Wednesday, February 11, 2015
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Parquet floor erupts in celebration like those infamous splintered and cracked dead-spots on court that are now being pounded into submission by many a plimsoll and work shoe. These soles belonging to the souls to the sold out Boston Garden that are rushing to the arenas floor. This can only be a sign of one thing...another Celtic championship. It must be the golden era of the 80's. A time and tide of titles that if it wasn't for the Magic of the Lakers would have clearly flown the way of the old Irish's Bird from French lick every year. Now on this day in 1986, a year after falling to the purple and gold like avenged Forum balloons dropping to a lights out aftermath arena of a Wilt beating Russell led Celtics of decades back, the Boston boys are back in the rafters of the real Garden of basketball. They and Bird not paying the Lakers revenge just yet, but soaring over the Houston Rockets team that caused them so many problems with the twin towers of Ralph Sampson and some young dreamer called Hakeem. Six parts of a seven game series was needed for the C's to overcome H-town and maybe more than just the Larry legends of Kevin McHale and the late, great Dennis Johnson. In overcoming Houston's problematic post pair they needed something a little bigger. The 'Sixth Man Of That Year', Bill Walton who overcame more than just some strokes in the paint to rise above it all to glory. For what was riding on and against him made that season possibly the best year of Walton's playing career. Still with his red, Scalabrinie, Celtic leprechaun hair soaked in the same champagne or sweat his jersey was, he made his way through the shaking microphones and hands to find some people that meant more when it came to sharing this special moment of glory. He had to get to the locker room. He had to share this moment with his family and his young son staring up at him, beaming at his hero. A kid called Luke.
Luke Walton's father was a lot better than you think LeBron generation. The purists know. Post big-man age you know about your Wilt's, your Russell's. Your Kareem's and Shaq's. Even your Ewing's, Robinson's and Olaujawon's. Still amongst all these trees its hard to see the real forest of formidable foes. One in particular sporting the lumberjack shirt and blue collar jeans and Springsteen boots ready to chop wood. Bandana wrapped around the long hair that the soul of Marvin Gaye wouldn't judge. What's going on you ask? One of the greatest centres the National Basketball Association has ever seen! A man they called a hippy, but was really the hip to hoops hop. A guy that bridged the iconic fashion and passion play between the Knicks' Walt 'Clyde' Frazier's pimp game and Phil Jackson's Zen one. The man in the middle that dunked and blocked with a force that could shatter the glass he cleaned the opposite end to how much he shaved. A number one draft pick that was a Clipper before that franchise ever made it to Los Angeles. But before San Diego and even the Trailblazing Portland team that drafted him their was the Los Angeles times of UCLA. Times like these where this bold Bruin was a three time college player of the year, making John Wooden's side a powerhouse to the tune of two, perfect 30 and zip, net cutting, championship seasons. Then as the devout Grateful Dead fan and 'Worlds Tallest Deadhead', honour roll member took his band posters down from his dorm and put up the vinyl on the road, this man dropped the needle on a Hall Of Fame career. Even though his PDX beginnings where marred by a career crippling sick note, scrub laundry list of injuries for the ever ill-fated Blazers that kept him at bay like San Francisco. Still a warrior, rising from the cast concrete in the city of roses this man became a Portland legend down the trail like Clyde Drexler. Greg Oden take note! A superstar before he played a game in this league, a suit and tie for the shirt and board shorts guy may have prevented a few more, but an MVP block and rebound leading championship season would help raise his number 32 to NBA ceilings like NCAA ones. Outstanding in his Oregon opening, multiple foot injuries may have prevented him from getting his in the G.O.A.T. door, but one of the best B.I.G's still got to close his final chapter with another bookending for the association's most storied side. Leaving this game with his own footnote in the history books of being the only player to win the big three honours of season MVP, Sixth Man of the Year and Finals MVP. Throw it down big man...throw it down!
