Saturday, February 16, 2013

The 1997 Rookie Game - Future Stars Collide

As part of a history project I recently undertook at Forum Blue and Gold, I reencountered the NBA's 1997 Rookie Game.

Though I've seen it in its entirety several times (still got it on VHS!), this is the most attention it's garnered from me since it truly shape-shifted into the opening stanza of the opening chapter of an epoch that now spans 17 years: Kobe Bryant at All Star Weekend.

Kobe, however was not alone, as an impressive contingent of rookies – Laker (Derek Fisher and Travis Knight - not crazy at the time) and otherwise – trekked to Cleveland for a weekend that, fittingly, also included a celebration of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. Now, as I've mentioned before, far be it for me to gloss over an excellent performance by pre-Fro Kobe – a then-record 31 points, plus eight rebounds (seven turnovers, though) – but even the most rudimentary run through this game turns up a greatest hits of "cool shit goin' on" involving one of the great rookie classes in NBA history. (Huge bummer that Stephon Marbury missed this game due to injury - how epic could this have been?)

For starters, we’ve got Red Auerbach coaching Allen Iverson (the game’s MVP with an efficient 19, nine assists, three steals, three blocks and, if memory serves, braids for the first time), Antoine Walker (not yet in search of the elusive 4-pointer) and Ray Allen, while Red Holtzman coached Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Let that marinate for a second.

Cool? Cool. Ok…


A few viewing notes:

0:23: "He [Iverson] may be feisty, he may outspoken..." What are you trying to say, dude?

0:26: See Allen Iverson. See Matt Maloney. See Allen Iverson torch Matt Maloney. Might wanna light a candle for Matt right about now.

0:32: See Allen Iverson. See Derek Fisher. See Allen Iverson torch Derek Fisher. I mean, damn, I genuinely love Fish (who had a fantastic game, with 16 points on just nine shots and six assists in 15 minutes), but those two don’t even look like they share a species.

0:40: Derek Fisher's chances of getting an invite to Kobe's pad were never higher.

0:57: Vitaly Potapenko smash! Drink!

1:07: Oh, hey Steve! What’s shakin’? “Not much. Just point-goddin’.”

1:42: A-freaking-I. If you think I’ve got a massive mancrush on Allen Iverson, you’re absolutely correct, but still, the level of devastation he wrought during this game cannot be overstated.

2:02: Turns out it wasn’t just Matt Maloney’s ankles that were in peril. Swatted twice in 3 seconds, once on a jumper – by Allen Iverson. Will the indignities never cease?

2:17: For those keeping score, that’s now two sweet alley-oops to Kerry Kittles. Such a bummer that his body failed him.

2:37: A.I., all 5’10” of him, head at the rim. Nothin’ to see here.

2:58: See Kobe Bryant. See Allen Iverson. See Kobe Bryant straight DITCH Allen Iverson at the arc. 

3:12: Steve Nash checking young A.I., with a live dribble. In related news, wounded gazelles do not thrive on the savannah.

3:35: R.I.P., Lorenzen Wright.

4:09: Say what?? May I have another? Open. Court. Legend.

5:07: AIMVP

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