NBA Inside Stuff magazine will go behind the scenes to cover the postseason atmosphere at arenas around the league during NBA Playoffs 2001. Here is a look at the scene in Philadelphia as the Sixers took a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series with Toronto.
It's amazing what a blowout win deep in the playoffs can do for a team's mood. Pretty much throughout Game 5, and in the locker room afterward, the Philadelphia 76ers seemed to be the happiest, most caring, generous group of young men you could ever hope to meet.
It started in the first quarter when Aaron McKie
crashed hard into a TNT cameraman on the baseline. Play continued at the far end of the court, but McKie didn't seem to be able to get up. Two ball boys ran over to help push the NBA's Sixth Man Award-winner back onto the court. Just as McKie found his feet, Allen Iverson
stepped into the passing lane and picked off a pass from Toronto's Chris Childs
at the far end of the court. Finally up, and now all alone under the Sixers hoop, McKie threw his hands in the air to call for the ball, caught the pass and dunked to give the Sixers a 19-6 lead. Iverson and McKie turned down court to play defense, but Toronto called a timeout.
Then the Sixers' uncommon good mood showed itself most clearly. McKie, nearly at the Sixers bench at the far end of the court, sprinted back to the far end of the floor where he had fallen seconds earlier. Had he dropped a wristband? Lost a contact? No, he was just running to check on the TNT cameraman. The cameraman was said to be OK. "Just a little banged up," according to a co-worker.
After the game, Iverson was in an incredibly good mood. In fact, he almost teared up with laughter during a live-via-satellite interview with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and the TNT studio team. "Y'all stay trippin' on the show, man!" he advised the crew with a giggle before signing off.
A few minutes later, wearing just his boxer shorts on the way to the showers, Iverson was stopped by a couple of older men who wanted to snap some photos with the man who had just been presented the MVP trophy. It would have been completely understandable if Iverson had put them off. But he didn't. Not tonight. Instead, he posed happily, draping an arm around each of their shoulders in turn, and joking, laughing, and smiling for the camera. One of the men even gave Iverson some extra coverage from the camera by holding his game program in front of the MVP's underwear.
A few feet away, backup center Todd MacCulloch
wasn't to be outdone in the charitable works department. Indeed, he confessed that he was heading home after the game to help care for Maximus, Othello, Owen and Clyde, the tiny kittens that he and his wife are watching as part of an ASPCA program. It turns out that living in crowded animal shelters can be very hard on small kittens, so Big Mac and his wife participate in a plan to raise the little ones in their home until they mature enough to be less vulnerable and they can be safely returned to the shelter for adoption.
MacCulloch says he never really thought of himself as a cat person until recently. "I'm definitely turning into one," he says, adding that it's never easy to return the little felines to the shelter. "Every time we take 'em back it's a sad thing, but you know, I think we can help more kittens this way than if we keep a couple."
Not surprisingly, the mood wasn't so delicate among the Raptors. Most of the Raptors were dressed and gone from the locker room quickly after the loss. Jerome Williams
had a consoling chat courtside with his mother who had driven up from the D.C. area for the game (although this time not in the "Junk Yard Mom" jersey Jerome bought her, which she sported in Game 2).
Childs fielded questions about the trash talking that had gone on between him and Iverson. "He was excited, running off at the mouth," Childs said of Iverson. "It was just a part of basketball, a couple of competitors jawing at each other. Nothing personal."
Fresh off of scoring 52 on Childs and Alvin Williams
, Iverson didn't seem too bothered by the chatter from Childs. "I wouldn't be doing any talking if somebody was killing me like that," he barked with a smile, adding, "I really wasn't even listening to him."
If you know what you're doing, like the guy outside the First Union Center Wednesday night, trash talking can be highly profitable. Here's how it works: Go to an NBA arena, especially during the playoffs. Set up a dunk tank. Yeah, that's right, like at the carnival. Then set up a P.A. system (waterproof microphone recommended) so that you can address the fans as they arrive at the game. Wearing the uniform of the visiting team, sit on the ledge in the tank, over the water, and scream intense insults about the home team as loud as you can, again and again, while pumping your fists in the air saying your team, the road team, rules. Meanwhile, have your friends circulate in the crowd offering to sell people the chance to hurl a baseball at a target in the hopes of making you swim. People were lined up to pay a few dollars to try sinking some guy in a Raptors jersey before Wednesday's game, and, unlike Iverson, almost everybody missed anyway.