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Friday, October 29, 2010

The National Anthem ...

The most frequent question I get about my career at the NBA is to name my favorite player.

I always respond quickly - "That's easy, Charles Barkley."

Surprisingly, I do not get asked to name my favorite moment or favorite game which is a much harder question to answer.  In fact, there are quite a number of great moments tied for first place.

How can I decide between all the great games at The old Boston Garden or the great string of performances by Michael Jordan and the Bulls at the old Chicago Stadium and the newer United Center.  And, of course, two of Michael's greatest performances came about at Utah's Delta Center in Salt Lake City.

Now, toss in the '92 USA Dream Team at Barcelona and add some great nail-biters at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and you start some serious discussion.

All of those games had some serious basketball business on the line with NBA titles or Olympic gold medals at stake, but certainly, one of my favorite moments/games was a game that didn't mean a thing in the playoffs or the standings and that was Magic Johnson's comeback and MVP performance at the 1992 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando.

Each of the final games - whether NBA or Olympics - had one thing in common and that was the fact that either before or after, we were asked to stand for the national anthem of the Unites States of America, - "The Star Spangled Banner."

A recent article in "The New Yorker" recalled a 1968 version of the anthem sung by Jose Feliciano at the fifth game of the '68 World Series.  Feliciano's rendition caused quite a stir back in the turbulent '60s and it was no different when the greatest national anthem of all-time was performed by Marvin Gaye at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game at the Fabulous Forum in LA.

I was working my second All-Star Game as a member of the NBA PR staff back then, and my (relatively new) boss at the time, Brian McIntyre, gave me one very definite assignment in the pregame.  "Don't miss the national anthem," he said with the knowledge from a sound test performed the day before.  I did not miss it and I am happy to state that it just might be my favorite moment from my entire career.

Here it is.... and I have something special as you scroll further down the The Blog @ today:

At the 2004 NBA All-Star Weekend, at the state-of-the-art Staples Center, I was the driving force behind paying tribute to the '83 version of the anthem and NBA Entertainment knocked my vision home by adding an element of Nat King Cole's "Duet" by having Marvin's daughter, Nona Gaye, perform live while her late Dad backed her up with his soulful 1983 version.  The only problem was that the NBA decided to run the anthem prior to All-Star Saturday, rather than before the actual All-Star Game on Sunday night.  (Bad decision.)  Here is the "Duet" version - which is the second best US national anthem of all-time.  Everyone else is playing for third place.

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