Monday, September 20

'93 Sonics: A Pain That Lingers


'93 Western Conference Finals: It still hurts.

It's been just over 11 years, and I'm still not done being mad about the '93 Sonics getting jobbed in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals vs. Phoenix. But somehow, it does help to have a fairly well-known guy with a column on ESPN.com and in ESPN the Magazine come out and say in a by-the-way, "the sky is blue" kind of statement of fact that yes, the Sonics were robbed.
If you're breaking out a batch of sour grapes, you'd better have a really good reason. Like that South Korean gymnast who was robbed of Paul Hamm's gold medal, or the 1993 Sonics, 1994 Bulls or 1985 Cards, all of whom who were screwed by comically poor officiating.
With my scorn and bile suddenly rekindled, I needed to make sure my memory was correct. Could it really have been SIXTY-FOUR free throw attempts in one game? Have I embellished that figure in my mind to magnify the injustice over the years, to keep it from being filed away as a cold case?

Nope. Even the Phoenix Suns themselves acknowledge that they couldn't have done it without the refs:
The whistles helped their cause, too. Phoenix tied an NBA playoff record with 57 free throws in 64 attempts – 15-of-15 in the fourth quarter.
STILL. SO. ANGRY.

Sigh. At any rate, I wish that the Young, Stupid, Superstitious Me of back then would have just taped every game that year (you know, to foil the VHS Jinx where if you tape a game that you can't watch, it's pretty much a guarantee that your team will lose and you'll never watch that tape anyway; so you tape every game, thinking, "no way do they lose EVERY game, right?"), so that the Old, Partially Senile Me of today could enjoy the Young, Athletic, Still Had a Future Sonics of '93.

11 comments:

Paul Merrill said...

In the interests of journalist integrity, it is necessary to point out one of the reasons Chunkstyle is so bitter about this game: He, P. Nussbaum, and myself sat in the very last row of the old Coliseum for Game Six and got rained on through the whole game because of the decrepit old ceiling. Ahh, the good old days!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this one from the Sports Guy:

"One other note: I want to thank everyone at NBA TV for generously offering their support and time, searching for tapes, editing games that weren't in the system, and even answering sarcastic e-mails like 'Can we show the Sonics game that David Stern fixed so the '93 Suns could make the Finals?'"

I swear I've never spoken to a Sonics fan who wasn't at Game 6 of that series. Naturally I was there.

Anonymous said...

"If you're breaking out a batch of sour grapes, you'd better have a really good reason. Like that South Korean gymnast who was robbed of Paul Hamm's gold medal, or the 1993 Sonics, 1994 Bulls or 1985 Cards, all of whom who were screwed by comically poor officiating."

You could also add the Dallas Mavericks being robbed by poor officiating against the Miami Heat

Anonymous said...

Just want to mention that the Sonics might not have been in the '93 conference finals if the Rockets hadn't got jobbed in the last regular season game of the season. David Robinson made a shot after the buzzer to send the game to overtime. If the Rockets had won they would have had home court. The home team won every game of the conference semis.

Anonymous said...

Just want to mention that the Sonics might not have been in the '93 conference finals if the Rockets hadn't got jobbed in the last regular season game of the season. David Robinson made a shot after the buzzer to send the game to overtime. If the Rockets had won they would have had home court. The home team won every game of the conference semis.

cygnussupply said...

If anyones interested I have the entire '93 western conference finals on VHS. I was a HUGE sonics fan at the time. The Sonics were utterly robbed in Game 7. It's comical to even watch this game. Looking at the stats only tells me that game was rigged. And if you look at what was on the line (Jordan VS Barkley in the NBA Finals) you can see the motive of the league. The whole TD scandal got me thinking about this game again. I'd like to see all the former and present NBA ref's take the stand and swear under oath that they never received any direct or indirect (inferred/implied) communication from the league (David Stern) on how a game should be ref'd. I'm going to transfer these VHS to DVD so I can show everyone the NBA is rigged.

Roland Beech said...

hey cygnussupply,

I'd love a copy of the tape so I can do a look through at every call and write and article for 82games.com

so if you've got a copy please send it to

Roland Beech
82games.com
Box 43
Aptos CA 95001-0043

or you can contact me through the site

Rockets tickets said...

I was looking for some information about the Rockets to have some knowledge about the team...looks like I landed up at the right place!!

Anonymous said...

