June 16, 2004

Wiley saw this one coming: After the 6-1 underdog Pistons' shock-the-world rout of the Lakers, it's worth reading the May 27 column of the late Ralph Wiley: "The Laker Myth will not penetrate the Piston front-court, a redwood forest of humanity," he wrote. "All this talk about how the opponents of the Pistons can't shoot is patently absurd, how this is not good to watch. Evolution of the game is always watchable."

posted by rcade to basketball at 07:27 AM - 10 comments

I wasn't a fan of Wiley's ESPN columns -- the run-on sentences, rambling digressions, and overall weirdness were too much to skim. (For instance, how he calls the Lakers other than Shaq and Kobe a "cast of Crips and Bloods" -- what the hell?) Reading this piece with benefit of hindsight makes me wonder whether I missed out. Wiley called the finals before the conference champs were even crowned, and it has a line that ought to go in the sports quotation books: "The question, in the NBA and in life, is not whether or not you can shoot. The question is whether or not you can get your shot."

posted by rcade at 07:34 AM on June 16, 2004

The best thing about this result? IMO, it signals the end of the Lakers as we know them. There is no prospect of them being better next year. The big thing is Shaq will be a year older and 10 lbs heavier. Who doesn't want to see Garnett or Duncan playing in the finals instead of Shaq.

posted by Mike McD at 08:37 AM on June 16, 2004

Nice catch. I was never a fan, but now I'm wondering what I missed if there were insights like that trapped under all the words.

posted by yerfatma at 08:50 AM on June 16, 2004

Wiley's quote is just another take on the old Woody Allen line, "90% of life is just showing up". A little too much is being made of the Pistons upset; fans who follow basketball thought from the start of the series that the Pistons could win if they played well. What happened was that they played very, very well, and the series wasn't even close.

posted by cg1001a at 09:33 AM on June 16, 2004

I don't think we should let hindsight obscure the fact that most fans, Vegas, and the press thought the Pistons had no chance. This is one of the biggest upsets in the history of the NBA Finals. When was the last time a team that was a 6-1 or worse underdog won it all?

posted by rcade at 11:30 AM on June 16, 2004

Seriously, rcade. I was probably blinded by my allegiances, but I thought the Lakers were going to sweep Detroit. Oops.

posted by dusted at 11:46 AM on June 16, 2004

rcade, I'm not talking hindsight or Vegas odds...fans who follow the NBA gave Detroit a shot if they played well. "Biggest upset in history" should be reserved for events like Douglas over Tyson or Patriots over Rams, cases where absolutely no one figured the underdog could/would/should win.

posted by cg1001a at 04:04 PM on June 16, 2004

Oh, this is definitely on the Patriots-Rams level. Every NBA columnist I read had Lakers in six, from Bill Simmons to David Aldridge to David Dupree.

posted by Justin Slotman at 08:15 AM on June 17, 2004

cg1001a, Vegas oddsmakers are pretty hardcore NBA followers, and they didn't give Detroit a shot. This was a huge upset.

posted by dusted at 10:38 AM on June 17, 2004

(last word) I hear you, I hear you, but you are looking at what the people whose job it is to manipulate public opinion said. I'm speaking as a somewhat knowledgeable NBA fan. When the New Jersey Nets played the Lakers in the finals two years ago that was a situation where I figured the Nets had absolutely no shot at winning the series, none. If the Nets had won that series it would have been inexplicable (except for key injuries or something like that). But when I thought about the Pistons-Lakers series before it started I felt that the Pistons could conceivably win the series if they played well, which they did, and the Lakers did not. There were a few NBA analysts who had a similar opinion.

posted by cg1001a at 08:02 PM on June 17, 2004

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