Mendoza: Grieving a bit

All Write
Al Mendoza.
Al Mendoza.Al Mendoza.

I grieve a little. Why, because the Los Angeles Lakers are out. Ousted by the Denver Nuggets in a 4-1 rout in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs of the US National Basketball Association (NBA).

Yes, the grieving isn’t totally devastating since, let’s admit it, the Nuggets were heavily favored—being the defending NBA champions, for one. And having Nikola Jokic, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player last year, in their roster is just awesome.

Include Jamaal Murray, the bearded dead shot, who buried both game-winners for Denver in Games 2 & 5 on difficult, albeit identical, running jumpers done without total body control and a clear sight of the rim. Indeed, when you are good, you are lucky.

Well, the Lakers were also good. They just ran out of luck.

I’m saying that because I have always been a Laker fan?

From Jerry West (the model in the NBA logo) to Kareem Abdul Jabbar, from Magic Johnson to Kobe Bryant, and now LeBron James and Anthony Davis—these Lakers gave/give me a thrill beyond compare.

How can I forget Jerry West?

While a rookie sportswriter for the Bulletin Today (now Manila Bulletin), I interviewed West at the Manila International Airport upon his arrival to act as one of the judges in the 1974 Miss Universe contest in Manila won by Spain’s Amparo Muñoz.

The Basketball Network quotes West as saying in 1974: “The country that plays the most basketball, the Philippines, I was invited to be a judge in the Miss Universe contest. It was amazing. …And who would recognize me in the Philippines? I couldn’t go anywhere… NBA games were delayed like a month over there, and people recognized players. If I had to go out, I had to go through the kitchen… Baskets hung up on every telephone pole, electrical pole. People played it like crazy.”

West was the face of the NBA for decades, just like the now-retired Robert Jaworski in the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association).

But back to the NBA playoffs.

Minnesota downing Denver, 106-99, in Game 1 of their series on Sunday is just another proof of how the NBA landscape has changed dramatically. For, weren’t Stephen Curry (also my idol) and the Golden State Warriors, the league darlings for many years, also booted out of the playoffs?

The grieving’s numbed.


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