breaking religious
rules by being at the game that Sunday. Having discussed this part of their life with me and passing
along their passion for the Jazz and their prayers for a title, they asked that should the Bulls somehow
win, that I please restrain myself and not celebrate in front of them because it would break their hearts.

At halftime, we talked again and I passed along to them what I had heard about Scottie Pippen, who
was playing with what we would later learn was two herniated discs. My new religious friends said he
would be in their prayers.

Through the second half I concentrated on my stat duties and really didn’t pay much attention to them.
As the game wound down and the events that became “the shot” unfolded, the memories that make
them up in my mind are firmly entrenched both visually and aurally.

From my vantage point, I see Jordan make his fake and Bryan Russell goes shooting by (I know Jordan
could never have pushed him because… I’m the Chicago stat guy and Jordan never would do that, that’
s why!). Jordan takes that perfect form jumper that swishes through the net. Championship #6!

The sound I’m remembering is not the crowd; it’s not Elliott Kalb, Mr. Stats, who is on also on headset
with me working with NBC, nor the Utah stat crew who is next to me. It’s the religious couple behind me,
who violated their deep faith just to be there, who begged me not to cheer in this situation. The wife is
standing and has just loudly proclaimed “Sh*t”, while the husband is screaming at the refs “he f*cking
pushed off!!”

NBA Playoff Basketball…I love it!