Chicago Bulls grateful to play final basketball game at Spectrum against Philadelphia 76ers
Bulls broadcaster Neil Funk remembers the crowd noise, so loud it would pierce his headphones as he broadcast memorable game after memorable game.
Vinny Del Negro remembers the smoke hanging in the rafters — not the manufactured kind that lingers after pregame indoor fireworks these days, but the real stuff from cigarette after cigarette.
Del Harris remembers Eugene "Goo" Kennedy shutting down Julius "Dr. J" Erving in Game 5 of the 1977 Eastern Conference finals.
Bernie Bickerstaff remembers World B. Free missing a wide-open Dr. J in a crucial moment from the 1978 Eastern finals as the Washington Bullets improbably marched to the NBA title.
Pete Myers remembers taking a mop from behind the basket stanchion and sweeping the floor after his Knicks shockingly swept the 76ers out of the 1989 playoffs.
And John Salmons, a native who was 4 at the time, remembers Dr. J's thunderous "rock the baby" dunk over Michael Cooper in the 1983 NBA Finals that's still a highlight-show staple.
The Bulls, like anybody associated with the league, have their fill of Spectrum memories and get the honor of playing the final NBA game there Friday night. The 76ers moved with the NHL's Flyers across a parking lot to the Wachovia Center 13 years ago, and the Spectrum will be torn down later this year.
But not before Funk, Salmons and the rest of the Bulls get to visit some ghosts one last time.
"I never thought I would set foot in there again," said Funk, who began his pro broadcasting career there in 1976 and also called the Sixers' 1983 NBA championship. "I'm a little surprised they didn't schedule Boston to play the last NBA game there because that was one of the great rivalries in sports for 20 years.
"But one thing about Philly is they have a sense of history. Here's this building, and we're going to get rid of it. But there are so many memories, let's play one more game."
Opened in 1967, the Spectrum hosted six Stanley Cup finals and four NBA Finals. In 1976 both the NHL and NBA All-Star Games were played there, as was the NCAA Final Four.
With the cookie-cutter nature of most modern arenas, Friday will be a chance to remember old characters like George McGinnis and Darryl Dawkins and play in a building with character.
"From Madison Square Garden to the L.A. Forum to the Boston Garden to the Spectrum to the old (Chicago) Stadium, all those old buildings had an atmosphere that was electric," Del Negro said. "It's going to be fun."
Too many great moments and too many great players left their mark on the Spectrum to be captured by one night. Funk is just happy for the opportunity to try.
"When I walk in there," Funk said, "I know a lot of memories are going to come flooding back."
Friday, March 13, 2009