Friday, February 23, 2007

Rest in Peace DJ [Bill Simmons]

From ESPN's the Sports Guy - Bill Simmons

DJ should have made Springfield while still alive

Sad and angry. That's how I feel.

First, the sad part: Dennis Johnson dropped dead Thursday at the age of 52. I never met him and only followed his career from afar, most notably when he played for my beloved Celtics, so I won't pretend to be as distraught as his family, friends and former teammates. My condolences to everyone who knew him and loved him. At the same time, I am sad, and he's a guy who meant an inordinate amount to me during a time when sports probably meant a little too much. Maybe I wasn't part of his life, but he was a huge part of mine. So it's a sad day for Celtics fans (as well as his fans from Pepperdine, Seattle and Phoenix). As one of my friends e-mailed me today, "It's really hard to dodge the feeling that someone in control has just decided to [bleep] with the Boston Celtics this year. Really hard."

Now, the angry part: DJ passed away before the Basketball Hall of Fame found a place for him. He's going to make it within the next few years -- probably in 2008, when everyone gives him the proverbial sympathy vote (this summer's finalists have already been announced and he wasn't one) -- and they'll have the ceremony without him in Springfield, Mass., and everyone will say, "It's a proud day, but it's also a bittersweet day because DJ wasn't here to see it," and then they'll put up his plaque and we'll go on with our lives.

Not acceptable. He should have made it already. I wrote about this ongoing injustice last fall, when Joe Dumars made the Hall with credentials that weren't any better or worse than DJ's resume (or Sidney Moncrief's, for that matter). It didn't make sense then and doesn't make sense now. DJ played 14 seasons, made five All-Star teams, won the 1979 Finals MVP and three rings overall, and made All-NBA first-team in '81 and All-NBA second-team in '80. Dumars played 14 seasons, made six All-Star teams (in a weaker era of players), won the 1989 Finals MVP and two rings overall, and made the second-team All-NBA in '93. But this isn't about Dumars vs. DJ -- it's about a great basketball player who never got his just due.

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