In January of 2011, I was invited to become a contributor at The Two Man Game, writing about the Dallas Mavericks. Although I didn’t know the Mavericks much better than any other team in the league, I had been presented with a fortuitous, gift-wrapped excuse for hopping on the bandwagon just before things started filling up. As I was getting to familiar with the Mavericks, they were getting familiar with each other and their own limitations, preparing for a remarkable playoff run.
At that point, my wife and I were nearing the end of a seven-year run as East Coast transplants in Idaho. The NBA playoffs that season coincided with our last two months out west, before schlepping our lives and accumulated flotsam back across the country.
During the NBA Finals we were travelling around the state on a ‘farewell tour’ with my in-laws. We were camping and hiking and there was a scramble every other night trying to find a place to watch the games. I would drift into a coffee shop for an hour or so to submit my pieces to The Two Man Game, but never with enough time to delve into the coverage other writers were providing. On the day of Game 6 we rolled into Stanley, Idaho, population: 57. It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and where my wife and I got married, but not the kind of place where you can count on the conveniences of modern life. We were in luck because someone had wheeled the enormous and archaic big screen from their own living room down to the local honky-tonk, The Kasino Club. NBA basketball is not a hot ticket in rural Idaho and the regular crowd doesn’t roll in until much later. For the entirety of the game we were the only ones in the joint.
I remember that series, and that game in particular, for the sheer incongruity of it all. In retrospect we remember that series as the exposure of the Heat as an undeveloped, unfamiliar and misaligned collection of talent. But at the time it felt completely and utterly improbable, right up until the final buzzer sounded. The picture was fuzzy, but the wings were hot and the PBR tall boys were cold. As Dirk Nowtizki and Jason Terry capped off their stunning destruction of Miami, I sat in disbelief at a table in the center of the emptiest restaurant, in the emptiest town, in the emptiest state in the Union.