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Marques Johnson: I’ve Been There Paul George, Except It Was Dr. J Instead of LeBron

Dr. J LeBron


Marques is a former 5-Time NBA All-Star, College Player of the Year and currently serves as lead college basketball analyst for Fox Sports’ Pac-12 coverage. For more wisdom regarding sports and life, follow him @olskool888


Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals brought back some not too pleasant memories.

I was reminded of the abject futility I experienced in trying to supplant Julius “Dr.J” Erving as the top small forward in the game.

We locked horns on a few occasions in the palyoffs. I would have these absolutely dominating games against Doc.

30 plus points and double figure rebounds were routine efforts on my part. But daggone it, they beat us every time, and that’s all that matters.

Paul George was splendid in Game One, especially after halftime. To watch him emerge as one of your tougher matchups at his position has been a joy.

Like many, I hadn’t heard of him before even though he grew up a stone’s throw from L.A. in the outback of Palmdale.

Palmdale was known as the place where a Master Barber like my dad Jeff could spend the weekends cutting hair and trimming moustaches and beards. Lot of Black folks left LA and headed that direction with the promise of more real estate bang for their buck.

I was there once in the middle of summer for an outdoor fish fry, and it was hot as hell. Haven’t been back since and that was in the early 90’s.

Paul George was as hot as “Fish Grease” Wednesday night. That three he hit in the waning seconds was part skill, and a lot of luck.

But that’s how it goes when you’re on one.

I’ve been there, I know. LeBron started to get that frightened little boy look he used to get a couple of years ago when the pressure got thick. It manifest itself in him not pulling the trigger on his jumper and throwing errant passes all over the place.

We saw a lot of that in crunch time.

Fortunately for Heat fans, Pacer coach Frank Vogel got way too overly analytical in his decision to sit Roy Hibbert the final play.

Couple that with a complete brain spasm by Paul George and his funnel to the hole defensive approach on The King, and it is Golden Opportunity blown.

I’m not one to believe that George’s great performance was wasted. I’m certain if the situation comes up again he will “gap” LeBron and force a jumper.

But as one who has been in these “Close but no Cigar” type games so many times, you never know if “ we will ever pass this way again”, to quote a song lyric.

And though Paul George will never be in danger of becoming George Best, the forgotten Beatle, he now has reduced his Champion Quotient ever so slightly.

And that he can never reclaim…



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