If ever there was an NBA Finals series made for a Slamadamonth, it was this one—assuming either team could actually score over 60. Kobe! Shaq! Devean! Rasheed! Big Ben! Darvin! Elden!
Elden? Yep, that’s right, Elden Campbell. The 35-year-old ex-Laker big man (and L.A. native), who had 13 points in 51 minutes (and five DNPs) in the Pistons’ previous two playoff series combined, was expected to play a bigger role against the Lakers. Not for his offense, mind you, but because his 7-0, 280-pound frame could take a few blows from Shaq, and dish them right back out, six times a night. After practicing against the Big Fella for a couple of years and playing against him for a few more, the 14-year veteran was pretty much ready for anything.
But this? Maybe not. Fourth quarter of Game 3, Pistons up big, EC knocked away a pass from Luke Walton, and looked up to see an entire empty court beckoning. You know how occasionally a defensive tackle will wind up with a fumble and an open field? This was sort of like that.
The ball was actually recovered by Rip Hamilton, but turned quickly back over to a sprinting—sprinting!—Elden, who reached the rim in time for the flush, beating the much younger Slava Medvedenko in the process. Celebration was minimal, as this merely extended an unreachable Pistons lead, and Campbell’s expressions generally don’t stray far from stoic. No matter, he’d have reason to celebrate soon enough.