We’ve had our chances, three of them in fact, to do what Miami will be trying to do across the next few weeks, to do what no other market has ever done before: cash a daily-double ticket. Win an NBA title. Win a Stanley Cup title. Keep both trophies safely within the boundaries of one city.
The Heat and the Panthers are trying to do this as underdogs, both of them. The Heat already have spotted the Nuggets a 1-0 series lead and the Panthers went to Las Vegas on Saturday night to begin a finals in which the Golden Knights are seriously favored.
They also are doing this as a remarkable dual and dueling Cinderella story, since both teams started the playoffs as No. 8 seeds and have thus had to knock off three hugely favored opponents apiece already. So nothing is likely to faze either of them.
If Miami can pull this off?
Well, then you can add that to the daily glorious weather and the lack of a state income tax as major reasons to have some serious envy and some serious ennui.
Boston has seen the Celtics and Bruins try and fail three times to pull this off (1957, 1958, 1974). Philadelphia (1980), Chicago (1992) and the Bay Area (2013) each have had a chance to do it once.
New York? Back in 1972, Madison Square Garden became the epicenter of sports for the glorious stretch of April 30-May 11 as the Rangers tried to upset the mighty Bruins and the Knicks tried to do likewise against the 69-win Lakers.
Things started promisingly for both: The Knicks stunned the Lakers in Game 1 at the Fabulous Forum, 114-92, and four days later the Rangers spotted the Bruins a 5-1 lead in Game 1, came roaring back to tie the score at 5 on goals by Rod Gilbert, Vic Hadfield, Walt Tkaczuk and Bruce MacGregor before Boston’s Ace Bailey scored the game-winner 2:17 from the end of regulation.
From May 3-May 7 came the four most glorious days in the New Garden’s brief history, as the Knicks and Rangers alternated Games 3 and 4 of their respective series. Sadly, that didn’t go well: the Lakers won both and the Bruins split, propelling them both to championships a few days later.
Twenty-two years later, the teams duplicated the magical every-day-is-a-big-day feeling, starting with the Rangers’ 3-2 overtime win over the Canucks at the Garden on May 31. From that day until June 22, the Rangers and Knicks alternated turns in the spotlight and took the city on an extraordinary roller-coaster ride.
The four-day stretch from June 14-17 remains one of the epic periods in the city’s sports history. On June 14, the Rangers won their first Cup in 54 years; on June 15, the Knicks drew even in their series with the Rockets, 2-2; and on June 17, the Rangers took their tour up the Canyon of Heroes in the daytime while the Knicks edged within a game of the title that night — even if much of the Garden’s attention was divided between the basketball game and a famous car chase taking place in California.
The Knicks, famously, never won another game that season. But that year remains the closest any city has ever come to pulling off what Miami will attempt to pull off over the next few weeks.
In 2003, East Rutherford, N.J., tried to become the smallest city to do it. From May 27-June 15, old Continental Airlines Arena played host to seven home games — four for the Devils, who beat Anaheim there, 3-0 in Game 7 on June 9 to win their third Cup, and three by the Nets, who on June 11 beat the Spurs there to knot that series at 2-2 before San Antonio won in six and prolonged for at least 20 years the wait for the first city to seize the day.
It is Miami’s time to seize it.
If we are lucky, we all have the One Person who both gave us our first big break while also serving as a textbook role model for how to do our jobs properly. Mine was a gentleman named Chuck Pollock, and this week he wrote his final column for the Olean (N.Y.) Times-Herald after 50 years. He always detested unnecessary wordiness, so this is how I’ll summarize this news: Thank you. For everything.
The last time the Nuggets were in a championship series, it was the ABA in 1976, and two proud sons of Brooklyn were on opposite sides of the play-by-play: Steve Albert for the Nets, Al for the Nuggets. After Game 6, court-storming Nets fans spared Steve his seat and his equipment at press row, but fairly shredded poor Al’s.
Two books that ought to be musts for your summer reading list, if you haven’t smartly read them already, both by one of the great New York voices ever, Michael Daly: “New York’s Finest: the Greatest Cop Story Ever Told” and “The Book of Mychal: the Surprising Life and Heroic Death of Father Mychal Judge.”
It’s a good thing Canadians are among earth’s most affable folks, because Vegas-Florida for the Stanley Cup ought to be enough to make you swear off hockey if you live Up There.
Whack Back at Vac
Larry Wigbels: I’ll do it to myself — we took Cleanthony (too) Early when we could have had Nikola Jokic?! The same 2014 draft? Say it ain’t so ’cause “it’s getting late Early!”
Vac: In fairness, every other team in the league whiffed on that one (including the Nuggets).
Elon Semaza: If you are under 30 and you watched the Heat-Celtics series, you are probably convinced that it’s the Heat with the rich championship history
Vac: I think I’m going to have myself a good, healthy cry after reading that … because it’s true.
@aghease: I was very surprised to learn that the Dodgers are the team the Yankees have faced the least. Rob Manfred deserves a lot of props for pushing the pitch clock through and for changing the sked to allow for Yanks-Dodgers every year.
Vac: The Commish draws a lot of fire, and rightly so. But it says here he got both of those things right.
Christopher Sheldon: Instead of umpires checking pitchers for “sticky situations” when they leave the mound, why not check them before they go there, where only a legal rosin bag resides.
Vac: Now that is an excellent question.
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