"You know what the Midwest is? Young & Restless, Where restless ******'s might snatch your necklace..." - Kanye West
The Roots-produced score “Champion” (NBA Finals Theme Song) immediately introduced mood into the action; where the blacktop meets the hardwood. Back-dropped with visionary holograms of previous champions, post-telegram but pre-instagram, the song imagines greatness independent of the final score.
We are officially in the digital age as the “Internet” has become the “internet.” Commissioner Silver and everybody’s talking about the long three’s. Funny, it’s still basketball to me.
It was a score ago (twenty years) that Illadelph Halflife dropped but the Roots sound is fresher than ever, just like the NBA Finals, almost 70 years old, rocking a cool Kangol. Did you peep Andre Iguodala’s headwear in the Game 1 postgame presser?
1996 was the same year Allen Iverson, who damn near invented the word swag with tats and do-rags, debuted in Philly. That word swag may be overused as much as how often we have seen the meme of AI’s crossover, then step-over, of then Los Angeles Laker Tyronn Lue, who is now the Cleveland Cavaliers’ head coach, sealing Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals.
Fast forward, Lue is now coaching in the NBA Finals. And AI is still killing him softly.
Now, let’s back-up. Iggy was ‘posed to be the new AI when he was drafted by the 76ers, although the team already had the original AI in Bubbachuck, or just Chuck. You follow?
Let’s go sideways. Five years ago, I spoke to Iggy in the aftermath of the last NBA lockout that delayed the season opener until Christmas. That was days after, perhaps, the last “great” act of Commissioner Stern who vetoed the trade that would have essentially sent then New Orleans Hornets’ (pre-Pelicans) point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers.
Basketball Reasons changed the course of multiple franchises that still impacts who wears the crown and the decision that may have led to the light-skin vs dark-skin wars.
But I regress. I mean digress. The Sixers franchise was just beginning its post-Answer period and Iggy came across as a sage vet at just 27 years old. He was just coming off a season where he made his first and only NBA All-Star team, was second in triple-doubles (behind LeBron James), and led his team to the playoffs to face the Miami Heat. The Heat won in five but Iggy got reps defending LeBron and Dwyane Wade.
Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals was over, for me, after two plays by Iggy. Last year’s NBA Finals MVP is making moves to snare the award again. At the 6:58 mark of the 2nd quarter with the Warriors already up 41-29, Iggy stripped LeBron. Not to be chumped, Bron salvaged some pride by taking it out on Harrison Barnes blocking his shot.
However, on the very next play, Iggy, according to the official scorer, blocks Kyrie Irving’s shot. We all call that a strip around the way. Regardless of your nomenclature, that led to a bucket by Klay Thompson pushing the score to 43-29.
My last tweet of the evening documented this heist. There was no more left to be said. Iggy in consecutive plays denied the Cavs best two players as effortlessly as Steph Curry can drop 35 foot three-point daggers into your basketball soul.
I wondered, as probably did many others, would Iggy start Game 1 as he did in the Western Conference Finals deciding Game 7 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. But Barnes is actually no slouch on defense, and he was assigned the task of checking LeBron as the starting small forward for the Warriors.
Parenthetically, I believe Barnes will, however, travel down the California coast as a free agent following his now assistant coach Luke Walton as he begins his tenure as the head coach of the Lakers.
Yet, LeBron felt empowered to post-up and drive to the hole with Barnes and even Draymond Green guarding him.
Iggy delivered a cease and desist order though.
While Curry and Klay were stymied all night finishing shooting a combined 8-of-27, scoring just a total of 20 points, Iggy’s 12 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists along with his Central Illinois boyhood basketball colleague Shaun Livingston’s 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting led the way. Livingston’s trials and tribulations have been well chronicled but he has been blessed to recover and rejoice in last night’s moment.
I previously profiled the Jersey Drive connection to the Cavs championship efforts, but the Mid-west ballers derailed the Cavs in Game 1. As alluded, Iggy from Springfield, Ill and Livingston from Peoria, Ill (Yup, the same birthplace as Richard Pryor) along with Green from Saginaw, Michigan, whose line read 16 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four steals were the primary reasons for the 104-89 victory.
Led by this trio’s defensive prowess, the Cavs ball movement seemed to be stagnant and was reduced to iso ball, resulting in 17 turnovers and a shooting percentage of just 39.1. The long arms, quick feet and hands of the Warriors defense is as beautiful as its spaced out offense.
LOL, it’s still basketball to me.