Chuck Person and his former Auburn Coach, Sonny Smith.
This past Sunday the LA Lakers defeated the Phoenix Suns 111-103 to advance to the NBA Finals which started Thursday night. The Lakers victory meant that former Auburn great and NBA star Chuck Person would be making his first trip to the Finals. Not as a player but as an assistant coach for LA.
Person is a 24 year NBA veteran and arguably the greatest basketball player to ever wear the Auburn Orange and Blue. His former coach Sonny Smith said he was the hardest working player he ever coached. He is the all time point's leader at Auburn and was on the short list to replace Jeff Lebo.
In addition he has had a stellar NBA career. He was a star player for 14 years, mostly with the Indiana Pacers. He has been an NBA executive and assistant coach. Chuck was the 1987 Rookie of the Year. Known as the "Rifleman" for his long range pinpoint accuracy in making the three point shot; he finished his playing career ranked 17th on the NBA's three point list. During his playing days, he did it all. But one thing was missing ... the opportunity to participate in the NBA Finals.
He is getting that opportunity for the next few nights as the Lakers again take on that other storied NBA franchise, the Boston Celtics. The Celtics have on their roster another former Auburn Tiger in (guard/forward) Marquis Daniels.
Marquis is in his sixth season; he has shot near 50 per cent from the field this year and may be playing in his second NBA Finals. He played on Auburn's 2003 Sweet 16 team that lost to eventual National Champion Syracuse. He was second team All SEC as a senior and the team MVP his sophomore, junior, and senior years.
Unfortunately Marquis may not get to play since he suffered a concussion in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Magic. Celtic's Coach Doc Rivers said he hopes he will be cleared to play for some of the later games in the championship series (we are all pulling for his full recovery).
Depending on the series win/loss ratio the finals could end June 10th or possibly be stretched out to June 17th. The Lakers won game one last night 102- 89. But don't count the Celtics out just yet. I predict this will be a real heavy weight brawl. Boston will get back up and smack the Lakers in the mouth and this series may go the distance. Game two will be Sunday night at the Staples Center.
I can't predict the winner but I know who I'm pulling for; in professional sports, I usually pull for the team with the most Auburn connections. However, since we have one on each team, I'm going with the old man. I want to see Chuck get that NBA Championship Ring.