The Art of Inspiration

Willis Reed overcame a torn muscle in his right thigh to inspire his New York Knick teammates to a Game 7 NBA Finals win over the Los Angeles Lakers in 1970.  He scored the first two baskets of the game, his only points, and the emotional momentum carried the Knicks to an NBA title.

Kirk Gibson made one plate appearance in the 1988 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Gibson had a stomach virus and injured both his legs in the National League Championship Series and was not expected to play in the World Series.  Down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, 2 outs and a runner on first, Gibson launched a home run off of Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley to win the game.  The Dodgers went on to win the World Series four games to one.

Curt Schilling pitched Game 6 of the ALCS in Yankee Stadium after injuring his ankle and going through a surgery that would put 55 stitches in that ankle.  Schilling bleed through his sock in Game 6 as he shut the potent Yankees down through 7 innings beating the Yankees to force a Game 7.  The Red Sox carried that momentum and won the World Series in 2004, never losing again that post season.

I admit, I am a sucker for this type of drama in sports.  These are the stories that build sports legends and are the material for stories that get passed on from generation to generation.  Saturday night was the latest in that genre.  While the effects of the cause are yet to be decided, the even has already happened.  Saturday night Rajon Rondo went down to the ground on what most will say was a chippy play (bush league) move by Dwayne Wade.  Rondo landed awkwardly and dislocated his left elbow.  I personally thought that unless Rondo was Gumby, he was out for the remainder of this post season and into next season. I figured the series was over and I sat bitterly thinking that LeBron and friends were moving on to face either the Bulls or the Hawks and would eventually win the NBA Title.

Then Rondo appeared from the tunnel favoring his arm and cheered on his team a bit.  I figured it was cool he came out to the bench instead of sitting in the locker room.  Then he started walking toward the scoring table to check in and I was speechless mixed with being nervous.  But Rondo came out and his presence lifted the TD Garden crowd to its feet and pumped up the rest of his team.  He had a hustle play where he dove for a ball and landed on his left shoulder, a play which made all of greater Boston collectively gasp, and then he stole a ball from the eunuch known as Chris Bosh and converted a fast break dunk.

Fast forward to now.  The Heat and Celtics are an hour away from Game 4 in Boston.  Rational me sees the Heat winning this series in 6 games.  But the fan in me has become inspired.  Rondo returning from this injury conjures up memories of Dave Roberts stealing second base in 2004.  Just like then I held out hope for a miracle and it happened.  Rondo’s return did more than pump up his teammates and lift the Garden decibel level beyond deafening.  While Rondo dislocated his elbow, his return fractured the Heat psyche.

Don’t underestimate this.  The Heat have been front-runners all year long.  The second things go bad, they get ugly.  They start moping and crying.  Remember LeBron pushing his coach in the beginning of the year when they were a .500 team? Remember Dwayne Wade saying everyone in the world is happy because the Heat are losing? The Heat don’t handle adversity well.  The longer this series goes, the more pressure there is on the Miami Heat.  As my brother pointed out to me; the longer the series goes the more pressure there is on James, Wade, and Bosh.  Chris Bosh who has already admitted publicly he can’t handle the pressure of the moment.  The longer the series goes, the more the rest of the Heat will roster will defer to James and Wade.  The more pressure there will be on James and Wade.  How will they handle it? Will they try taking the Celtics 1-5 and eventually argue with each other on the court?  Time will tell.

The bottom line: In sports courageous events such as Rondo’s return from a gruesome injury have bolstered team’s efforts and demolished the morale of the opponent to the point where it determined a winner.  If Boston wins this series, look back to Dwayne Wade’s cowardly take down of Rondo, and Rondo’s courageous return to the court as the reason why.

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

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