21 January 2010

Seeing it live

First off, read this... it is a Bill Simmons article about the brilliance of Lebron James, who I'm probably going to have to go see after reading it. First basketball player since Olajuwan in his prime that I thrilled to pay the price to see.

Don't get me wrong, Jordan was amazing, and his impact on the entire game was felt like a wave of intensity (I saw him live twice), but Olajuwan was like watching someone move with super-human body control. His smile was this infection that spread through the team... when he was on, he was unstoppable...

David Robinson (probably the best defensive center of that generation), shell shocked after Olajuwan had averaged something like 34/9/4 for the 1995 EPIC play-off series between San Antonio and Houston: "I thought I defended him pretty well." The guy looked like you had crotch punched him for hours. He was in a state of shock. So was every San Antonio fan. The 1995 Rockets team had 6 real players. (The Dream, Clyde, Kenny the Jet, Mario "Kiss of Death" Ellie, Big Shot Bob, and Sam Cassell) When you are three guards and a soft power forward, you really should be able to stop the center right? He's the only inside threat. Not that year. There was no answer for Olajuwan. The guy flowed and moved like a cat bred with a snake. He moved fluidly, and the fade away he could pull on you after the seemingly endless head fakes was unstoppable. He beat a young Shaq, Robinson in his prime, and a motivated Barkley. Sure all the games and series were close... one man can only do so much, but watching Olajuwan in those play offs made me gleeful to be a sports fan.

And because my dad was awesome and had season tickets, I got to watch The Dream in his prime live. I got to see all the little things that make the great that much greater.

So here's my list of other moments that brought the same joy...

> Ricky Williams breaking the all-time rushing record against A&M - one of the truly epic moments in Texas Football history, he breaks the record on a long run to the endzone, carrying two defenders with him into the end zone. Williams remains the best back I've ever seen in college.

> Randy Johnson vs Mark McGuire, Astro Dome, 1998 - Before we knew all about steroids, when the home run chase was still AWESOME, I got to see this match up. Johnson was over powering and didn't even put McGuire on base the whole game. Pitched right at him and struck him out. A close second was watching Billy Wagner fan Bonds on 3 pitches earlier that year.

> No kiss for you (Last Southwest Conference Championship) - Texas had lost to A&M something like 100 times in a row going into that game. It was at Kyle Field. Texas was scrappy, but inconsistent. They beat A&M 16-6 to win the last SWC Championship, and more importantly, deny Aggies the chance to smooch after a touchdown.

> I will never doubt Vince Young again (vs OKState, 2004) - Texas was down 35-7 just before half. My father looks at me as we stand in a quickly emptying DKR and says "Ya know, if they score right here, then they get the ball back to start the half and score, they could totally come back and win this game." He was only kind of kidding. And then... they did it. Texas won 51-35. Second best single game I've ever attended. That was when I signed up for the church of Vince Young. The guy is unlike any athlete I've seen live. He has the a liquidity of movement like Olajuwan... his speed is deceptive... he doesn't look fast, until you realize he just cleared 20 yards in about 5 steps. He also has that John Elway/Joe Montana "we gonna win this right here, right now" presence. This was the night that he became a Burnt Orange Kool-Aid salesman.

> The Best Game I've ever been to... The Inaugural Big XII Championship (1996) - before the game when asked what he thought of the 20 point spread, Texas quarterback James Brown said "Hey, they might win by 20, we might win by 20, we gotta play the game." People lost their minds and thought he was insane for giving a dominant Nebraska team motivation to stomp a mud hole. Then... something happened in St. Louis. The band felt it when we did pre-game... there was an energy. The team came out fired up in the ways you never saw from Macovik's teams. They got the kick-off and went right down the field and scored. Priest Holmes had a GREAT day, while Dan Neil and the Texas O-line played out of their minds. The game came down to the best roll-out ever, Ricky Williams making the block that let Brown set his legs and throw a perfect ball. Running down the field, the tight end Lewis saw the Nebraska DB chasing him and made sure to secure the ball. I have goose bumps typing this...

Seeing the two Rose Bowl victories in 2005 and 2006 were amazing, but there is something about being in the stadium that makes those moments that much more electric.

So... who has their own memories?

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