Chanukah starts tonight, a holiday that, in the grand scheme of things, is really only significant because it's in December. Still, it's a big deal for the kids, because they get presents and chocolate. And for the parents, because they get the chocolate that they won't let their kids eat. Mmm...good. Anyway, since I saw a basketball yarmulke tonight and we'll be celebrating Chanukah for eight nights, I decided to list eight things about basketball that made me happy in 2009.
Feel free to read one of these for each of the next eight nights or read them all at once. Just know that some of these are the equivalent of getting socks from your Aunt Harriet.
Omri Casspi. Since we're celebrating Chanukah, let's talk about something we rarely get to talk about: Jewish basketball players. Casspi, drafted in the first round in June, became the first Israeli-born player to ever play in the NBA. He and Jordan Farmar are the only Jewish guys in the league as far as I know. My people generally don't make it to the NBA, for one genetic reason: we're not tall. To put it in perspective, Casspi is 6'8". If he came to shul tonight and hung out with my family, it would look like that famous picture of Robert Wadlow in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The Celtics-Bulls Series. Game 1: 105-103 (OT). Game 2: 118-115. Game 3: 107-86. Game 4: 121-118 (Double OT). Game 5: 106-104 (OT). Game 6: 128-127 (Triple-OT). Game 7: 109-99. Ok, so the team I was rooting for lost, but man was that a fun series to watch. There were so many last-second shots and crazy moments, and Ray Allen played out of his mind at times. I wish that series could've gone on forever. Actually, it kind of did.
Shaq in Cleveland. Orlando! Los Angeles! Miami! Phoenix! Cleveland? I love it. I can't wait until the playoffs.
Patrick Ewing. I was at a restaurant in Las Vegas with a few other RotoWire writers, and who should sit at the table next to us but Patrick Ewing. Go to an actual game and you might see five or ten really good NBA players. No big deal, that's where you expect to see them. One all-time great sits next to you when you're eating a steak? It's like being ten years old again. We were convinced one of his dining companions was Anthony Mason. It, um, wasn't.
Michael Jordan, John Stockton, and David Robinson all go into the Hall of Fame. If I had to make a list of my ten all-time favorite players, these three would most certainly be on the list. They might even be the top three. Forget about MJ's controversial speech...how cool is it that these three went in together? (And speaking of players I've seen away from the court, I saw the Admiral in Hawaii while I was on my honeymoon).
Houston is somehow good even without Yao, T-Mac, and Artest. I don't know what GM Daryl Morey is doing, but the guy is some kind of genius for putting together a team that's 13-9 with a bunch of no-names on their active roster. Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady haven't played a single game this season, and Ron Artest left town last summer. Tonight's starting lineup? Trevor Ariza, Aaron Brooks, Chuck Hayes, Luis Scola, and Shane Battier. Really?
My two favorite college basketball teams are a combined 14-1. Kansas is ranked #1 and has their best team in years, but the team that's got me really excited is Northwestern. When I was a sophomore, they lost every single Big Ten game. Now, even with their best player out for the season, the Wildcats are 6-1 and dreaming of The Big Dance. NU has never played in the NCAA tourney (though we hosted the first championship in 1939), and maybe Juice Thompson (he'd be a lottery pick if he were about three or four inches taller) and company can change that this season. By the way, my two-year-old son already knows "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" and "Go U Northwestern." I'm so proud.
Bill Simmons' book. I just got The Big Book of Basketball a couple of days ago, and I love it so much that I'm upset I have to write this now - I'd rather just be reading the book. Say what you will about Simmons' style, but he is an entertaining writer and really knows his basketball. I love it so far.