“Did Ainge do that on purpose? He just fired that at the back of Elie’s head.” – Doug Collins
Damn right he did, Doug.
Travel back a few months when Pat Riley told Danny Ainge to STFU and never speak on LeBron again unless he wanted to be found floating face down in a river. There was a reason Pat was so pissed off by Ainge’s unflattering comments. On one hand, it was Riley’s way of pledging alligence to LeBron publicly against a common mortal enemy (Ainge and the Celtics). But more importantly on the other, Ainge was infamous during his playing days at getting under the skin of opposing coaches and players. And Riley knew that.
For instance, there was the time in 1983 when Tree Rollins bit his hand tearing it all the way down to the tendon. Or the time Sedale Threatt laid the paws of gawd on his chin in a game versus Philly a few years later. Look at the footage and pay attention to Ainge’s facial expression when he falls to the ground. Buddy had no clue whatsoever where he was for a good two minutes.
Even in the latter stages of his career, Danny continued to push buttons evident by his run-in with Michael Jordan in the 1993 NBA Finals. But of more significance, there was the time he earned the nickname “Sniper” when it had nothing to do with his career 38% three point shooting percentage. It’s when he came within three or four inches of taking Mario Ellie’s head clean off his shoulders with the ball towards the end of Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals in 1994. Ainge, of course, attempted to play it off claiming it was merely an accident he tossed a 95 MPH fastball in such close proximity during the closing seconds of a blowout. Had this been a regular season game, chances are Vernon Maxwell would’ve reacted totally different. Different as in four of Ainge’s teeth may have dislodged from his mouth in one-sided brawl which would have became known as “Sedale Threatt (The Remix).” Let’s make note of three things about this clip while we’re here.
1. Neither Ellie or Ainge lit up the scoreboard in Game 3. Both finished had eight and four points, respectively. Although, give Mario credit for his eight assists that evening as well.
2. It’s funny hearing Collins call for a technical after Mario’s blatant trash talk. It’s also funny how that didn’t even warrant a whistle. Just because it feels semi-relevant, this change in perception is all Ben Wallace’s fault. It’s not really, but there’s a long story why I always tag Big Ben as the scapegoat. We’ll talk about it over endless beers when I finally make it to SXSW 2025.
3. Ainge definitely beamed that ball at Elie’s head. You’re a fool if you think it wasn’t just like you probably think Chris Stokes is looking for “talent” on Craigslist. By this point, the game had already been decided so the need for a quick inbounds pass had long since expired. Even Barkley flinches when the ball ricochets off Elie’s dome.
Bonus: This game happened 19 years ago today. Who knew?