With apologies to our favourite sportswriter's son, Neil Young, this weekend at the Air Canada Centre should be dubbed the Ragged Glory tour.
The Toronto Raptors play the Boston Celtics Friday night and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon, while the Toronto Maple Leafs face the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. That's 57 combined league titles rolling into town, but No. 58 doesn't seem to be in the offing in 2012, does it?
The Lakers are just two years removed from their last title, have Kobe Bryant, and appear poised to do a better job of cheating father time in this bizarre, lockout-compressed NBA regular season than the Celtics. But winning the title is another matter.
The Celtics' best-case scenario – win one last crown with Ray Allen (36), Kevin Garnett (36) and Paul Pierce (34) – was thrown into disarray when 25-year-old Jeff Green was sidelined for the year with an aortic aneurysm.
The Canadiens' glory days are as forgotten as a Scott Gomez goal celebration (oh, so that's what it looks like), or common sense from general manager Pierre Gauthier. Oh for a dynasty.
But ahead of this one-time visit by the Holy Trinity, Toronto's three general managers – Brian Burke of the Maple Leafs, Bryan Colangelo of the Raptors and Alex Anthopoulos of the Blue Jays – think we won't see dynasties again.
“Only the media talk about and promote dynasties any more,” Colangelo said.
“Every sport is different, but generally the [collective agreement]dictates there is far too much player movement to allow a true dynasty.”
The last time the Celtics, Canadiens and Lakers were all in top form at the same time was 1985 to 1989.
In 1986, the Canadiens, backstopped by goaltender Patrick Roy, beat the Calgary Flames in the first of two trips to the final for the Canadiens in a four-year span, and the Celtics and Lakers alternated NBA titles. Those were the days of Magic Johnson and Showtime, and the Celtics of Larry Bird.
“Magic and Bird,” Colangelo said. “I mean, the Celtics and Lakers pushed each other to the absolute core.”
It was that head-to-head battle that made the dynastic rivalry special.
“Michael Jordan didn't have a protagonist,” Colangelo said.
You see ersatz versions every now and then – Burke talks about his Anaheim Ducks acquiring Chris Pronger in a move “aimed absolutely at [the Detroit Red Wings']Nick Lidstrom,” – but that isn't Lakers vs. Celtics.
Back then you were a Bird guy or a Magic guy. Burke was a lawyer in Boston, and when pressed, sided with the locals. Colangelo was a college student whose father ran the Phoenix Suns, and that put him in Magic's camp.
“Larry was obviously special, but Magic was Showtime and everything L.A,” Colangelo said. “The Lakers were rivals and I just had more of a connection to his dominance.”
So that leaves the deciding vote to Anthopoulos, who was 9 and a student at Montreal's Lower Canada College in 1985-86. He gets props for running out Sergio Momesso's name off that roster, but making a call on Bird or Magic is tough.
Anthopoulos is now an NBA fan in part, he believes, because his scout's sensibilities are drawn to the game's athleticism. After admitting he “caught Magic late career, Bird not so much,” Anthopoulos crunched some numbers.
“Truthfully, I didn't think it would be close,” Anthopoulos said, almost apologetically. “Bird, I remember mostly from the three-point shooting contests [during NBA all-star games]
“I value a point guard more, to begin with, and I knew Magic also played centre sometimes, which gave him huge value to his team. But seeing all those MVPs and championships, seeing how Bird averaged 10 rebounds and almost two steals a game. I might have to go with Bird.”
Oh, to have that choice again.