Rebanse: LA Lakers vs. Boston Celtics

Folks at the Staples Center have been asking for it since more than three weeks ago. I have been wishing for it since Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Sportswriters call it redemption. In Pinoy street basketball, we call it rebanse.

For the meantime, forget the raucous House probe on poll automation and “CFC” cards. Never mind the meaningless 7.3 percent GDP growth. Stop caring who will swear in Noynoy or where he wants to live.

Forgive my seeming OA-ness but serious basketball fans of my generation know the “epicness” of what is about to unfold Thursday night (Friday morning in Manila, June 4).

It’s game one of a Best of Seven series; the opening tip of the 12th championship battle between the two most successful franchises in NBA history, which together account for more than half of all NBA titles.

It’s the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals.

This is a historic rivalry that dates back to 1959, two years before Filipinos had the first Macapagal as President and one year before our apparent President-elect was born. You can read Wikipedia to know more or watch the video below.

I was 10 years old when I first got a glimpse of this storied match up. It was 1987. Magsaysay Avenue in Olongapo City (where I grew up) was still a thriving red-light district. Aside from STD, toxic wastes, and abandoned Fil-Am kids, Olongapo also had the Far Eastern Network (FEN) television channel courtesy of the US military.

FEN was airing NBA games and introduced me to Magic Johnson and the rest of the Showtime LA Lakers.  They thrashed the Celtics in 1987 in a series highlighted by Magic’s now immortal “running baby hook” shot with two seconds left in Game Four at the Boston Garden.

Magic became a childhood hero.  Together with Jojo Lastimosa of our own PBA, Magic made me dream as a kid to be a basketball player. It was a turning point. Before Magic and Jolas, I wanted to become a soldier, a fantasy nurtured by watching Vic Morrow in reruns of the TV series Combat! with my very dear Lolo.

During the summer of 1988, I joined my first liga, a 3-on-3 basketball tourney in a street court one block away from our house in Olongapo. It was supposed to be the start of a long journey towards basketball superstardom and immortality.  In my first game, I had perhaps the most number of three-seconds violation in the history of basketball. Malay ko bang may three-seconds violation pala sa liga?

My basketball dream did not end there, however. Many more tournaments followed. Half courts became full courts. Magic publicly admitted he has AIDS, and later retired. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls took over, winning three straight titles. Jordan retired, got bored, and returned and won another three straight titles. Meanwhile, my basketball dream was going nowhere. I realized that it’s not enough that you know the three-seconds rule. After Magic and MJ, I thought there was no player exciting enough to still follow the NBA. Jolas retired. I finished college and decided that I’m not a basketball player.

Then, almost suddenly, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Coach Phil Jackson revived the Lakers dynasty, winning three straight titles from 2000 to 2002. It was again worthwhile to follow the NBA.

Then the 2008 NBA Finals happened. It was the Lakers and Celtics again. It was 1987 again. But unlike 21 years ago, the Lakers lost, and in a rather humiliating fashion.

When the Lakers clinched its 15th NBA title by dominating the Orlando Magic last season, I thought that Kobe will no longer get his chance at retribution against the Celtics. I thought that Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce are too old and too bruised to have a serious shot at another title.

Basketball experts did not see it coming this soon. But that the Lakers are facing the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals is a pleasant surprise for basketball fans. And it would be a truly sweet two-peat for Kobe and the Lakers if they will do it at the expense of the Boston Celtics.  

The 10-year old kid in me could not wait.


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