“You talking about a do-over, baby? Are you talking about a fucking do-over?! That’s not how the game is played! You can’t do that!” —Avon Barksdale, chewing out a referee who floats the idea of putting a few more seconds back on the clock to replay the final moments of a game that ends on a contested non-call
One time, the Atlanta Hawks won a game without scoring a single point. It happened 10 years ago on Thursday. It’s one of my favorite Weird NBA things.
The Hawks were playing the Heat in Atlanta on December 19, 2007. The Hawks were bad that year (they finished the season 37-45, sneaking into the playoffs with the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference), but the Heat were way worse (they finished the season 15-67, putting them last in the entire NBA, which is almost unbelievable considering that Dwyane Wade played in 51 games). The game stayed close for most of the way through (it was actually tied for almost the entire last minute of regulation), and the Heat legit had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but Ricky Davis missed a wide-open 3 (lol), sending the game into overtime. And that’s when the trouble happened.
During overtime, the Heat’s Shaquille O’Neal, who by then was basically an oil tanker in a basketball jersey, was called for his sixth foul of the night, disqualifying him from participating in the final 51.9 seconds of the game. Shaq sat down, Al Horford hit two free throws to put the Hawks up 114-111, and that was that. Shortly thereafter, the game was over and the Hawks had won 117-111. It turned out, though, that a bookkeeping error had accidentally attributed a fourth-quarter Udonis Haslem foul to Shaq, giving him one more than he really had, meaning really he had only five fouls and should’ve been able to play that 51.9 seconds when he was forced to sit.
The Heat filed a protest afterward, which was upheld by the NBA several weeks later in January. As such, it was ruled that the Heat and Hawks would replay the final 51.9 seconds of the game when they met again in Atlanta for another Hawks-Heat game on March 8, 2008.
The stipulations for the replayed game were fairly simple and straightforward: The two teams would replay the final 51.9 seconds prior to the start of that evening’s full-length game, the score would be reset to 114-111, and the Heat would be inbounding the ball. Any of the players who had not fouled out prior to the 51.9 mark would be allowed to participate (Josh Smith had fouled out for the Hawks, so he had to just watch), and any of the players either team had picked up before the trade deadline could play too.
Some of the more interesting bits:
- The original Hawks-Heat game was actually the final game of Alonzo Mourning’s career. He suffered a knee injury while trying to block a shot. Two things about that: (1) When the training staff brought the stretcher out for him, he refused to get on it. He later said, “That’s not the way I envisioned myself walking off the court for the last time in my career. I’ve been through so much in my life. If I had to crawl off the court, I would have. Nobody was going to push me off on a stretcher off the court. That wasn’t going to happen.” That’s incredible. (2) The fact that the final play of Alonzo Mourning’s career was him trying so hard to block a shot during an early-season game that he ended up hurting himself is exactly the reason he was such a beloved figure in the NBA. An almost uncountable number of things can happen on any given night in basketball, but “Alonzo Mourning not killing himself to win” isn’t one of them.
- Pat Riley, who was the coach of the Heat that season, said he filed for a protest because, “We thought we were going to get out of this funk we were in,” referring to how they’d started the season 7-18, not knowing that they were headed toward that abysmal 15-67 finish. “We were fighting for anything. So we protested the game and hoped that we would continue to win then and that we would have a shot at winning this one. But it’s all turned around on us.” I don’t know why “But it’s all turned around on us” is so funny, but it is.
- The Hawks-Heat replayed game was the first do-over in the NBA in more than 25 years. The one prior to that happened when referees incorrectly called for a jump ball following a double lane violation at the end of a Lakers-Spurs game in 1982. Pat Riley was the coach of the Lakers when it happened.
- The Heat had traded Shaq away to the Suns during the time that had passed between the original Hawks-Heat game and the replayed one. So, despite the fact he was the central reason the game was being replayed, he did not participate in it. (You can probably use this as an example of how Shaq’s legacy has always been so big and booming that even his shadow wobbles everything around it.)
- As part of the Shaq-to-the-Suns trade, the Heat received Shawn Marion. The Suns were playing a game the same night as the original Hawks-Heat game, and all of the stats from the replayed Hawks-Heat game were attributed to the original Hawks-Heat game, meaning that Marion is one of only a handful of players to officially be credited with having played for two different NBA teams on the same night.
- The Hawks and Heat got a 15-minute break between the conclusion of the replayed game and the start of the following game.
- Nobody scored during the replayed game, which means (a) the Heat lost two games in one night, and also kind of means (b) the Hawks won a game without scoring a point, which is very much an extremely Atlanta Hawks thing. The only more Atlanta Hawks thing I can think of is if they somehow figured out a way to lose a game while scoring more points than the other team.
There have actually been six replayed games in NBA history. There was the Hawks-Heat game (2007-08) and the Lakers-Spurs game (1982-83) I mentioned above, and so you know those two already. But there was also a Hawks-Warriors game during the 1952-53 season (the oddest part of this one is that the teams were the Milwaukee Hawks and Philadelphia Warriors), a Hawks-Bulls game during the 1969-70 season (the refs couldn’t decide whether a tip-in at the buzzer that had tied the game was before or after the buzzer, so they were just like, “Fuck it, game over”; the NBA later ruled the basket was good and that the teams would replay the game starting with 0:01 on the clock), a Cavaliers-Braves game during the 1971-72 season, and a Nets-Sixers game during the 1978-79 season. (The 1952-53 Philadelphia Warriors and the 1982-83 Spurs are the only teams to reverse losses into wins after their replayed games.)
Of all of those, the best one is the Nets-Sixers game because, similar to how the Heat had traded away Shaq during the time between the original Hawks-Heat game and the replayed one, the Nets and Sixers had also made trades during the time between the original Nets-Sixers game and the replayed one, except the trades they made were with each other. As such, three players (Harvey Catchings, Eric Money, and Ralph Simpson) were credited as having played for both teams during the same game.
Here’s that night’s box score via Basketball-Reference.com:
(As a bonus Weird NBA thing, Shaun Powell pointed out at NBA.com that Harvey Catchings is the father of Tamika Catchings, a 10-time WNBA All-Star, WNBA champion, and WNBA league MVP, and Ralph Simpson is the father of Grammy-winning recording artist India Arie. Also, you’ll notice the names Henry Bibby and Joe Bryant on the Sixers side of the box score. Henry Bibby is Mike Bibby’s father and Joe Bryant is Kobe Bryant’s father, and Mike and Kobe played against each other in the NBA for 14 years, most notably during the iconic 2002 Western Conference finals between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers.)
Weird NBA is fun.