Lakers End Celtics' Jynx
June 10, 1985
The bus waits in a dark warehouse area at the back of the Boston Garden. Hub Bus Lines. Bus No. 825. The door is open. The sound of a party can be heard from inside.
This is the Los Angeles Lakers' bus.
"How were these guys when they came to the game?" I ask the driver, a local guy named Rick Ash. "Were they quiet or noisy?"
"Quiet," Rick Ash says. "They're always a pretty quiet group. This is the rowdiest I've ever heard them . . . but I guess they have a reason."
Lakers 111, Boston Celtics 100. End of game. End of season. End of jinx. End.
Demons have been purged. Harpies have been sent running in a fright. All those years and all those games and all of that . . . stuff has been put away forever. The Lakers are the champions of the basketball world. The Celtics are not.
I watch what never has been watched in this city. I watch invincibility rolled up, tucked into a carrying case and taken away forever. I watch the Lakers celebrate.
What was it that M.L. Carr, the talkative spokesman of the Celtics, said?
"These are not the Fakers any more," he said. "These are the Lakers. They are real and have to be believed. They are champs."
I have stood for awhile in the crunch of the Lakers' locker room, breathed the mingled smells of sweat and champagne and relief. Has there ever been a happier group of athletes in this little locker room? Ever? Even the winners of state schoolboy championships and Stanley Cups postmarked to Montreal? Ever?
I have heard Kurt Rambis, the sweatshop Laker forward, talk about how the weight of the building and the losing was carried by every player on the team. How it was felt and shared and confronted. How it definitely was noticed.
"I think all of us thought about last year (and losing the final game) in this dressing room today," he said. "I know I did. I pictured all of the Celtics at the end of that game. How they celebrated and how we had to watch. I pictured myself, too. How I had that hang-dog expression and that frown."
I have seen the joy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers center and MVP in the interview room, another small room packed with people. He compared his joy to the joy of Johnny Podres, finally pitching the Brooklyn Dodgers past the Yankees after years of World Series frustration in 1955. He knows because he was a Dodger fan.
"Why do you call this your most enjoyable championship?" he was asked.
"Because Boston never had lost one at home," the big man said. "Because Boston never had lost one to the Lakers. And because Boston never had lost one with Abdul-Jabbar on the team."
I have stood next to a Los Angeles record producer named Lou Adler and his son, Nic, on the side of the Lakers celebration. They are Lakers fans, and friends of the actor, Jack Nicholson. They are wearing T-shirts that Nicholson had printed with a cartoon of Magic Johnson on the front. The cartoon originally was drawn by Larry Johnson and it ran in the Globe, but Nicholson had one item added for the shirts. Magic is holding a 'World Champions' flag.
"Jack handed them out near the end of the game," Lou Adler said.
"How much time was left?" I asked.
"It was 1:43," Nic Adler said proudly. "I remember."
I have talked with Abdul-Jabbar's father in the Garden hallway. His name is Ferdinand Alcindor, same as his son's name originally, but he is called Al. He is retired from the transit company and watched the game with his wife, Cora. Al and Cora Alcindor made some noise in this game.
"I've seen just about all the championships he's ever won," Al Alcindor said, "but this is one of the best. First time in this building. That's for sure."
"How does he keep playing the way he's playing?" I asked.
"I don't know," the father said. "We just fed him regularly and kept him happy when he was a boy."
I have visited the Celtics' locker room, not as crowded, at least 10 degrees cooler. I have watched Larry Bird, as always, standing and handling the bad-news interviews. I have listened to reserve center Greg Kite talking about spending some intimate moments on a basketball court with Mr. Abdul- Jabbar.
"You just hope they don't pass him the ball," Greg Kite said. "If they do, you know the skyhook is coming. It's the most predictable move in the history of basketball . . . but it's also the most successful."
I have landed at the bus by following Abdul-Jabbar from the Lakers' locker room. He still was in his game uniform except he had added a yellow T-shirt that read "Los Angeles Lakers, 1985 World Champions."
Accompanied by a security guard, he walked though the Garden hallway and into the East Lobby where a number of fans still were standing. Most of them were Celtics fans in Celtics green, but as he passed, they began to clap. One more ovation. He waved a hand in thanks.
"Congratulations," a guy in another Celtics shirt said as the big man moved onto the bus.
"Thanks," Abdul-Jabbar says, ducking his head.
At the bus, I watch as a guy named Lou Rosen, a member of the Lakers' front office, hurries with the Lawrence O'Brien Trophy that goes with the NBA championship. He carries it as if it were a bag of groceries. He disappears onto the bus.
I watch as Kurt Rambis arrives in a late hurry. I watch as Mitch Kupchak arrives. That it? I watch as the trainer, Gary Vitti, arrives and says the locker room is empty.
"Are you a Celtics fan?" I ask the bus driver, Rick Ash.
"Hell, yes," he says. "That's why I'm working the job. I wanted to get in to see the game. I wanted to see the Celtics." He pauses.
"What are you going to do?" the driver says. "These guys played better. They deserved to win."
The time is 4:48 on the afternoon of June 10, 1985, as the bus finally leaves. End of game. End of season. End of jinx. End. I notice that the bus is made by the Prevost Co. and that the model is "Le Mirage." Le Mirage?
Nope. I don't even write that information in the pad. This was real.