Delayed Gratification

June 12, 1984 Boston He could have shut the curtains and cranked up the volume on the television. Instead, Magic Johnson acted on his perverse need to witness the revelry that was unfolding around him, staring blankly out of the window of his hotel, fixated on the sea of green below. Thousands of fans clogged the streets, many wearing shamrock-colored T-shirts, creating a gleeful gridlock of traffic in the already historically congested city. Car horns honked, fireworks crackled, and grown men danced Irish jigs in celebration of the Celtics’ Game 7 victory over the Lakers to capture the 1984 NBA Championship.

“It was bedlam,” Magic said. “I made myself watch it. It made me feel worse, but I deserved to be miserable.”

His two close friends, NBA stars Mark Aguirre and Isiah Thomas, remained sequestered with him, attempting to console him. Back then, there were no team charters to whisk professional athletes home immediately after the game. The Lakers flew commercial and were forced to wait until morning before they could escape Boston and their glaring errors, which were highlighted hourly on the local news channels. Aguirre turned off the television, and Thomas ordered room service: a feast of chicken, ribs, mounds of fruit, and baskets of rolls and pastries. Most of it went untouched. Johnson had no appetite for anything except self-loathing. His friends broached various topics with the aim of distracting him -- music, cars, women -- but as the hours dragged on, Magic kept doubling back to missed free throws, errant passes, and dribbling out the clock.

“We should have won that series,” Magic said. “I’ve always prided myself on getting it done in crunch time. What happened?”

He already knew the answer. Larry Bird had happened

--Jackie MacMullan

I love Jackie Mac.

Americans are known as people who are unable to delay gratification. They want everything yesterday. That's never been a problem for me. I have two Celtics-Lakers games from the 1984 NBA Finals on DVD. They're still in their original wrapper. I treat those games like fine wine. They need to age appropriately before they are ready for consumption. I still don't know when that time will be. But stories like this certainly whet my appetite.

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