Originally published in SLAM 27
The 6th Man: So there we were, me and Russ, chillin’ in his hotel room in Portland, about to watch the Knicks-Bulls game at the Garden—I know, poor planning—and gnawing on something the Pac-NW calls nachos. Then Mike, in maybe his last game at Madison Square Garden ever, came out onto the court and Russ fell off the bed. Thump.
You know, as soon as Mike walked out of the locker room wearing those Air Jordan I’s, it was obvious there was something goin’ on. Think he would have worn them in Indy? Houston? Detroit? No, $ wore them in New York ’cause his subconscious was trying to tell him something. (Hey, even Scoop backs me up on this.) Mike wore them because he subconsciously wants to be in blue and orange next season, playing for the Knicks’ new head coach Phil “6 years/$60 million” Jackson. Mike wants to come, but he’s hesitant. He just needs a little push.
Well Mike, here’s your push. Remember when you told me last summer that you grew up idolizing former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente? How you used to dream about one day being Clemente—flying around the bases, tripling into the gap, always graceful, always playing full-out? Well, after an exhaustive search and plenty of money (a chunk over $100, out of my own damn pocket), I’m prepared to offer you the next best thing.
A baseball card.
But not just any baseball card, Mike. A 1961 “Bob” Clemente, extra-mint condition card that I bought off some lady in Arizona. It says on the back that he once hit three triples in a game, was drafted in ’54 (“What a bargain!”) and can play infield and the outfield. In short, it’s a priceless memento of your favorite baseball player of all time.
And it can be yours—all yours, Mike—if you just sign that piece of paper that will bring you to the mecca of pro sports: Madison Square Garden. Think about it: You, Patrick, Oak, Houston, the fellas, rubbing the ’99 title in Reinsdorf’s and Krause’s faces, as they sit there, trying to entice Jud Buechler to sign on for a couple more years. Think about it: Facing Pip and his Suns in the Finals, clearing e’rebody out so you can freak that step-back, high-arcin’ jumper that works so well on him in practice. Making Danny Ainge cry.
All that and a killer Roberto Clemente card if you just sign on the dotted line.
Do we have a deal Mike? Do we?