Slamadamonth, SLAM #8: Darrell Armstrong

darrell armstrong

Originally published in SLAM 8

Garbage time. A time-honored basketball tradition, as in time to sit the starters, time to empty the bench and little time remaining. The outcome has long since been decided, and the end is near. For the home viewer, the message is also clear: time to change the channel. But wait. A play destined for the highlight reel can happen at any moment—even in garbage time.

With only a couple games remaining in the ’95 regular season, the Pacers and Magic got together at the Orena in Orlando for a preview of their meeting in the Playoffs.

It was a blowout. The Magic opened the game up in the second half and never looked back, winning 110-86. Coaches Brian Hill and Larry Brown reached deep into their respective benches for Darrell Armstrong and Greg Kite, players who would team up to turn garbage time into showtime.

With a minute and a half left, Orlando throws up an ugly airball, and Greg Kite, the prototypical slow white guy with razor-sharp elbows and seriously bad intentions (which is why he’s lasted so long with not much of a game), comes up with it after a scrum under the net. He looks to dump the ball to an open teammate, but no one’s there. So he takes a step forward. Bad move. He’s about to travel but thinks he’s spotted a friendly face at half court to whom he hastily throws the ball. Another bad move. ‘Cause at that exact moment, in steps Darrell Armstrong.

Yeah, we already know what you’re thinkin’ before the words leave your lips: Darrell who?

That’s undrafted-rookie-free-agent-picked-up-at-midseason-after-leading-Spain’s-top-pro-leauge-in-scoring Darrell Armstrong. Anticipating Kite’s errant pass a few hours earlier, the spritely 6-1 Armstrong smoothly steps in, steals the ball, takes two dribbles, then two strides underneath and around the basket and comes out the other side, elbow above the rim, to throw home a nasty one-hand tomahawk jam that electrifies the crowd and sends Shaq, Penny and the rest of Orlando’s bench leaping up from their seats.

Meanwhile, Greg Kite is still looking for an open Pacer.

—Bill Ebner