Only on a Street Corner in New York

Last night I watched the Dallas-Golden State game through the window of a trendy Manhattan sports bar beside a guy named Mike. I hadn’t intended to watch the game that way, but after I got to talking to Mike I figured it was as good a place as any to watch the Warriors work out on the Mavericks. Mike was fresh off of a three-day stint in jail after being picked up for a warrant on Monday. In the process he’d lost his job and what little bit of money he had to his name. Mike’s last two bucks in the world had gone to buy the 40 oz. he was sipping on. As a gesture of kindness, he offered to share it with me; I declined. It’s been nearly a decade since I tasted my last 40 oz. of Crazy Horse, but my taste buds still haven’t entirely recovered.  

Since Mike and I didn’t have any audio outside, we created our own running commentary. We shot the shit about who the MVP should be, why Phil Jackson isn’t winning anymore, the agony of the Knicks missing the playoffs yet again, and, of course, the Warriors. When Golden State started pulling away, Mike and I started slapping skin like long lost friends. After every Stephen Jackson three, Mike would do a little circle dance. When Baron Davis powered his way to the rack, Mike repeatedly cried out, “I tell you what, that Byron (yes, Byron) Davis is the TRUTH!” It wasn’t long before I got in on the act myself, started dancing a little street corner jig whenever the Warriors made a big play.

For the record, I could have gone inside the bar, found a seat at the bar, handed the tender my card and enjoyed the game front and center on the plasma screen with a stream of beers in tow. But after a while Mike and I had our own thing happening outside that felt a whole lot more genuine than what was happening inside. I didn’t care about the chill. It didn’t matter that a cop car kept swirling the block in hopes of catching Mike with the bottle to his lips. What mattered was that we were two absolute strangers enjoying the game through a glass window. 

The Starting Five is typically a place where you can find sports commentary steeped in serious questions about race and society. At turns we are watchdogs, commentators, agitators and innovators. But beneath all of the spirited discussion lies a group of sports junkies who live for the games we watch and write about. For us, sports aren’t just entertainment, nor X’s and O’s, nor an arena in which to act our gripes with the world. Ultimately, we watch to be wowed by the unexpected. We tune in to see an athlete or team of athletes rise to the occasion and perform remarkable feats—exactly what Golden State did last night. Spectactor sports allow any and all of us to transcend ourselves, to become a part of a larger whole, if only for a couple of hours. Golden State’s fans are prime example of what I mean. As the lead swelled and time expired they seemed coalesce into a single wave of collegesque excitement. Make no mistake about it, the players on the court won game 6. But they could not have done so in such convincing fashion without those fans. What I saw in that arena was a movement infused with such raw hunger and indomitable will that the Mavericks simply could not win. The best they could have hoped for was a Warriors let-down.

Given the Mavericks record-setting regular season record and playoff history in recent years, this has to be seen as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the NBA Playoffs, if not professional sports. Certainly people will say they called the series from the beginning, but very few would have been willing to put money behind that prophecy. Even going into last night’s game no one honestly believed Dallas was finished, not if they recalled the ’06 playoffs when Phoenix was down 3-1 against the Lakers and managed to win three straight to take the series. With Dirk finally breaking out in game 5, the unspoken sentiment was that Golden State’s chances in game 6 were sharply reduced, and were next to nil in a game 7 situation. That the Warriors not only showed up but won in convincing fashion indicates something special is going on out in the Bay, and that we would do well to realize that this Golden State team was built for these playoffs, not next year’s. Unlike with Denver, there are no missing pieces, no obvious holes that need filling. This is the team Nellie wanted all year long and with San Antonio and Phoenix set to slug it out in what’s sure to be a brutal and exhausting series, there’s just no telling how far they can go.

I’m not glad that Golden State won the series because of a personal vendetta I have against Dallas, Mark Cuban or the Dirk Lovers Society. I’m glad because upsets are necessary. They preserve the idea of the game. They give fans of perennial losers like the Warriors a chance to release years of frustration on a favored opponent. They give fans of other perennial losers a reason to hold out a little bit longer. They remind us that the league is supposedly filled with the best basketball players in the world, and that on any given night anyone should be able to defeat anyone. They shake up what can begin to feel like a mere formality or forgone conclusion. They send a message to other dominant teams that they too can go down if they aren’t careful. Most of all, though, they allow people like Mike and me to come together in one of those brief wrinkles in time to share in the wonder of the unexpected.

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14 Responses to “Only on a Street Corner in New York”

  1. Hey hnic,

    When all is said and done,
    all real fans want is for their team
    to be good. I felt the passion of
    Warrior fans all the way from B-More
    and it was so effing cool to see the
    team close the show. You’re right,
    this wasn’t about the Mavericks, it
    was about sports can unify people
    as few other things in this world
    can. Given their mental instablity,
    the Warriors will probably lose to
    either Utah or Houston, but the
    true Warrior fans who survived
    Gary St. Jean and losing Gilbert
    Arenas will remember last night
    as a payment for all their
    suffering while whetting their
    appetites for what’s potentially
    in store for the future.
    And if the Warriors can do it, the
    Orioles can too. I think.

  2. I think we all can visualize similar moments HNIC. These types of moments in sports are needed. GS just wanted in more. The threes were dropping like water. You know you wanted that 40 bruh!

