Sometimes aging is smooth and graceful. Other times it’s a rude awakening, like realizing it’s been 16 years since I’ve watched a team make their stop at the Target Center while chasing a three-peat.
There’s very little I remember about the time the 1998 Bulls came to Minnesota, likely because I was playing basketball with a five-foot hoop, one with an oval-shaped backboard and an Orlando Magic logo slapped on it that my dad squeezed into the basement a couple years earlier. The space to chuck bricks at it to the point it looked like I was trying to mash a hole in the backboard was something like 10 feet wide and 15 feet long. To the left of the hoop were the house’s furnace and firewood, which represented out of bounds along with wherever the carpet ended. The right right side featured a couple steps leading to a worn out couch and the television I watched basketball from when I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with energy, which was basically never.
That’s probably why I remember very little from that game 16 years ago between the Bulls and Timberwolves. Roughly 99% of my freezing Minnesota winters from 1996 to 1999 – first grade through fourth for me – were spent shooting hoops in the basement, watching basketball, and playing NBA Live 95, 97, or 98 after school. Having the flu didn’t stop me from any of those hobbies, and especially not after Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game” during the ’97 Finals. I still remember the times I labored from my bed to the basement, humming the theme song of NBA on NBC only for my legs to feel like Jell-O a few minutes later. It was never a good idea to create my own flu game, but I couldn’t help it.
The little I remember from the time the Timberwolves beat the Bulls, though, like the limitless excitement I had in the final minutes of the game and Stephon Marbury celebrating by heaving the ball into the stands, will stick with me for as long as I’ll live. Marbury and the fans acted like they had won the NBA Finals that night, but I can’t blame them. Both my eight-year-old self and the current version like to think Minnesota escaped the cellar of the Western Conference for good after that game and became a contending team, even though they made the playoffs the season before.
Here are some highlights of that game:
16 years later the Miami Heat, in the middle of their quest for a three-peat, made their only stop at the Target Center for the 2013-14 season. I nearly forgot about their matchup with the Timberwolves, gravitating to the recliner just in time. Its pull left me with no urge whatsoever to stand up and pass time between dull moments by exercising, choosing instead to scroll Twitter and online discussion forums about visual snow.
It even took me midway through the second quarter to realize the last time I saw Minnesota host a team chasing its third championship was when I was four feet tall. I don’t remember the 2002 Lakers coming to Minneapolis, most likely because I was mesmerized by the PlayStation 2 both nights they came to town, and when the 2011 Lakers beat Minnesota twice on the way to their failed three-peat I was busy playing online poker.
But even though this season’s Wolves and the one of ’98 were looking to put years of rebuilding behind them, not much was alike in regards to what happened during their games against the Heat and Bulls, respectively. The crowd, like my enthusiasm, was mostly dead. The closest comparison to 1998’s excitement would be two seasons ago when the Timberwolves were last at full strength versus Miami and Ricky Rubio was aweing fans with simple behind the back passes.
And like the crowds, the result of last night’s game compared to 1998’s was also the opposite. A youthful Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury had the luck of playing a Bulls squad missing Scottie Pippen, while last night’s Heat were at full strength and Minnesota was missing Kevin Love. If that sounds like a recipe for a blowout, you would be right. LeBron and Dwyane Wade ended the Heat’s two-game losing streak by doing LeBron and Dwyane Wade things. After their 21-point victory, Wade video bombed LeBron and gave an accurate summary of the game in the process:
That’s what I’ll remember most about last night. Neither lasting memory from the Timberwolves playing host to the ’98 Bulls or ’14 Heat came from anything in the actual games.
After watching Stephon Marbury celebrate Minnesota’s victory over Chicago by heaving the ball into the stands, I celebrated by shooting hoops in my basement and pretended I was Kevin Garnett with my newfound energy. 16 years later I lounged in the recliner long after the Heat mopped the floor with the Love-less Timberwolves. The time I should’ve spent trying to get back into shape was instead wasted wondering if Wade would ever video bomb LeBron while dressed as an elf. I dozed off shortly after, waking up four hours later and tweeting in my foggy, half-asleep daze about the need for an all-you-can-eat French fry buffet.
For more Timberwolves memories, check this out.