Bread City Basketball


KNICKS VS. BULLS BRAWL, 1994

It’s the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and the Knicks are rocking black sneakers for good luck. This is their shot. 1994: the year without Jordan. New York has to win now, while they can. Because whatever little fantasy MJ is living out at that moment – pretending to be a baseball player, Indian chief, astronaut, or whatever – they all know it won’t last.

And the Knicks are winning the series 2-0, when the scuffle breaks out between Derek Harper and Jo Jo English in Game 3. These teams hate one another. Pippen and Charles Smith had technical fouls before the game even started. Now the benches clear quick.

The fight goes down to the ground on some bad jiujitsu. Arms and legs everywhere. John Starks is about to throw a punch when Phil Jackson grabs him from behind. They both get tackled into the stands, and security bodies Starks up. Ewing and Pippen play the old hold me back, hold me back game. And Pat Riley’s not even mad until Derek Harper puts hands on coach’s suit.

But the best part? David Stern sits a few mere rows from the melee. He’s literally close enough to reach out and break up the fight himself, but he can’t move. The commissioner just stares, bug-eyed, into his own personal slow motion disaster reel, as both teams crush the heavy spenders sitting courtside.

New York went on to win the series in 7 games, and Jordan returned to basketball the following season.



WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO SCOTTIE PIPPEN?

Scottie Pippen wants to come back to the NBA.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for the last three months,” Pippen said last week. “I’m moving good. I feel pretty fast and you don’t forget the game. I watch and see so many young guys who don’t know how to run a team and I feel I could help someone.” The 41 year-old Pippen went on to claim that he was in the best shape of his life.

The whole situation reminds me of one of the greatest basketball short stories of all time, “What Ever Happened to Frank Snake Church?” by Sherman Alexie, excerpted below.

“I’m only forty years old,” Frank said.

He bounced the ball between his legs, around his back, thump, thump, between his legs, around his back, thump, thump , again and again, thump, thump, faster and faster, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.

“Basketball years are like dog years,” Preacher said. “You’re truly about two hundred and ninety-nine years old.”

Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.

“I’m still a player,” Frank said. “I’m still playing good and hard.”

Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.

“But why are you still playing so hard?” Preacher asked. “What are you truing to prove? You keep trying to get all those years back, right? You’re trying to time-machine it, trying to alternate-universe it, but one of these days, you’re going to come down wrong on one of your arthritic knees, and it will be over. What will you do then? You’ve bet your whole life on basketball, and playground basketball at that, and what do you have to show for it? Look at you. You’re not some sixteen-year-old gangster trying to play your way out of the ghetto. You ain’t even some reservation warrior boy trying to shoot your way off the reservation and into some white-collar job at Microsoft Ice Cream. You’re just Frank the Pretty Good Shooter for an Old Fart. Nobody’s looking to recruit you. Nobody’s going to draft you. Ain’t no university alumni lining up to financially corrupt your naive ass. Ain’t no pretty little Caucasian cheerleaders looking to bed you down in room seven of the Delta Delta Delta house. Ain’t no ESPN putting you in the Plays of the Day. You ain’t as cool as the other side of the pillow. You’re hot and sweaty, like an orthopedic support. You’re one lonely Chuck Taylor high-top rotting in the ten-cent pile at Goodwill. Your game is old and ugly and misguided, like the Salem witch trials. You’re committing injustice every time you step on the court. I think I’m going to organize a march against your ancient ass. I’m going to boycott you. I’m going to boycott your corporate sponsors. But wait, you ain’t got any corporate sponsors, unless Nike has come out with a shoe called Tired Old Bastard. So why don’t you just give up the full-court game and the half-court game and enjoy the fruitful retirement of shooting a few basketballs and drinking a few glasses of lemonade.”

Frank stopped bouncing the ball an threw it hard at Preacher, who easily caught it and laughed.

“Man oh man,” Preacher said. “I’m getting to you, ain’t I? I’m hurting your ballplaying heart, ain’t I?”