The darkness of the night had enveloped majority of the city in a cloak of silence. This was not a city which never slept. A few hours past the post work rush, and everything goes into a slumber. But the lack of light was deepened by the erratic supply of electricity to some pockets of the city. Some had brightened streets, others were swallowed in by a blackened ambience.
Most people had made their way to bed. Having attended church earlier on and gone around visiting family and friends, bodies were worn out from the hustle of that day. And then there were the Muslims who had gone about life as usual without food or water for the entirety of the day and had spent some parts of that night standing up in prayer. But somewhere among the lots was a section of the multitudes which had not had enough of the long day. Sleep was for the weak!
Among this lot were 9-5 workers who had to explain their drowsiness at work the following day and students who were facing exams the following day. No matter the responsibility lying ahead, the need to keep vigil throughout the night was sacrosanct. It could not be broken. History was about to be made later that night and nothing in this world was worthy of distracting them from having a front seat at this showing.
More accurately, they were taking a seat 7662 miles away from where the actual action was taking place. At the Oracle in the land of the Golden State Bridge, two men were facing off in a duel to determine whose legacy was going to be solidified in the books of history. Thousands of eager fans were already ensconced in this magnificent arena. Some had even paid top dollar to see one of these men warm up for this epic match off. At the time of tipoff, the crowd was buzzing, upstanding and cheering loudly. The ten men on the court, five on each side, knew all round the USA and in major cities around the world, eyes were fixed on them. What they did not know for sure was in a room lit up by the power of a noisy generator somewhere in Maamobi Nima, more eyes were watching them from an LED screen. At a few pubs in Osu and Labone which had stayed open beyond working hours to accommodate a handful of avid basketball fans in this soccer obsessed country, there were additional eyes watching. In the TV lounges of the halls of residence on the University of Ghana campus, you could find more people staying up for this game. Not forgetting the privileged few who could afford DSTV decoders and watch the game from the comfort of their homes.
Basketball is not the nation’s favorite sport. On a ranking scale, it will probably place at number three or lower. But if there is a game that can get some people to stay up for three hours after midnight, it is most likely basketball. Soccer and boxing used to have that appeal in the nation but ever since the Black stars decided to hold the nation to ransom over money and Azumah Nelson hanged up his gloves, less and less people are willing to sacrifice their sleeping hours for these sports.
The highly athletic men who don the sleeveless jerseys most “cool” youngsters wear for fashion have a huge appeal to a growing number of Ghanaians. Ever since Steph Curry shook up the NBA with his crazy shooting skills and dedication to Jesus Christ, a number of Ghanaian Christians have jumped onto the basketball bandwagon. And then there are the old school fans who loved the game from way back in the days Robert Horry was scoring big time shots.
Streaming the game on late night bundle internet, they watched as Kyrie owned Curry on offense and defense. They saw Draymond Green get hot from beyond the arc in the first half of the game. Shooting 5 for 5 three pointers, he looked like the obvious finals MVP. With the way the game was going early on, the Warriors seem to have bagged it all in. That was all until Playoffs James came to play.
For a long time, LeBron James has received the flak of journalists, former players and basketball enthusiasts. He is not clutch, He will never win again, He is no longer the king, He is a sellout, etc.!!! Pretty much everything negative in the books had been used to describe this man. After returning from Miami where he had won two rings after leaving Cleveland, James lost to the very team he was playing in the finals against just a year ago. The Warriors had dominated Cavs last year, winning the NBA title after six games. To make matters worse, they won it on the home court of the Cavs, a city that had not seen a national trophy in any sporting competition for decades. Winning it this year meant a lot to not just LeBron but the entire state of Ohio.
The third and fourth quarters were evenly contested. Both teams were not giving in as they had done in earlier games in the series. The last minutes of the fourth quarter changed everything. With the game even, a fast break had Steph Curry with the ball and Iguodala flanking him. A pass to Iguodala who had a clear path in front of him was all that was needed to end the game. Iggy went up to finish the layup and give the Warriors a lead in the dying minute of the game. A Cavs fan in Madina Zongo had given up. Iggy was not the type of player to miss such a shot and this lead was all the GSW crowd needed to roar its players into a win. Out of nowhere, LeBron leapt into the air with a block that will become known as THE BLOCK for the rest of NBA history.
That Block arguably cemented LeBron onto the Mount Rushmore of basketball. But a lead was needed to put the finishing touches. In an isolation play, Kyrie got Curry exactly where he wanted him. Having feasted on him the entire series, taking a shot on Curry was not something Kyrie was daunted by. With what he later called mamba mentality, Irving jacked up a game winning three. The crowd fell silent. That 73-9 win record was about to go up in smoke like burning tires at the Ashaiman open air butchery.
Curry had a few seconds left to show the world the stuff that made him the first unanimous MVP in the history of the NBA. Of what value were his regular season midcourt shots if he could not score one in this situation? Golden State fans at the Bedouin pub had their hands on their heads. Some were about to lose money. Lots of money placed gambled away at betting shops in Madina.
The screen from Draymond Green made them happy. Kevin Love playing defense on Curry was what they wanted to see. Love was not particularly known for good defense. But tonight was not like any other night. He was a maximum contract player and the multimillion dollar contract was about to show its worthiness. What Love did on Curry is now being said to be one of the best one on one defensive plays on the league’s most lethal player on the dribble and off the dribble from beyond the arc. Love forced Curry to take a contested shot. The ball went up, the wrist flicked but the net never felt the round and brown leather.
The buzzer sounded, Cleveland bench players rushed onto the court and the entire team swarmed around LeBron. The boy from Akron had delivered on his promise to bring a trophy to Cleveland and he did it in the most glorious form ever. Down 3-1 with home court advantage in favor of the opposing team, he led all players in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals en route a turning over of the deficit. Three rings, three finals MVP and four regular season MVP awards, LeBron had undoubtedly gallantly walked his way into any G.O.A.T conversation.
Seven thousand miles away, some people were going to walk into the office late, drowsy and grumpy. Others were going to be filled with glee. They had spent the last year being trolled by Golden State fans and could finally make fun of those who claimed to be supporting the best team ever. 73-9 without a ring don’t mean nothing!!!
The day after, those who did not have the privilege of watching the game either because they did not have DSTVs or enough internet bundle would catch snippets of it on GTV’s iconic Monday night sports highlight show hosted by Kwabena Yeboah.
In a couple of days, one of their own will be on an NBA team and whatsoever that team be, a number of them will instantly become fans of it.