At some point since the turn of the century, mostly with the help — no, hindrance — of technology, we lost our ability to appreciate great athletic achievement.

Our cynicism and our ridiculous rush to be too-cool-for-school have taken over. Post-game interviews aren’t finished and we’re already falling on our asterisk, eager to compare, contrast, clarify and belittle what we just witnessed.

This past Wednesday night/Thursday morning was an example for the ages. If you were able and willing to keep your eyes open until 1 a.m., you witnessed (by any objective assessment) two of the greatest moments in NBA history, in simultaneous, hi-definition glory.

The Golden State Warriors put on a perimeter clinic against the Memphis Grizzlies and eclipsed the Chicago Bulls’ 20-year-old record for victories in a regular season with their 73rd win.

No other team has survived a traditional, complete campaign with single-digit losses. It is remarkable, if not unthinkable.

Barring the death of your remote control batteries, that episode ended early enough to shine the spotlight on Kobe Bryant as he lowered the curtain on two decades of dominance.


The Los Angeles Lakers limped to the finish line this spring, but Bryant surely didn’t. He applied the finishing touch with one of the most prolific games in the sport’s lengthy lore: 60 points. It is something no player within five years of his age (37) ever had accomplished, never mind in a swan song. It was incomparable, if not unbelievable.

Of course, in a world where even young people are increasingly guilty of reacting like Statler and Waldorf in “The Muppet Show” balcony, declaring that everything new stinks on ice, it was decreed that neither the Warriors nor Bryant achieved anything special.

A few random selections from the list: Naturally, Chicago ’96 would sweep Golden State ’16 in a best-of-seven series; Stephen Curry wouldn’t sink half as many 3-pointers if opponents played that in-your-shorts, back-in-the-day defense; Neither Memphis nor Utah had any incentive to play the games or try to stop Curry and Bryant, so those games were essentially “meaningless”; Bryant missed more than half the 50-plus shots he took in the game, reinforcing what a ball hog and bad teammate he was in the twilight of his career; Oh, and hockey is the only real winter sport with the only real athletes.

So I have some serious questions.

If you believe all that garbage, why do you even still watch sports?

If everything great has already been banked and preserved for posterity, why are we spending $100 or more per month, apiece, for the cable to watch the games and the smartphone for up-to-the-nanosecond updates?


Those informational tools also have made us more parochial than ever, which is no small piece of this puzzle. They allow us to embrace the teams in our region to the exclusion and derision of all others. If I’m a Boston Celtics’ fan, darned if I reluctantly admit that some feat performed by a Laker is worthy of at least a golf clap.

I don’t consider myself a connoisseur of the modern NBA, by any stretch of the imagination, and as a prisoner of the amazing decade that dominated my childhood, I root for the C’s out of nostalgia as much as geography.

Whether or not I believe Boston ’84 or ’86 would beat the splash out of Curry and Klay Thompson shouldn’t affect my appreciation of their record-smashing season, however. Not one scintilla. Nor should my lifelong intolerance of all things L.A. dissuade me from the concession that Bryant ended a hall of fame career with a flourish that we probably won’t see again in my lifetime.

It’s the same tunnel vision that prevented most New England sports enthusiasts from enjoying the careers of Peyton Manning and Derek Jeter, or compels them to ignore the Stanley Cup playoffs if the Bruins aren’t good enough to sneak in.

Years of covering high school athletes, wanting them all to succeed and never openly rooting for one team to excel above the others, has forever shaped me in one way for which I am eternally grateful. I’ve become a sports fan. Period.

I love a handful of pro and college teams, but I don’t live and die with them. Nor do I believe that the canon of sports scripture closed in 1979, or 1984, or 1996, or 2004.

On historic nights such as the one some of us chose to celebrate this past week, that open-mindedness is a blessed advantage.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His email is Follow him on Twitter @oaksie72 and like his Facebook page at

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