The NBA once stumbled upon the greatest halftime filler programming in the history of professional sports.
The question I have is why we’ve never seen a reprise of the classic Vitalis One-on-One tournament that was conducted in the 1971-72 and 1972-73 seasons?
Long before “Red on Roundball,” halftime Horse competition or the inane blathering of analysts at halftime, we had honest-to-goodness competition where top players faced off in classic man-to-man competition.
The league offered $50,500 — big money back in those days — so players were intent on the competition. In 1972, Bob Lanier defeated Jo Jo White for the title. There’s a video clip of the competition still available on . Lanier earned $15,000 winning the competition and was presented a suitcase full of $1 bills by Bill Russell for his prize money. If you look closely, you can see Wilt Chamberlain of the Lakers snickering on the bench when Lanier is presented with his bounty.
In the following season, Portland guard Geoff Petrie defeated Seattle forward Barry Clemens for the title.
This competition too often evolved into big players backing smaller opponents into the paint. But if it was done today, the 3-point line would even things up and make the competition interesting.
It would be fun to watch something like this with today’s players, as Deadspin.com writers Drew Magary and Tommy Craggs . They came up with a competition involving active and former players and selected Tony Parker and George Gervin among their participants.
Neither Parker or Gervin received much chance of winning their competition. But it still brought back some good memories of watching Lanier walk away with a suitcase full of $1 bills generated by his basketball talent.
And the best part of all was that it was absolutely legal.