WeissCrax: Knicks, Lakers clash brings me back

LA Lakers vs. NY Knicks.


My all-time favorite classic series starting years ago and worlds away. It’s Friday evening in Santa Barbara but many melded memories take me back…

It’s the late 1960s in Bayport, NY along “Long Giland’s” southern shores – 60 miles east from The Center of My Universe: Madison Square Garden (MSG). Winter hoops season means wind-chill, howling winds and a blizzard outside. The backyard lake is frozen solid.

Randy Weiss, right, in his childhood years back East in New York, where he grew up rooting for the Knicks.

Inside, this young basketball junkie awaits tip-off. My beloved Knicks hosting the Lakers — Wilt, West and Company. It’s SRO (Standing Room Only) so the television gods have lifted the veil of blackout. WPIX-11 (think those were the call letters), one of only 13 pre-cable channels on the small black and white TV atop of the maple dresser, mercifully carries the game.

And the view couldn’t be “more better” from my small bedroom’s bottom bunk bed. The AM transistor radio rests nearby on the matching maple night stand, ever ready should power get knocked out. Under the covers with me, as always, is my best buddy – my basketball!

The Garden’s distinctive organ tunes electrify the sellout crowd in perfect harmony with the starting lineups via “The Voice” – aka John Condon, MSG Public Address Announcer Extraordinaire.

For me, pre-game rituals involve quick pep talks to each the 12 player pencil sketches adorning the wall — the Knick Shrine high above. “OK, this is what we gotta do…,” I tell ‘em.

Starting from left (and totally from memory, I swear) are starters: Willis Reed. Bill Bradley. Dave DeBusschere. “Clyde” Frazier (said to be “so quick on defense that he can steal hubcaps off moving cars”). Dick “Fall Back, Baby” Barnett. Then bench: Cazzie Russell. Phil Jackson. Dave “The Rave” Stallworth. Mike Riordan. Nate Bowman. Bill Hosket. Donnie May.

Last sketch is All-World Coach Red Holzman – a total class act. His “Hit the Open Man” offense will forever be “a beautiful thing.” I see and hear it so clearly now….

“Barnett brings up the ball…passes to Frazier at midcourt…Clyde dribbles left behind his back…loses a defender…finds DeBusschere open in the corner…from downtown, he fires – YESSSSSS!!”

In his early broadcasting years covering my Knicks, Marv Albert’s “YESSSSS!!” said it all. Especially Game 7 of the ’69 NBA Finals when the immortal Willis Reed hobbled out, bad hip and all, and took only two shots (both YESSSSS!!), ensuring the NBA Championship in the first few minutes… against the dreaded Lakers.

Times change. My movin’ west in 1979 changed my hoops landscape, as well. My allegiance shifted towards the more local Lakers, Kareem and beginning The Magic Years. Showtime. More of the ‘Hit the Open Man” – only with a little razzle dazzle. A phenomenal run!

Here's the scene on Friday night as the Lakers close out the Knicks in the fourth quarter on their way to a 115-105 victory.

Later, with Holzman-disciple, Phil “Action Jackson” coaching Kobe and Shaq, three more NBA titles. Now “Kobe & Kompany” are 2009 Champs with hopefully more “hardware” coming…

And tonight my beloved Lakers beat the dreaded Knicks 115-105. Years ago this would have been almost unbearable. But, like I said, times change. Trust me, do I ever know!

Especially since I’ve enjoyed watching the victory in my Man Cave on the 64-inch flat screen, “hi-def,” color TV with 900-plus channels.

All I can say is…..