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Kelly Dwyer

Remembering the saddest NBA game, ever

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Basketball-Reference.com, the rightly named reference for all things hoop-related, has 13,179 fans attending a Jan. 26 pairing between the Milwaukee Bucks and the San Antonio Spurs. And while B-R.com clearly got their number from the Associated Press or some other wire service, I'm sorry, but there's no way 13,179 people showed up to watch this game.

Partially because it was a 1997 game between the Spurs and Bucks. The Bucks were the worst team in the NBA during that particular decade outside of the then-miserable Dallas Mavericks. And the Spurs? They took in their only terrible season of (I'm guessing) your cognizant lifetime. David Robinson was hurt to start the season and then broke his foot a few games after returning. Will Perdue was prominently featured. Tim Duncan(notes) was still at Wake Forest.

And it should be pointed out that the NBA scheduled this game, played in Milwaukee, against the Super Bowl. Against a Super Bowl featuring the Green Bay Packers -- a team based in Wisconsin, if you're unaware -- against the New England Patriots.

And in a community where a Bucks playoff game would take in fewer viewers than a Packers contest played in sweaty September, this didn't go well. The Bucks won, but take it from someone who saw the highlights on cable that night, 13,000 people weren't there. Sure, 13,179 tickets were sold or given up, but nobody was showing up to see Carl Herrera shoot 15 times.

The Bucks played on, though. Ray Allen(notes) hit three of his five 3-pointers (he hit 2 of 4 yesterday, on a Super Bowl Sunday played 14 years later), Johnny Newman came off the bench to score 18 points on only nine shots, and Glenn Robinson gave the punters (so to speak) a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

And the Spurs? They were terrible. They scored fewer than 90 points per 100 possessions, and even that was sub-par for the course for a team that would go on to earn the top pick in that spring's draft lottery. The bench (led by Vinny Del Negro, at 3 for 12) shot 7 for 25. The starters weren't much better. And starters included Perdue, Herrera and Avery "1 for 4 in 36 minutes" Johnson.

Good thing nobody was there to notice. Because in 1997, Brett Favre's name wasn't an anathema to all involved, Reggie White was dominating defensively, and Desmond Howard wasn't ticking off prissy golden boys that weren't any better than Jeff Hostetler. And that's from a guy who hates the Packers.

The NBA's gotten wise, since then. No games on Sunday night, competing against an NFL championship that has actually been consistently competitive over the last near-decade.

Although, if we're honest, I probably would have tuned into a reshowing of this contest on NBA TV last night, were it offered. Carl Herrera was really good on the baseline.

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