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Nothing is better that covering a team as it ascend to or near the top of its league. I got spoiled covering the Lakers, first at the Forum and then Staples Center, and watching Magic, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal win NBA title after title.
So what happens? Before I could reminisce and dream of what it was like covering an NBA team that competes for championships, 2004 rolls around and here are my Lakers at The Palace contesting the Pistons in the 2004 Finals. To make the dream even better, the Pistons won its third NBA crown.
Detroit hosted one other Finals in this decade, 2005, but the Pistons lost to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games. No matter, as a writer and for the city, it is not an every-decade occurrence for one’s NBA team to make it to the Finals.
The Pistons kept Detroit at the elite level in professional basketball as they went to six consecutive Eastern conference Finals during this decade; however, it was the Detroit Shock that won more champions than franchise in Michigan: The Ladies played in four (2003, ’06, ’07 and ’08) WNBA Finals during this decade winning three titles, only losing once in ’07.
The most memorial one for me was when the Shock won the ’06 title before over 19,000 at Joe Louis Arena. The ladies had Detroit and the Joe rocking. The images of Deanna Nolan and Cheryl Ford hoisting the championship trophy are vivid and vibrant, but that image brings a tinge of melancholy as the Shock has left Detroit and now calls Tulsa home.
Detroit also hosted three Stanley Cup Finals in this decade – ’02, ’08 and ’09. Woodward Avenue saw parades witnessed by thousands as the Red Wings celebrated Cup victories in ’02 and ’08.
The Lions established a record this decade, albeit one they would rather forget, by becoming the first NFL team in 2009 to go 0-16.
Another memorial moment in this decade was produced by the Tigers as they lost an incredible 119 games in 2003, but made a turnaround for the ages as they ascended to the 2006 World Series. They lost to St Louis. The moment that gave me chills was sitting in the press box wondering how it would all turn out versus the Yankees; suddenly Magglio Ordonez hit a three-run, walk-off homerun to send the Tigers to the MLB title game.
While Detroit teams drew thousands to its games and provided joy, thrills and delight to an area that was and is engulfed mightily in the economic downturn permeating the entire country, the city itself showed America that it can be a gracious, civil and affable host to some of the world’s great sporting events.
Detroit knocked the socks off the decade, by first hosting the Major League Baseball All-Star game at Comerica Park in 2004 and the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. The Motor City came back and entertained the largest single event in the country, the NFL’s 2006 Super Bowl at Ford Field. Finally, Motown hosted its first- ever Men’s Division 1 Final Four at Ford Field.
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