Few things in life are more embarrassing than reading my past writings. Most of my work is self-reflective. All of it is terrible.
For instance, I have this working novel that has been stashed on my laptop for years. Two guys travel to Atlantic City to see King Kong Bundy. There may or may not be a plot. I never knew what the characters should do with their hands. I think I referenced the Montreal Expos in chapter one. And then there is the high school poetry. Truly awful stuff. Just notebooks upon notebooks of free verse and haikus buried in the back of my closet.
The room is dark
The walls creep in slowly, tip-toeing, trying not to be heard
But I can hear them
eye am not alone
Notice the use of ‘eye' there. It's all open to interpretation you see.
And this got me thinking. What about my Liberty Ballers colleagues? What was their writing like back in the day? So I made myself a pot of coffee and did some digging. I researched. And what I found was fantastic. It was gold. I found work so glorious and breathtaking - and, seriously, ‘breathtaking' applies here - that I felt obligated to share it with all of you. Not as a friend, no; but as an investigative journalist.
So click after the jump, and revisit some past Sixers playoff moments as seen through the eyes of the LB staff.
May 10th, 1991: Game 3. Second Round. Bulls at Sixers; 99-97 W
Our first piece comes from a nine year old, Derek Bodner. He submitted the below for the Lehigh Valley's Express Times' annual "How I spent my summer vacation" writing contest. (First prize: Three free movie rentals from Blockbuster). While the essay was a little puzzling given the contest topic, I can certainly appreciate Derek's passion and conviction.
"How I spent my summer vacation"
By Derek Bodner. Grade 3
I was really impressed with the way Sixers head coach, Jim Lynam, shortened his bench rotations in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Staring at a potential 3-0 deficit, Lynam leaned on his stars, and Barkley, "The Hawk," and Gilliam delivered. I would have preferred to see less Ron Anderson - he provided a very empty 27 minutes off the bench - but I've been complaining about his minutes for months now to no avail (see my Letter to the Editor from February 17th; "Too Much Anderson; Not Enough ‘Nute"). Regardless, the Sixers found a way to survive in a must-win situation, despite Michael Jordan scoring a Herculean-like 46 points.
I was particularly happy with the play of Armen Gilliam. The much-maligned "Hammer," whose defensive metrics range from terrible to non-existent according to most advanced statistical quarterly newsletters, looked much better on weak-side rotations in Game 3. But, this is only at first glance mind you. I haven't had a chance to go back and look at the film yet. I will follow up later with my findings.
As everyone knows, Gilliam is very comfortable on the offensive end. And he was again efficient in Game 3 to the tune of 8-14 from the field, 9-10 from the line for 25 points. I can't help but wonder though if Gilliam's limitations on the defensive end will hamstring his long-term potential. Or at least restrict him from meeting the lofty expectations placed upon him in the 1987 NBA Draft. (I had him number three on my big board, behind David Robinson and Olden Polynice).
And what can I say about "The Hawk," Hersey Hawkins. His floor spacing was impeccable. And I've noticed that his release is much quicker since his days at Bradley University - I did some light scouting of the Missouri Valley Conference between episodes of ThunderCats and Reading Rainbow. Hersey fits perfectly in this Sixers offense, which relies so heavily on dumping the ball inside. He can stretch the defense, and that should open up some space for Barkley in Game 4.
And that's how I spent my summer vacation.
I thought Derek tied this essay together nicely.
May 2nd, 2003: Game 6. First Round. Sixers at Hornets; 107-103 W
An inspiring journalist, Tanner covered sports for his junior high school newspaper, The Tiger Beat. I purchased this particular copy of The Beat at an estate sale last weekend.
Sixers Take the Sting Out of the Hornets; Chicken Nuggets Back on the Cafeteria Menu
By: Tanner Steidel, Sports Reporter/Food Editor
The Sixers defeated the Hornets last night 107-103 to clinch a 4-2 series win and a spot in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Philadelphia was led by Allen Iverson (45 points) and Keith Van Horn (18 points, 18 rebounds) who combined to create the most influential collaboration since Ja Rule and Ashanti recorded "Always on Time" under the Murder Inc./Def Jam label.
The Sixers overcame a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter thanks in large part to Iverson and Van Horn, but also due to the steady contribution from forwards, Derrick Coleman (16 points) and Kenny Thomas (10 points, 5 rebounds). Thomas' inspired play could lead to a nice contract extension in the near future.
Jamal Mashburn led the Hornets with 36 points.
In other news, chicken nuggets will once again be served in the cafeteria on Fridays. The school board voted 5-4 in favor of the poultry classic last night. This decision lifted the chicken nuggets ban that had been in place since 7th grader, Peggy Wilkerson, contracted Salmonella after being served a raw nugget last month.
Peggy could not be reached for comment.
April 20th, 2008. Game 1. First Round. Sixers at Pistons. 90-86 W
Jordan Sams: The Godfather of Liberty Ballers. He has been covering the Sixers since Greg Buckner roamed the perimeter.
"The Sixers were led by unlikely hero, Reggie "Shrek" Evans. Evans gave the team the toughness and swagger they needed to compete with the Pistons. For the longest time, he looked like the only Sixer not about to wet his pants. His style of play rubbed off on the rest of the team and they started to believe they could come back and win the game. And they did just that. Evans not only helped by playing hard, but put in an improbable turnaround jumper in the last moments of the game. Now, as a Sixers fan I watched them all season. Not once can I remember Reggie making or even taking a shot like he did in the final moments of the team's first playoff game, but that's just who he is. I'll never forget this game and I'm sure it will be looked back on as a building block for an eventual championship team. One can only hope."
In Jordan's defense, he said ‘eventual championship team.' We still got plenty of time.
April 19th, 2009. Game 1. First Round. Sixers at Magic; 100-98 W
Preach it, Jordan:
"I don't even know where to begin. Forgive me if my sentences don't run smoothly or I ramble on -- I'm so amped right now. It's probably going to take me a solid 24 hours to come down to earth.
I honestly cannot believe the Sixers pulled it off. I've seen this team do some amazing things this season, but I have to admit, when they were down 18 I had all but given up. This team -- Iggy and Donny-Ice in particular -- continue to impress the heck out of me. As for all the "experts" who said this series was awful and the Sixers had no chance, "What chu gonna say now? What can you say now?"
On a personal note, I watched this final sequence via telephone with my brother. My television feed was a few seconds ahead of his. My play-by-play went something like this:
"Iguodala is dribbling. He's dribbling. Dribbling. Do something, do something, Andre. Gotta go. Gotta go, ‘Dre. Hurry up. Get in there, get in, get in! Yessssssssss! Yesssssssssssss! He hit it! Yesssssssss!"
Any favorite playoff moments? Personal stories? I vote for Iverson's first home playoff game.