Little Luke couldn't be prouder. Growing up watching his pop play, whilst listening to his dads old records. Only to then become a man himself, tattooing Grateful Dead, skeleton arms holding orange and leather seams to represent his basketball brotherhood with Adam, Chris and Nathan, whilst inking a deal to draft him into the association of National Basketball himself. Although the current Golden State Warriors assistant coach who brings brilliant basketball I.Q. and experience (some with the Lakers D-League affiliate D-Fenders) to that job description at 34 is a little too young to have already retired for years, ever since swapping his Lakers champagne and trophies for Cavalier wine and gold. I guess injuries are as common as Teddy, presidential, fatherhood middle names in the Walton's household. Its all familiar like two championships each in the family trophy cabinet that put them in the exclusive, most successful championship company of the Barry family and the first father and son duo in the NBA to win multiple chips. And I bet you thought two Gasol's in the All-Star game was awesome. Named after old man William Walton's former Portland Trail Blazers teammate and friend Maurice Lucas, Luke grew up in California's San Diego, before making it to the University Of Arizona for a real gown graduating, capped off year of academics and textbook hoops. Averaging nice numbers across the board in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, Luke was a steal when he was taken with the 32nd pick in the second round of the draft. A long way from his father times pole position, but still a drive to downtown L.A. for the Lakers team his dad once appealed to playing for before Red's Celtic green snapped and signed him up. Although a Small Forward and not the big block and dunk shy 7 footer his Walton senior was, Theodore junior was a dominant defender and perfect passer that even underrated dishing big man Shaq didn't need to assist...just like Kobe. This 6, 8, 235 pounds of Small Forward, role playing prototype got his rings and proved to be a great, young replacement for one of the Lakers best role players and champions of all time in off-ball genius, opponent wrestler Rick Fox. Switching with Deaven George for fifth Beatle duties in the billboard, Hall of Fame year of Shaq, Kobe and the Glove and Mailman of Gary Payton and Karl Malone.
Parquet felt like something else under the soles of Luke Walton's sneakers as he walked off the Gardens famous floor in a Finals over 20 years since his dad stepped off his to meet him head held high. Head down for Luke this just didn't feel right as ticker tape fell around him. Maybe it felt off to walk off like this because it wasn't the original basketball Eden of the Boston Garden that bloomed under his fathers feet before it was mowed down by a wrecking ball. Or maybe it was more like the fact that walking off a Finals floor just never feels right when its off in defeat. Its just how it is and how surreal it gets when you're a Laker and your dad was a Celtic. Its the equivalent of someone bringing the finest cut of steak to a vegan dinner party. It makes for one hell of a conversation over dessert. Still as this game was in Hearn's refrigerator, but on the wrong jello jiggling temperature, down in defeat Walton needed to change the pace of his walk. Just like Kobe did in his own Forum fall balloon moment. Inflated with motivation the following year, it was all Finals Magic like Earvin for surviving Shaq era Lakers, Kobe and Walton as they rung the changes of full circle champions. Still in beating Orlando for O'Brien, it just wasn't the same for the Lakers (although in todays hindsight, beating Dwight Howard must be sweet) like when the Celtics they wanted to play beat the Rockets and not their 80's Showtime incarnation in Bill Walton's time. 365 days and seven gruelling games of a repeating NBA Finals later would make everything right however. Through blood, sweat and baskets. Every position burned and every possession earned, the real, script flipping, storybook ending was rewrote in these David and Goliath, Ali and Frazier, Superman and Batman's latest legacy making chapter of legend. As Kobe ran down the STAPLE of a Hollywood, basketball red carpet on his home floor he cradled the ball in his arm and reached for the stars that couldn't touch him. Behind him though was a man that made all this matter. One of the key cogs, off the bench splinters in this role playing machine made of wood and championship gold plaque. Walton's son was a lot better than you think Larry generation. Clapping and celebrating a capped off championship that he helped champagne certify. Still in this moment of man in the mirror, like father, like son, career reflection, Luke had to get to the press box of commentators. He had to share this moment with his family and his old man staring up at him, beaming at him proudly. A man called Bill. The Walton's story complete. Goodnight Bill. Goodnight Luke.