What makes a moment truly great?
Is it the improbability factor, when something that no one saw coming suddenly hits such a startling crescendo that you seriously wonder if what you're experiencing is occurring within the bounds of reality?
All the better when they develop over the course of an extended period of time, rather than those of the blink-and-you-miss-it variety, right?
And as far as sports go, great moments often entail a "good guys versus villains" subplot too, don't they? Underdogs always make a story more compelling, and when they suddenly start landing haymakers on the Clubber Langs of the world, few things in the universe are more captivating.
For these reasons, Goran Dragic's fourth-quarter explosion in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals versus the dreaded San Antonio Spurs takes the top spot in the countdown.
Steve Nash closed out the Spurs in the following game with an eye sealed shut, but completing the sweep was only the culmination of what Dragic had made possible.
The Suns were not supposed to win Game 3.
The series would be evened up in San Antonio and it would probably go seven games -- everyone had already decided this. Even though the Suns were up 2-0, and even though they had played beautiful basketball in the first two games in Phoenix, the Spurs were playing pretty damn well too, and would hold serve in Texas because that's the kind of thing the Spurs do.
On a personal note, I caught the game at my favorite happy hour spot, Papago Brewing Co. in Scottsdale. I stuck to what was my usual routine at the time: two big bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale and a quesadilla, spaced out over about 3 hours -- then a coffee for the road from the Dutch Bros drive-thru.
For those who have never been to Papago, it isn't a sports bar. They have televisions that are usually showing sports, but it's nothing resembling a Zipp's or BWW. I generally prefer the company of weirdos when I'm imbibing alcohol, and you're not very likely to counter many people that fit the bill at a sports bar.
People in sports bars generally have their shit somewhat together, or at least keep their shit under wraps when they make public appearances.
I'm not saying that Papago is a haven for the sick and disturbed -- T.T. Roadhouse was less than a mile away if that was all I wanted -- but it struck a nice balance for a post-work beverage in case one of my fellow employees decided to come along and see how I spent my time after ditching the necktie.
So it was that I was at Papago Brewing Co on May 7, 2010 when the Dragon awoke.
The cool about being there was that the patrons only had a passing interest at best watching the game, not only meaning that I had the best seat in the house directly in front of their big-screen television, but also it made the experience even more incredible when this Slovenian dude suddenly had every drunken patron glued to the screen and exploding with every improbable basket.
When Dragic drew a foul on a made three-pointer from the corner, for that one moment it might as well have been Majerle's on crack.
All told, Dragic scored 23 points in the 4th quarter as the Suns blew the game open to take a 3-0 series lead while the Spurs' faithful stood slack-jawed.
Everything about his performance was so insanely unbelievable that it would've made the cheesiest Hollywood sports movie ever. They might as well replace Dragic with a golden retriever and get Matt LeBlanc to costar. It would only be slightly less ridiculous than what happened to the Spurs on that night.
And how about those Spurs? The mighty Spaceball One, thwarted by a former second-round pick that they themselves saw fit to trade for Malik Hairston -- he of 472 career minutes in the NBA. A shell-shocked Manu Ginoboli was left to mutter, "everything we tried to do, it was a bucket and it was demoralizing."
Schadenfreude: Level Omega.
The Suns went on to complete the sweep, aided by a ballsy performance by a one-eyed Steve Nash, but Dragic gets the nod here for the single best moment of the Seven Seconds or Less era. There were certainly bigger names -- Nash, Stoudemire, Marion, Bell -- but no bigger single moment than when the Spurs were finally reduced to mere mortals at the hand of a backup point guard.
For that moment, the pain of the suspensions and Duncan's wide open three-point splash were alleviated.
That's some incredible stuff right there.
While Dragic had a ... let's say interesting Suns career following his legendary performance, entailing one 3rd team All-NBA appearance and two ugly breakups, today we toast the Dragon for his best fire-breathing moment.