For SBNation's latest Theme Day, we were asked to come up with our best game experience (as a fan) and write about it. Now, I was lucky enough to attend the Finals in 2010 and was treated to the Shrek & Donkey game and several other fun experiences. But by far my favorite was the Pierce vs. LeBron game.
Setting the scene: The 2008 Celtics were still brushing off their first round harder-than-it-should-have-been series with the Atlanta Hawks. LeBron and the Cavs were giving them all they could handle. The team had yet to win a game on the road. Everything was riding on game 7 and somehow, someway, I happened to be in the area visiting family and I was able to get tickets to the game.
To put it mildly, I was a wreck the whole game long. I don't remember much about the first half, other than one play where Ben Wallace was called for a foul and started protesting the call by waving his arms in protest. To mock him I stood up and started waving my McHale like arms in the same way. My wife later informed me that in the sea of fans, she spotted me in the stands "looking like an idiot." Naturally.
Pierce was having a very solid game and the team led by 10 points at halftime. Everything is great, right? Well, not when the Cavs stormed back to cut the lead to 5 after 3 quarters and down to 3 in the 4th. I'm sure you all remember how it played out.
Pierce hits a shot pushing the lead up. LeBron answers with a shot to cut the lead. Pierce. LeBron. Pierce. LeBron. Neither one giving an inch. Neither one willing to give up.
Meanwhile I'm well past the edge of my seat. I'm standing on every play. When Pierce drops one of his elbow jumpers I'm on top of the world. When LeBron hits a 3 pointer I literally feel pain in my gut and I (melodramatically) slouch down in my seat and pout. (Need I point out that I was in my 30's?) Back and forth it went and up and down went my achy breaky heart.
I attended the game with my good friend Brian. I asked him what his memories of the game were and specifically what it was like to be there with me. Here's what he shared.
I happened to be an eyewitness to Jeff's rollercoaster bipolarity during the game. Jeff had an extra ticket and I was living in Boston at the time and he invited me along -- let me say there's nothing in the world like watching someone so invested in a game you yourself have no rooting interest.
Upon arriving, Jeff was excited but reserved. As the Celtics led most of the first half, Jeff held it together. The ropes began to fray late in the third quarter. LeBron started to push and Clarkie would alternate between screaming and cheering while the Celtics were on defense, to flopping back into his seat after every LeBron dagger. It ended well for the Celtics and I don't think I'll ever give or receive as many high-fives, hugs and fist bumps from strangers in a two-minute span.
So yeah. I was a mess.
At some point along the way, I started mumbling something about Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins.
It wasn't Wilkins' day on May 22, 1988, even though he outscored Bird in Boston's 118-116 win over Atlanta at the old Boston Garden. Wilkins finished with 47 points, 16 in the fourth quarter, and Bird had 34, with 20 in the final period. "I'm very aware of the game," Pierce said. "They don't ever let you forget it when you look up to the jumbotron."
I vividly remember watching that game on TV as a youth and here I was watching the sequel. Would it end just as sweet? Or would it end in tears this time This is the beauty of sports. The unscripted drama that can capture your heart and engulf you in emotion over a silly game.
Thankfully, mercifully, the Good Guys won and we were eventually treated to Banner number 17. That night, however, would go down in history and I was privileged and blessed enough to have been there. I'll never, ever forget it.