We honor the late Kobe Bryant’s role as rival for the Sonics and Blazers and remember a tough year in Seattle sports (1994) before continuing our search for Seattle’s best teriyaki and wondering why we watch college basketball.
Intro – This week’s beer is … Carlo Rossi
4:00 – Our memories of Kobe
24:00 – Let’s remember some years: 1994
43:00 – Searching for Seattle’s best teriyaki in Boulevard Park
52:00 – Coach’s corner presented by Pagliacci Pizza: “We definitely won”
1:00 – Roundup: Report Amazon leads arena sponsor competition, another reported new Sounders player, Pro Bowl takeaways
1:12 – How refereeing and lack of perimeter skill has made UW men’s basketball difficult to watch
Kevin’s diary of the day Kobe scored 81 points:
DEAR DIARY …
Every day, between the time you wake up and the time your head hits the pillow, there are several things that happen that mean your life will never quite be the same. Still, few days are truly memorable, the kind you expect to be reminiscing about decades later.
January 22, 2006 goes down as one of those days.
It began, technically, with the AFC Championship. With Pittsburgh’s trip to Super Bowl XL all but assured by halftime, that was followed by a solid hour and a half of basketball.
The main event, unquestionably, was the second trip ever to a Conference Championship Game by the Seattle Seahawks, having snapped a 21-year postseason losing streak the week before against Washington. The Seahawks hosted the Carolina Panthers, a trendy pick after making easy week of the host New York Giants and Chicago Bears in the first two weeks of the playoffs as a Wild Card team.
Kickoff came at approximately 3:40 p.m. Pacific time, and the record will note the sky was overcast, though there was little rain — the previous Sunday had ended Seattle’s streak of 27 days with rain — and even occasional hints of sunshine. Tensions ran high at the house shared by my brother and cousin, as we watched with another cousin and three of his friends from UW.
The Seahawks quickly took control of the game. After sandwiching a solid but scoreless drive between two Carolina three and outs, they punched it in for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead on their second drive, keyed by a 28-yard pass to backup QB Seneca Wallace, lined up as a wideout. On the next play, Matt Hasselbeck — whose #8 jersey I wore — hit tight end Jerramy Stevens for the score.
The Panthers’ next drive ended in a Lofa Tatupu interception, and the Seahawks tacked on a field goal to make it 10-0. It was 17-0 shortly into the second quarter when Shaun Alexander ran for a one-yard touchdown, but the neuroticism typical of a die-hard Seahawks fan returned when, two series later, Carolina’s All-World wideout Steve Smith returned a punt for a 59-yard touchdown.
But this day belonged to the Seahawks. They would add another Josh Brown field goal before halftime and score their third touchdown on the opening possession of the second half, making it 27-7. From there, the Panthers’ enemy was the clock and it became a challenge for we fans to avoid calling the game too soon. Another Alexander touchdown with six minutes left sealed the game for all intents and purposes, and the high fives around the room only escalated in intensity. The Seahawks, for the first time in franchise history, would play in the Super Bowl.
How does one react to that kind of unprecedented success? It’s a question I asked myself in the wake of the Seattle Storm’s 2004 WNBA title run, one that was unquestionably more personal because I covered the Storm for their website and would eventually receive a championship ring. My plan was to take my emotional cue from the book Now I Can Die in Peace, a compilation of columns by Bill Simmons culminating in the Boston Red Sox’s first championship in 86 years.
I read Simmons’ book during Week 14 of the NFL season, fully aware of the possibilities for the Seahawks, and I had to get it as a Christmas gift as a result. Unlike Simmons, I’m not paid to write about these goings-on, and my take will be read by at most a couple of people, at minimum just me. Still, I’m a writer; what I do to collect my thoughts is write, so there was no choice but to put fingers to keyboard on the evening of the game.
Before that, however, there was still plenty of craziness to come. During halftime of the Seahawks game and timeouts during the second half, we’d been keeping tabs on the SuperSonics’ game at Phoenix against the high-scoring Suns. It was the first career start for 20-year-old Sonics center Robert Swift, who had 10 points and five rebounds in the first half and finished with a career-high 15 points (along with seven boards). (I wonder how this might hold up in a few years?)
That turned into mere subplot, however, as the game turned into one of the wildest in franchise history. It was 96-91 after three quarters. Ray Allen, who scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, seemed to have won it for the Sonics when he crossed over reigning MVP Steve Nash and buried a 3-pointer with four seconds left, leading to a hailstorm of Nash trash talk at the house. But Nash sent the game to overtime with a layup seconds later.
The first overtime saw Luke Ridnour force a Nash turnover with four seconds left, giving the Sonics a chance to win, but Rashard Lewis had his shot attempt at the buzzer blocked harmlessly away. By this point, the teams had already combined for 276 points, and the scoring continued largely unabated. It was 149-all with 11 seconds left after Raja Bell, one of three players (Ridnour, with 30, and Swift were the others) to score a career high in the game, hit a jumper under duress.
Boris Diaw fouled Allen with 2.5 seconds left, giving Sonics Coach Bob Hill time to draw up another play. Allen worked his way free several feet behind the 3-point line and, with Shawn Marion flying out at him, buried a 3-pointer that scarcely moved the net (neither did his other daggers in the fourth quarter and the OTs) before floating to halfcourt to celebrate by chest-bumping his teammates.
After some Pop-a-Shot, there was still more. We flipped to League Pass and found the Lakers-Raptors game. Lo and behold, Kobe Bryant had 53 points at the time. He would finish the third quarter with 57, putting him five shy of his career high, 62, set a few weeks earlier against the Dallas Mavericks in a game in which Bryant did not play in the final quarter.
“He could have scored 80, and no one besides Wilt has ever topped 73,” wrote Simmons in a column for ESPN the Magazine. “But when Phil Jackson asked if Kobe wanted to keep on playing in the blowout, he shook his head no. He was done. Apparently, he thought that passing up a chance at immortality would prove he was a good guy. …
“Fifty years from now, nobody will care that Kobe refused to reenter a blowout or that he did the ‘right thing.’ They would have cared about 80.”
(Look how I tied stuff together there!)
Simmons spoke too soon in this case; while this game was not a blowout, Bryant showed the killer instinct for prodigious scoring Simmons accused him of lacking, taking virtually every Lakers possession in the second half. We watched in rapt attention as Bryant passed his career high with three free throws with six minutes left in the game. Back-to-back 3s and a two-pointer gave him 72 points, passing the Lakers franchise record and putting Chamberlain squarely in his sights.
A runner made it 74 as the three-minute mark passed, and then Bryant went to the free-throw line for points 75 and 76 with 2:36 left and then 77, 78 and 79 with 1:47 left. He returned to the free-throw line with 43 seconds left, already in possession of the second-highest-scoring game in NBA history, and netted points 80 and 81. Toronto wouldn’t give him a chance on the next possession, and an errant Raptors pass gave him the chance to exit with four seconds left to a standing ovation and MVP chants.
It was a performance unlike any I’ve ever seen in my life. I didn’t really expect anyone to get to 80 in today’s NBA, where possessions are a commodity and coaches have slowed the pace to a crawl. That’s an unforgettable effort right there, and a remarkable close to a remarkable day.