Ten years. I am now a college student, my brother’s soon to take college entrance tests. I just left my teenage years behind.
Yet images from the legendary seven-game Sacramento Kings-Los Angeles Lakers Western Conference Finals in 2002 still remain fresh in my mind, as fresh as the wounds which were reopened by watching part 6 of “The Greatest Tragedy In Sports” series on YouTube.
The next week or so will mark the 10-year anniversary of perhaps the greatest playoff series of the new millennium.
It was the series which I really tuned in to from wire to wire of every game, from the opening tip to the final buzzer; from the broadcasts opening billboard to the network’s “All rights reserved…” display on the TV. I fondly remember one game in the series which was scheduled to air on ESPN Asia at 8 am Manila time. I had a dream, and in that dream, the clock showed 8:00 am and I was still in bed. When it ticked one more minute, it was already 8:01 and I was still in bed. I panicked that I might miss the game. “Oh no!” I thought. I bolted up from my bed and checked the time. It was not even 7 am yet.
I was that engrossed with that playoff series it permeated my dreams.
So here’s a series of entries to commemorate each game from Game 4 to Game 7, the most dramatic games of the series.
Game 6, June 1, 2002 (Manila time)
Game 6 is an infamous game marred by controversy. Many believe the game to be fixed in favor of the Lakers. And as I watched it again now that I’m more mature and knowledgeable, I agree. I am a Kings fan, sure, but the calls in this game, especially in the fourth quarter, were atrocious. Blatantly disrespectful. In one sequence, Vlade Divac came up with the loose ball, Shaq bumped him from behind, Divac fell and had to call timeout. No foul called, timeout wasted. In another, I’m not sure if it was Divac or Scot Pollard guarding Shaq, but the defender barely touched Shaq’s forearm with his thumb and got whistled for a foul.
The Lakers attempted 27 free throws IN THE FOURTH QUARTER ALONE, compared to the Kings’ nine. Pollard and Divac fouled out. Star power forward Chris Webber almost fouled out. Heck, the Kings had to use Lawrence Funderburke to guard Shaq.
For the Lakers? The only guy in foul trouble was Derek Fisher, who finished the game with five fouls.
Even the commentators for that game were questioning the officials’ calls. Kings coach Rick Adelman always had that “Oh come on you’ve gotta be kidding me” look on his face. So was Vlade.
The image below sums up the game. A ref has a clear view of the elbow thrown. The cameras showed him with his head turned towards Bibby and Bryant, yet he was indifferent to the blow delivered. He continued counting to five for the inbounder. It resulted to a shaken up Mike Bibby with a bleeding nose, forcing the Kings to use their final timeout to have Bibby treated.
An elbow to the nose doesn’t get called for a foul. A thumb to the forearm does.
The Lakers won the game 106-102. They only managed a four-point win even though they were playing 8-on-5 basketball (the Laker 5 plus the three referees). Who knows what Sacramento could have done had they had that final timeout? They could have set up a play and advanced the ball past halfcourt. Hmm.
The Kings were up 3-2 heading into Game 6, and this game belonged to them. They should’ve won the series and the championship that year.