Saturday, January 14, 2012
Game 12: Verizon Center
Sixers 103, Wizards 90
WASHINGTON — The first time I went to an NBA game was in March of 1980 in a late-season game between the two-time defending Eastern Conference champion Washington Bullets and the lowly Detroit Pistons. The game was played at the Bullets’ arena in Landover, Md., called the Capitol Centre.
As far as suburban arenas go, there was nothing too unique about the Cap Centre aside from the fact that there were no levels in the seating area. It was like a high-school gym with bleachers ringing the playing surface.
Granted, it would have been a pretty big high-school gym since the Cap Centre had a capacity for more than 18,000 people, but a high-school gym nonetheless.
There wasn’t anywhere close to 18,000 folks in the Cap Centre on a sunny Sunday in March of 1980. In fact, I got the sense that my dad wasn’t too excited about going to see the Bullets’ game even with the free tickets. I was insistent, though. I always was when it came to going to games.
Anyway, we saw a few Hall of Famers that afternoon. Elvin Hayes, the Bullets’ high-scoring forward was 34 and winding down his NBA career and Wes Unseld, the rebounding machine, was in his next-to-last season in the league. The Bullets also had All-Stars Bobby Dandridge and Phil Chenier, as well as standouts like Kevin Grevey, Greg Ballard, Mitch Kupchak and a guy called “Super” John Williamson.
Detroit had Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo and had just fired a little-known coach named Dick Vitale. When the gig with the Pistons didn’t work out, Vitale gave broadcasting a try.
With all that talent on the floor, it was the smallest dude out there that stole the show.
Point guard Kevin Porter had 24 assists that afternoon, which at the time was the fourth-most in a game in NBA history. In a game two years earlier, Porter got the record of 29 assists in a game, which he held until the 1990-91 season when Scott Skiles got 30.
In all the years and all the games that followed, I never saw anyone come anywhere close to matching Porter’s 24-assists game. And I have seen a lot of games. Hell, I was even at the game where Willie Burton scored 53 points to set the single-game scoring record at the Spectrum, but no one ever has come close to emulating Porter in that very first game I attended. Actually, 24 assists in a game has been surpassed just nine times by seven players in the 32 years since my first game and the last of those came in 1996.
Chances are I saw something I’ll never see again that day at the Cap Centre.