The Maharaja of the 2011 Playoffs

The playoffs are this weekend, and if you are taking the time out of your day to read a post on a blog called Hardwood Paroxysm, you–like me–are excited for the second season to start.

The epic moments that come out of the playoffs always leave lasting memories that makes the anticipation for the start; it’s almost unbearable at times. But we are now only days away, which has got me thinking a lot about past playoffs and some of my most memorable playoff moments.

I will always remember watching Larry Johnson’s four point play in the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals.

I will always remember watching Dwyane Wade as a rookie, hitting a game winner over Baron Davis in the First Round of the 2004 NBA Playoffs.

I will always remember being extremely disappointed that Gilbert Arenas missed two free throws in the closing moments of Game Six of the First Round of the 2006 NBA Playoffs which lead to Damon Jones (remember him?) nailing a game and series winning 3-pointer on the other end as the Cavs knocked off the Wizards.

I will always remember moving to Boston and watching the Celtics win the Finals in 2008.

Perhaps the most memorable playoff moment for me, is the First Round of the 2011 Playoffs. That round will always hold a special place in my heart as that was when my father passed away.

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With my wife in Austin, Texas, visiting a friend, my only plan for that first weekend of the playoffs was to do nothing but watch every game. Don’t judge, do you remember the start of the 2011 playoffs?

Derrick Rose was Derrick Rose and the playoffs were starting with his Bulls taking on the Indiana Pacers. Even though it was not billed as one of the marquee series, I remember being basically giddy to watch playoff-Derrick Rose.

Besides D. Rose, the Knicks were back in the playoffs lead by the mid-season acquisition of Carmelo Anthony. The Memphis Grizzlies and Zach Randolph were also there, and of course this was the first post season run for the Miami Heat’s Big 3.

So many story lines and so much anticipation, what could go wrong?

***

For some reason, I used to turn off my phone before going to bed on Friday nights. Not sure why I really did it because only once in a blue moon would I get a drunk text or call from one of my buddies. So on April 15th, I turned off my phone and went to bed; I slept in and woke up around 11 AM and after brushing my teeth, I took my dogs on a long walk by the Charles River which I live near.

I didn’t bring my phone or turn it on yet.

Back from the walk, I fed my dogs and began to make myself breakfast/lunch. I turned on the TV to watch the pre-game show while I ate. Multitasking, I turned on my phone and was shocked that it wouldn’t stop alerting me of missed phone calls, messages, and texts. Before I could even check anything, my phone rang and my wife was calling me trying to figure out where I had been and letting me know that something happened to my Dad.

Like you, this was literally one of my worst nightmares.

I called my mom and found out that my dad was in critical condition after basically suffering a stroke.

I couldn’t believe it. The playoffs now seemed so inconsequential as I made plans to head to Maryland to be with my family.

***

You couldn’t call my father a sports fan but he encouraged my brother and I to participate in sports while we were growing up. He was the one who installed a basketball hoop in our driveway. He was the one who paid for my SLAM magazine subscription. He bought me a pair of the Nike Air Super CBs, Charles Barkley’s signature shoe because Barkley is my favorite player. Looking back, this was pretty admirable of him to do since he had an almost actual disinterest in the game only watching NBA games when I would force him to. But he appreciated the game and although he played an almost passive role, I would not be such a big basketball fan if it were not for my father.

My father ended up being on life support and his condition worsened over the course of four days. While in his hospital room, the only thing I could really do, to not slip into any type of depression was watch the playoffs. So I did, with my dad.

I watched Chris Paul basically single-handedly beat the Lakers in Game 1 sitting in the hospital room with my dad.

Sitting next to my dad’s bed, I watched Zach Randolph score 25 points and grab 14 rebounds, becoming the Zach Randolph we all knew he could be, as his 8th seeded Grizzlies upset the Spurs in Game 1.

I watched Derrick Rose follow up his 39 point Game 1 performance with 36 points in Game 2, upset that my father couldn’t be awake to witness Rose’s brilliance.

After learning that we had to pull the plug on my father, I will always remember watching with tears in my eyes, Carmelo Anthony launch an one-man attack on the Boston Celtics scoring 42 points in a loss in Game 2.

***

Tragedy can affect us in a myriad number of ways and often having something to distract us from it can help the healing process. I found solace in the 2011 NBA playoffs after my father passed and was rewarded by watching an unbelievable run by Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.

It is somewhat surreal that one of my favorite times of the year also marks the passing of my father. Is it a cruel joke for my devotion to the sport? I don’t know if there is an answer to that but I do know that I will never forget the start of the 2011 playoffs.

Ananth Pandian

Ananth Pandian is "A Free Born Man of the USA". Follow him on Twitter: @Ananth_Pandian