I pride myself on knowing a bit about NBA history. I’m not a professional historian like Todd Spehr or Adam Criblez, but I know enough to lament the Trail Blazers passing on Larry Bird in the 1978 NBA draft, or argue about the racial politics of the Celtics/Lakers rivalry of the 1980s.
I’m also a long-time Trail Blazers fan. I’ve watched every second I can find of Bill Walton, refuse to watch the 2000 Western Conference Finals again, and get teared up thinking about Brandon Roy’s last game.
Given those intersecting interests, you can imagine how obsessed I’ve been with the quadruple overtime and The Bad Shot over the last couple weeks.
What are the odds?
One thing I like to do when something absurd happens in the NBA is think about how likely it is to happen again:
- Someone beating the Lakers 33-game win streak? Other teams have had 39-2 stretches and improved scouting/nutrition/travel/whatever has decreased the effects of home-court advantage. Longer win streaks have happened more regularly over the last couple years. Beatable.
- Jordan’s 63 points in a playoff game? Players are more efficient than ever before, rules favor scorers, and we’ve seen a flurry of 50-point games in the regular season. Beatable.
- Coming back from 3-0 down? The Blazers were minutes away in 2003 and if Chris Paul’s injury had happened one game later in 2016 it might have been achievable then. Easily beatable.
So, the question on my mind: Will we ever see another series-ending buzzer beater and 50-point game followed by a quadruple overtime game? I did the odds out with some very rough assumptions and concluded the chances of those three occurrences lining up is about 47 in a billion. The math isn’t perfect, but it does give us an idea of how insanely unlikely the Trail Blazers postseason run has been.
What does this mean to me as a Blazers fan?
Basically every “good” moment in Blazers history has been shaded by some darkness. The fallout of the 1977 title run is also a reminder that the Blazers have been injury-cursed for decades. The 1990 Finals, I’d argue the purest “happy” moment in franchise history, were ended with three consecutive home losses after the Blazers stole home-court advantage in game two. The 63-win 1991 season failed to bring a Finals appearance. Brandon Roy’s 2011 outburst is a bittersweet farewell to a career that ended before it began.
Regardless of the outcome of the Blazers vs. Nuggets series, I think 2019 will be different. The story of these playoffs will forever be “Damian Lillard and the Blazers” because of these two ridiculously improbable events. If NBA Entertainment still made VHS compilation highlights, Rodney Hood would join Garfield Heard as the ultimate “famous for one shot” guy.
Looking at this season from a fan perspective, that’s a relief for me. For once there’s going to be a Blazers memory that’s unreservedly happy and also a story that will be talked about for the rest of NBA history.
I’m not going to try to tug on any heart strings right now, or do a big picture look back at the season (that can wait until the offseason), but as a Blazers fan and NBA history aficionado, it felt important to acknowledge the intersecting importance of the last two weeks to both the Blazers and NBA.