Forget amazing, tonight Impossible Happened. The series with four overtimes through its first five games has ended up with seven overtimes through its first six. If those numbers don’t make sense, they’re not supposed to. You’re not supposed to have more overtimes than games. Tonight basketball fans were left speechless, incapable of describing a game that had already threatened to defy explanation up till this point. But it wasn’t just the basketball world that was captivated by this epic event.
I watched this game on TV while Twittering, as many fans were, and it was evident as the night went on that we were all witnessing something historic. Thanks to Twitter, more than ever people around the world are able to share their experiences during fleeting moments, something that simply wasn’t before possible on this scale. Ray Allen hits another improbable three and cyberspace is instantly flooded with a bite-sized pieces of awe, admiration and disbelief, slowly trickling through various networks and groups and ending up on your computer screen, two seconds after you saw the jump shot with your own eyes.
It’s a weird sensation and it only heightened the experience of following a game as rare and as historic as this. When the game ended and I managed to catch my breath, I noticed the ‘Trending Topics’ in the Twitter sidebar – a list of the most Tweeted words around the world at that point in time. I was a little stunned. Looking at that list it was clear Game 6 wasn’t just a great basketball game. It was the greatest story on Earth.
Top 10 Twitter Trending Topics just minutes after Game 6
The above picture is the actual screen shot I took just minutes after the game ended. Here’s a breakdown of how and why this became the game that was heard around the world.
1 – Ray Allen. Caused more shrieks of delight and blatant swearing on Twitter than anything else in the world at this time. Tonight Ray Allen had arguably the greatest long-range shooting performance in playoff history, and he became the first Celtic to score 50 points in a playoff game since John Havlicek in 1973 (a guy called Larry Bird played in between that time). Ray played an epic 59 minutes and for the first time in his career, he raised a sweat during a game. The Twitter Trend rankings don’t lie – for just a brief time on this night, Ray Allen was, without doubt, The Most Interesting Man in the Word.
2 – Swine Flu. The second most pressing matter on Earth during this time, behind Ray’s unbelievable heroics. The NBA: Where More Important Than a Global Flu Pandemic Happens.
3 – #jonaslive. Reference to the The Jonas Brothers, a musical band featuring three nine year old boys, like Hanson except with brown hair. They often wear half-done-up ties, not so much due to any intended fashion statement but simply because they have no idea how to do a proper tie-knot. Similar to “Swine Flu” (#2 above), exposure to Jonas Brothers can lead to severe sickness and death. I suspect paranoia of such symptoms is why they were ranked so high on Twitter during this time.
4 – Game 7. Perhaps the most uttered words immediately following the result of this game. “Game 7”. The holy grail of NBA playoff basketball. Normally Game 7s result in the most intense and most dramatic battle between two teams during a series. However in the case of Bulls-Celtics 2009, this is technically impossible. To produce more drama than Game 6, Game 7 of this series would have to comprise of: at least four overtimes, Ray Allen scoring more than 60 points, Brad Miller shooting better than 89% from the field (impossible), five players fouling out, John Salmons playing more than 70 minutes, Rajon Rondo having a quadruple-double, Derrick Rose blocking three game-winning shots, Kirk Hinrich blowing five layups, six shots that were ruled as two points but were actually threes, all coming within the final 20 seconds of overtimes. When weighing up these factors, it is clearly impossible. And yet it wouldn’t surprise anyone if it happened.
5 – Wolverine. Cartoon character from X-Men, with metal claws that protrude from his fist. No doubt the talk of the town was the opening of the Wolverine movie on May 1st, the day after Bulls-Celtics Game 6. Pretty much the most-hyped movie in the world right now, but again, paling in comparison to the greatness of this basketball game. A more pressing concern for producers of Wolverine is that Game 7 is Saturday night, which could threaten to halve the potential box-office weekend takings for this movie. Why bother going to watch Hugh Jackman slay a few people with metal claws when you can watch Kendrick Perkins clobber point guards, Rondo knock people’s teeth out, and players having their noses sliced open by human fingers alone. Eh?
6 – #swineflu. See #2 above. Again, a lethal flu outbreak just doesn’t seem so important when a playoff game goes to three overtimes. I mean, how often does that happen? It’s been five years since the last triple OT playoff game. And how often is there a flu outbreak? Like, every year. So based on frequency of occurrence, a triple OT game is clearly more important and interesting to discuss than the possible end of humanity.
7 – NBA. Where Amazing Happens, and in this series, amazing has happened 112 times so far. The fact the word “NBA” was so frequently Tweeted (is that a word?) at this time really goes to show the global impact this game had. Most die-hard NBA fans were Tweeting about the crazy plays that kept unfolding or just random expletives to describe their amazement (watching Tweets come in like “@#%” or “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” or “OMGWTF” was quite amusing). But this game also captured the imagination of the less basketball-inclined folk, as evident by some of these real Tweets:
“After tonights Bulls game, I may start watching NBA ball again. Who’s in?”
“Yeah, NBA isn’t nearly as exciting as college basketball. Not at all. They just don’t try as hard” (sarcasm)
“I think I have a crush on the NBA”
“I’ve only watched 1 NBA game all year. That was tonight. Bulls vs. Celtics. I sure picked the right one to start with”.
I was getting SMSs from my mates back in Australia who are not Bulls/Celtics fans, some of whom I barely even talk to, demanding to know what the hell was going on. I don’t recall an NBA game eliciting a response like this before.
8 – Jesus Shuttleworth. So mesmerizing was Ray’s miracle performance tonight, that people around the world were conspiring that perhaps the reason he was given the name “Jesus Shuttleworth” in the movie He Got Game was because he’s actually the son of God. At least that’s my theory. It is interesting though, the number of “Jesus Shuttleworth” references and Tweets does seem to be proportional to the magnitude of the miracle Ray Allen is performing. When Ray Stinks it up (Game 5) you’ll hear “Ray stank up the gym tonight”, but when Ray is smoking you’ll hear prayers for Jesus (again, these are real tweets):
“We believe in Jesus Shuttleworth, hitting 51 points and all.”
“Note to Chicago: Keep the ball out of Jesus Shuttleworth’s hands.”
“YESSSSSS!! Take that Jesus Shuttleworth! Take that!! I hope he doesn’t come back and ran another 3-pointer” (he did)
“Jesus Shuttleworth! Got Damn!!!@@^@&(!*U&$*&!%*!)!!!”
“mother #$#@$@@#4 jesus shuttleworth holy #$@#$@ )(#$)*”
9 – H1N1. Not surprising really that the nickname for Ray Allen was more topical than the nickname for Swine Flu.
10 – Supreme Court. I can only speculate why this was such a trendy Tweet at the time, probably due to either A) Houston/Portland fans being so fed up with missing the first half of every telecast game because of Bulls-Celtics overtimes that they tried to take their complaints to the Supreme Court or B) Bulls fans tried to sue Vinny Del Negro after devising a play at the end of the second overtime that resulted in three Bulls players lying on the floor and no shot actually taken.
Sitting hear several hours after Game 6, I can tell you that none of those NBA-related terms are in the Top 10 Trending Topics. Not surprising really, the world has gone back to its normal Swine Flu-paranoid existence, the United Center lights have been turned off, Ray has gone back home to shave his body and go to sleep. But there is little doubt that for just one night, maybe for only one hour, this game of basketball was the greatest story on earth.
Until Game 7.