I know that the world of sports provides thousands of potential moments that one can gawk at, and are probably better than my clip of the ending of a regular season game.. But, let's face it. We never really get excited when watching amazing plays on YouTube or SportsCenter. We already know what we're about to see, and what led up to it is usually lost on the viewer.
Great sports moments are better when you're watching them in person or on TV, and the event is totally unexpected. For me, my favorite sports highlight came when watching the Warriors slog their way through the 2005-2006 season. I had always been an avid NBA Live player, but as a kid growing up in Oklahoma City without cable, seeing basketball was limited to what ABC/NBC decided to cover or watching OU play down in Norman. It was only during the 2005-2006 season that my Dad finally got DirectTV and a subscription to NBA League Pass.
Being a teenager at the time, watching the Warrior games was a difficult process. They would often have late tipoffs at 9:30, and the DirecTV was only located in the living room. So I often had to hope my parents were asleep or fight like heck to stay awake. Not only that, but being 14 or 15 meant that my anger burned with the heat of a thousand suns whenever the Warriors would lose, and I would often teeter on the verge of breaking the remote.
And man, did those Warriors lose a lot. They had 34 wins that season, but they would often lose huge leads and lose to totally inferior teams. They also had a lot of really inconsistent players, like Baron Davis and Mike Dunleavy, who would be a hero one game and a villain the next. But, because of their inconsistent play, they would have their share of magical moments....like this one.
The Warriors were on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention after a strong start to the season, and no one gave them a chance against the Mavericks, who would go on to win 60 games, even though the Warriors had defeated them earlier that year. The Warriors held a pretty consistent lead throughout the game, but the more experienced Mavericks managed to slowly ebb that away in the fourth, eventually taking a commanding lead. But somehow, some way, the Warriors managed to come back.
The game is distant in my memory, and there's little remaining evidence left behind from the dark ages of 240p YouTube. But after Jason Terry missed two straight free throws to give the Warriors a chance at life, Jason Richardson rebounded the ball, intent on going coast-to-coast. The Mavericks single-covered him, not expecting him to go for a three. But after a sick spin move on the shaken Terry, he elevated for a tear drop three pointer over another Maverick defender who came to help. He landed at the free throw line, and the shot went in. I woke up the whole house, but I didn't care. My team had finally hauled the mail and defeated a fearsome opponent with a miracle comeback run. That day, I learned never to turn off the game, because sports miracles could happen right in front of your eyes.
At the young and tender age of 10, I was faced with a choice. Put on the spot by adults who saw it fit to force little boys to make hard decisions about life, I had to choose whether I would be a fan of "Magic" or Bird, the Celtics or the Lakers. They were the only two options, I was told. I went with Bird.
Despite the inauspicious beginning of my NBA fandom, it served as a valuable beginning to understanding the basketball ideal. I invested myself fully into the Celtics' ethos, watched Larry Bird orchestrate an offense so fluid and precise that I could never imagine anything else. THIS was the way basketball was supposed to be played.
Through that mindset, I settled in to watch the opening round of the 1986 playoffs, featuring the Celtics against the Chicago Bulls. Since the Celtics were favorites to win the whole shebang, I knew that this opening round was merely a warm-up. As it turned out, it was a warm-up for yours truly.
I watched this game live and it shook the very underpinnings of how I saw everything else going forward. The Celtics had won, but somehow, everything had changed. Air Jordan had arrived.