HEADLINE: SONICS WON'T FIND SMOKING GUN, JUST SHADOWY NBA POLITICS

BYLINE: Art Thiel

BODY: Was the fix in?

No.

Did the officiating crew of the seventh game in the Western Conference finals understand the significance to the NBA of a Michael Jordan-Charles Barkley matchup in the championship series?

Yes.

Somewhere between those answers is the truth about what happened to the Seattle SuperSonics on Saturday in Phoenix.

Nothing can be proved, because nothing is there. An investigation won't find a fax saying fix. There's no E-mail from Commissioner Stern's office passing on "instructions." A print-out of a lie-detector test of veteran referees Mike Mathis, Dick Bavetta and Ed T. Rush would be as placid as a dead man's EKG.

What there is, is an indisputable, league-embarrassing fact that no team in the last 40 years of NBA playoffs has been judged as criminal as Seattle was Saturday. Not since the league was populated largely by slow, white thugs has a team been so brutal, or clumsy, or both.

The Sonics? They have been called many things this season, never brutal or clumsy.

They made more than their share of silly fouls Saturday, and deserved to come out on the short end of free throws. Throughout the series, the Sonics were the more aggressive, gambling defensive team, and figured to draw more fouls as a matter of course.

Anonymous said...

Yet through the first six games of the series, Phoenix had shot only 15 more free throws than Seattle (191 to 176). What the NBA is asking the public to believe is that play changed so dramatically between two evenly matched teams that the Suns deserved to get in one game 28 more free throws than the Sonics (64 to 36).

TO RECONCILE the discrepancy, it helps to understand the politics of the NBA. This is the year of the Suns.

Their 25th anniversary season was graced with the arrival of the game's most provocative figure, Barkley, second and closing on Jordan as world's best player. Barkley and club management all but promised the city a championship, and the public responded with perpetual sellouts.

The Suns christened a spectacular new arena that enlivened an otherwise dead downtown and produced the league's best regular-season record as well as the Most Valuable Player. Many locals believed that the Suns in one season helped transform the state's national image from a bastion of bigotry to one of enlightened tolerance.

Before Game 2 in Phoenix, one local newscast led with a story about how Barkley's personal embrace of the city had erased the national scar of former Gov. Evan Mecham and his fight against a holiday honoring Martin Luther King. One state historian was quoted as saying an NBA title for Phoenix "would be the biggest thing to happen to this state, period. Including statehood."

Against this background of blindly desperate boosterism unfettered by judgment stood Jerry Colangelo, the 1992-93 Executive of the Year and, outside of David Stern, the game's most important figure not wearing short pants.

Colangelo, co-owner as well as club president, has been with the Suns since he became the league's youngest GM in 1968. He is the NBA's most influential and respected owner, though Chicago's Jerry Reinsdorf will love to argue the point.

In sum, the Suns, behind their powerful boss, have become the league's brightest, most zealously supported franchise. A jewel, as Stern likes to say.

What has all this to do with officiating?

The NBA is not so desperate as to conspire blatantly to hand a franchise something they had not worked relentlessly, sometimes brilliantly, to reach. But, all things being equal (and at 3-3, they were), the gods of pro basketball weren't going to let some double-pumping reverse flip shot from Shawn Kemp spoil what Colangelo, Barkley, et al, had wrought in allegedly transforming not only a franchise but a city and a state.

So the officials called a tight game.

Not an overtly biased game, or even a bad game. A tight game. The bumps and slaps and hand-checks that had gone unpenalized through six games would no longer be permitted. Consider that the Sonics' total of 36 free throws Saturday was their high for the playoffs as well.

BECAUSE THE SONICS were the defensive aggressors, the change would hurt them the most. And because the Sonics were newcomers to the politics of so high a stage, they adjusted poorly.

They now have their lesson. Colangelo has his reward. NBC has its matchup, the kind of ratings draw that will prove that the superstar-dominant league cannot merely survive the absence of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, it can even flourish.

At least this year. The Suns' year.

The Sonics' year? They'll get one. Maybe as soon as next year. In fairness to the NBA, while it may not have done right by Seattle on Saturday, it does keep track of who is owed. You could ask Colangelo, but he dares not tell.

Art Thiel is a P-I staff columnist.

Anonymous said...

I thought I'd post this column by Art Thiel. I too am still upset over that game. Not to say the Sonics would have won, but the refs never gave them a chance. So sad!