    “Byron” Davis is the truth! I can remember in 95 or 96 he tore his acl against michigan after a sick baseline dunk in the second half and continued to play through and sparked a Bruins close win. Tractor Traylor had guaranteed a Final Four appearance but Baron’s play made sure it didn’t happen. Every time I see BD I get sick.

    Dirk is soft, it’s as simple as that. It will be very interesting to see how the media responds to Dirk choking, because I’m sure we all can recall many players who were labeled chokers the rest of their career because of such an abysmal performance. Maybe SJ whispered in Dirk’s ear that he was gonna cap his ass ;)

    I spoke with Matt Barnes in Vegas last summer and he was visibly upset that Philly had his career in limbo. Mo Cheeks and Henry Bibby were close by yuckin in up–Chris Webber’s Bada Bling–and Matt was heated. He sure did the damn thing this year and plays with a sick purpose. His eyes are that of an assassin. Our boy Ryan has an interview with Barnes on his site: http://hoopsaddict.com/2007/05/01/nba-playoffs-player-interview-matt-barnes-golden-state-warriors/

    Webb’s Bada Bling on my site:

    http://www.michaeltillery.com/content/cwebber.htm

  3. Marlon Brando refused the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in “The Godfather” for political reasons. Should Dirk refuse the MVP for athletic reasons? lol I just can’t say the Most Valuable Player of the league is the same guy who only scored 8 points in an elimination game. If he does win, that’s going to be an interesting press conference.

  4. This is what happens when the media swings on a demographic jock

  5. maxairington Says:

    That was great hnic. One of the more attractive women Ive seen in a while wanted to chat me up in a bar last night during the game. I gave her my number and told her to call me later. She probably won’t, she seemed insulted I wasn’t drooling all over her. But that game was still worth it. Again, nice job.

  6. I love that last paragraph. “I’m glad because upsets are necessary. They preserve the idea of the game.” Absolutely!

  7. Funny ass name TFGM! All I’ll be able to see all day is that mustache.

  8. I’m really happy for Barnes. When I think about what the NBA is missing more of it’s guys like him who love to play, can play and just want and need the opportunity. If there’s anyone who’s raised their stock to a new level already, it’s him.

    As for Dirk as MVP…I actually watched the post-game coverage and felt bad for the guy. He took responsibility. Said he needed to work on his low post game. It was kind of painful to watch, but I respected his candor. That being said, he’s proven he’s not an MVP of the league.

    As for the ladies: It’s best they know where a man stands from jump street. The last thing you want is for a woman you just met (no matter how beautiful) to get the impression that she can interrupt history in the making.

  9. Ain’t that the truest…

  10. TheLastPoet Says:

    That’s just the real-ness right there, Hnic.

    I don’t know what’s better.

    We got Baron Davis on one leg, no hops, no D, but still doin what True MVPs do: going to Plan B, giving everything he got, leading the team, controlling the tempo, talking, cajoling, hugging his ‘mates, making sure they’re at the right spots on the floor, mean muggin Austin Croshere at just the right moment, and then backing off in order to settle the matter they way real players do – an ice cold scoop to the hoop – And 1! (where was that leadership for the Mavs? I say, where?)

    We got Stephen Jackson cooler than a cat sittin in front of the A/C sippin a milkshake in a snowstorm. Seven 3s all cold as ice, but still with the gumption (some call it basketball IQ…) to see a mismatch and take young bwoy Ager down low and post him up for a crucial basket (showing Dirk how it should’ve been done, really…).

    Finally we got the Hnic takin it all in from the outside, with a down-on-his-luck type brotha from off the corner. That’s soul in the hole, that’s Arthur Agee, that’s home girl from Seattle who had the baby and still won the chip, that’s Pee Wee Kirkland and Earl The Goat still giving back, still telling kids to do it bigger and better. That’s the heart of the game, the foundation, the soul of a people, my man. That’s class.

    Much respect.

  11. NICE work!

  12. MA, don’t worry, she’ll call.

    LP, I love your response. It’s Jazz.

  13. Could it be that it was all so simple then…

    Nah, B. It has NEVER been that simple for us.

    If ONLY it could just be about the games.

    if it was ONLY about the games, then we could all go to TBL and yuck it up.

    If it was ONLY about the games, The Warriors wouldnt have turned into Black America’s team.

    This series turned in the court of public opinion for black folk because it became a referendum on Dirk. (Ignoring the fact that Dirk has more in common with KG than he does with Larry Bird, coming in straight outta HS and all)

    Dirk suffers because he didnt LEARN how to win in College.

    Before you go off..

    He didnt Ball his way outta the PAT and into the league the hard way like SJax either. Think Jax learned a thing or two catching that ring while in SA?

    Dirk dont know HOW to win, and hes gotten a pass up until now.

    This is TWO world class choke jobs on his resume.

    Black folk everywhere but Dallas been keeping track.

    Black folk IN Dallas ride harder for Josh Howard than they do for Dirk anyway.

    You were lucky to get that moment with Mike on the corner. You were able to avoid the reality the rest of us deal with for a hot minute.

    Good ish, bruh.

  14. Sorry, aber das bezweifel ich ganz stark…Baer

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