Could it be a Game 7 for the ages?
by Christine Brennan, USA TODAY Sports
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spoke for all sports fans everywhere (except San Antonio) early Wednesday when he said this simple sentence:
“You know, they’re the best two words in team sports: ‘Game 7.’ “
He has that right. They aren’t the most popular two words in team sports. That’s “Super” and “Bowl,” but in terms of finding meaning for a team sport after a long, mostly forgettable regular season, a Game 7 in the championship series, the final game of the final series of the year, is absolutely as good as it gets.
The only way to top it is to have one player make it so memorable, it’s never forgotten. That is the ultimate challenge for the Heat’s LeBron James and the Spurs’ Tim Duncan on Thursday night in Miami. This happens on the rarest of occasions in the Big Three U.S. team sports that end in a series, and when it does, the names almost don’t need introduction or explanation no matter how many decades have gone by.
Bill Mazeroski, Willis Reed and Henri Richard are three of those names. When you hit the only ninth-inning, game-ending home run in a Game 7 in World Series history, you never are forgotten. That’s Mazeroski’s fame, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 10-9 comeback victory against the New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series.
Reed, on the other hand, simply showed up. Expected to miss Game 7 of the New York Knicks’ 1970 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers with a knee injury, he famously limped onto the court at the start of the game. Duly inspired, his Knicks played beautifully, winning 113-99.
As for Richard, the Montreal Canadien scored the tying and winning goals against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito to lead his team to a 3-2 victory in the seventh game of the 1971 Stanley Cup Final.
James and Duncan, or anyone else who wants to step up, you’re on. If you’re game, sports fans 50 years from now will know your name.
James is the most likely suspect for athletic immortality. He might be there anyway after he came to the … [For more on Brennan: Could it be a Game 7 for the ages?, click here.]