Great Wright Thompson story on Riley (Laker related cuz of 1985)

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 12:01 pm    Post subject: Great Wright Thompson story on Riley (Laker related cuz of 1985)

If you get the chance, take some time to read Wright Thompson's feature on Pat Riley. Like pretty much all of Wright's stuff, it's tremendous.

One section deals with his dad, Lee. Talks about the tough life Riley had and his folks' relationship. But this was fascinating:

That's how he decided to eventually tell that story, cleaning up his father whenever he could, even to himself. Riley talked about Lee to his players, to schoolkids and corporate executives. Over time, he rewrote his own father, punching up stories and inventing others, a mixture of Lee and Walt and the books Pat read for inspiration. Imagination and willpower were always Pat's two most important gifts, and along the way he used both to create the man he thought Lee Riley deserved to be.

This made me think of my all-time favorite Lakers story/moment. Before Game 2 of the 1985 Finals, after the Memorial Day Massacre, Kareem's dad rides the bus with the team to the Garden. This usually wouldn't be allowed but Riles saw it, thought of his own dad, and then thought of a story his dad told him. This is from a 1985 piece on Riley:

Riley calls the second game the most significant he has ever seen. "The team bus, we had decided, would be just for players. Kareem got on, and asked if his dad. Big Al, could ride along. I said fine. And as I watched them together. I began to think of fathers, of my father. In 1970 I'd just married Chris and was worried about my game. As my father was leaving the wedding reception, he stuck his head out of the car and said, 'Just remember, somewhere, someplace, sometime, you're going to have to plant your feet, make a stand and kick some ass. And when that time comes, you do it.'

"It turned out that those were his last words to me, because he died of a heart attack not long afterward. But as I sat in the bus I heard that voice again. And that became my pregame talk, that everyone has a father, everyone has a voice you respond to. And this was that place and that time. So let us all take that stand."

"When he spoke of fathers and voices," swingman Michael Cooper has said, "the score was already five to nothing for us before the start. That was appropriate. It was subtle. It was dramatic. It was true."

Now, after reading Wright, I wonder...was it true? Did Lee say that to Pat or was this a case of Riley finessing his dad's memory? Just something I thought about, being obsessed with Showtime.

This also has NO EFFECT whatsoever on my enjoyment of the 1985 story, whether Lee really did say that or not. The fact is Riley did use the line, Kareem did ride with his dad (after taking the Riley berating in film after Game 1), the speech did inspire the Lakers, and they went on to the greatest victory in team history in 1985. The story about dads, taking stands...that stuff still puts a lump in my throat.

So, bottom line: Read Wright's story. It's great. Just like Riley's speech in 1985.
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