Doomsday Scenario Almost Came True
What would have happened had the Lakers not won two home games in a row? Defending champs, favored to do it again, and what’s best, they were playing the Boston Celtics. Revenge time, it all comes full circle, not only is there redemption for what happened in 2008 …
It almost blew up.
See, in 2008 when the Lakers lost I wasn’t devastated. Sure it was sad. It was even worse that the clincher, game six in Boston, was a serious stomping. But it was fine, the Lakers shouldn’t have been there. They were just another NBA team that got Pau Gasol donated and all of a sudden they get to the championship.
Just happy to be there.
But they rallied the next year. This one had potential for major hurt because the Lakers were the better team. And when the better team loses it’s heartbreaking.
I have had a few bouts with my favorite teams losing when they were the better team. Some I have recovered from, others haunt me to this day. Luckily, I don’t have to recover from a 2010 Lakers collapse.
Oakland Raiders vs. New England Patriots, 2001 AFC semifinals
Although I’m not from Oakland, as a kid the Raiders played in Los Angeles. They were my pro team. So when they moved to Oakland I still followed them.
This was a solid team that seemed like they had made a big defensive stand by stripping the ball from Tom Brady. They were on the verge of securing a win in snowy New England.
Then the inexplicable tuck rule was called. That must be the most replayed play in NFL history. Brady clearly wasn’t throwing the ball. So it’s a fumble, right? To this day that’s one of the strangest calls in sports history.
The Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XXXVI.
Oakland Raiders vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Super Bowl XXXVII
The Raiders with their wealth of veteran talent went to the Super Bowl and were favored against the Buccaneers. Oakland had more talent and was led by NFL MVP Rich Gannon.
Unfortunately for them, their former coach, Jon Gruden left to lead Tampa Bay. When these teams met, it wasn’t even close. Gruden knew exactly what his former team was going to run. Raiders coach Bill Callahan changed nothing.
What should have been a sweet taste of the Vince Lombardi trophy for the Raiders turned into gut-punching defeat. How could a team with Gannon, future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Rod Woodson, Bill Romanowski and other Pro Bowl caliber players lose so badly?
In NFL films footage Buccaneers safety John Lynch tells his teammates during the game what plays are about to happen. In some instances Callahan didn’t even change the audibles for the Raiders.
With that inside knowledge Tampa Bay won, 48-21. Thanks for nothing, Bill Callahan.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons, 2004 NBA Finals
This was the one that had the potential of being the most devastating run in sports history. Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and coach Phil Jackson … This was too good to be true.
Like Persephone in “The Matrix Reloaded” noted, “Such a thing was not meant to last.” It’s easier to hear when Monica Bellucci in a sexy dress says it. The Lakers were making their fourth trip to the finals in five years.
They had dominated the league during Jackson’s reign. The Lakers were so fearsome when they returned to the finals in 2004, forward Rick Fox said the previous year’s misstep was a “pause.” People had said Shaq and Kobe were so good, it was like Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain were on the same team.
Who could stop these guys? NBA Commissioner David Stern once noted the best finals matchup would be the Lakers vs. the Lakers. And that’s what happened.
The Detroit Pistons happened to be there. Kobe vs. Shaq, Big Chief Triangle vs. the organization, Gary Payton vs. the team, Karl Malone’s injury. NBA analyst Tom Tolbert said if the Lakers lost the championship the whole season would be a disappointment.
He was right. The franchise was dismantled after the loss. Shaq was traded for far below value, Malone retired, Payton and Fox were traded, and Derek Fisher signed elsewhere. But Kobe re-signed. These guys had limitless potential.
Shaq still plays and had he been teamed with Kobe, along with other prime free agents, the Lakers could have won more than five titles in 11 years. Those were sad years after Shaq left.
USC Trojans vs. Texas Longhorns, 2006 college football national championship
Texas was a great team. I think USC was a bit better. Unlike a seven-game series, however, the better team doesn’t always win in football.
This one really crushed me. USC had won two straight national championships and were in line for a third. This was and still is unprecedented in the modern era. And don’t think for a second that Reggie Bush’s parents living in some house had something to do with success on the field.
Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart came close to capping off a career with three national titles and one loss. These numbers would have put Leinart up there with one of the best, if not the best college quarterbacks of all time. But Vince Young of the Longhorns had a monstrous game passing for 267 yards and rushing for 200.
Surprisingly, Young’s effort gave him so much notoriety, ESPN named him one of the 25 greatest players in college football history and not Leinart. So Leinart wins more national titles than Young, wins a Heisman Trophy, puts up better numbers and wins more games and Young gets named to this list?
USC Trojans vs. UCLA Bruins, college football, 2006 regular season finale
In a rebuilding year USC needed to win one game to advance to the Bowl Championship Series title game. UCLA was an average team, but had some strong players on defense.
It was a game Bruins fans will remember forever. And Trojans want to forget it. I was at that game, sitting on the UCLA side, my friend and I the only ones wearing cardinal USC shirts.
The Bruins put together one of the most stellar defensive efforts ever, holding the Trojans, an offensive powerhouse, to just nine points.
What hurt most about this loss was the potential opponent for USC in the title game: Ohio State, the whipping dog of championship foes for years. Florida whipped the Buckeyes for the national championship. That could have been USC.