Issue 109: When Your Brain and Body Don’t Agree

Throughout your life, your brain and body are going to disagree.

When you’re a baby, your brain is all like “ga ga goo goo” but your body is all like “I’m a sack of potatoes, let me tip over.”

Things don’t get better as you age. As a teenager, your hormones are so intense they overwhelm any kind of rational thoughts.

And don’t even get me started on what’s going on as an adult.

I don’t know about you, but my competitive spirit still thinks my body is, like, 21 years old. Occasionally my brain will say, “nah, you probably shouldn’t run ten straight fly routes during this rec league flag football game” but my body will counter with “they can’t guard you, fam!”

Then the next day it takes 45 minutes just to stand up. But totally worth it to beat my defender and drop the game-winning touchdown in the end zone.

Today’s email plays off the back and forth our brains and bodies have. And it’s still perhaps the most spectacularly weird ending to a basketball game I’ve ever seen. I like to call it:

Michael Ruffin Throws Ball in Air

First, let’s set the scene. Michael Ruffin was a journeyman player in the NBA. He started his career with the Chicago Bulls (as evidenced by his delightful Wikipedia photo complete with Bulls Christmas hat) and was notable on the court for his knee socks.

He never really stuck with a team for very long. Two years in Chicago. One in Philadelphia. One overseas with Caprado Lleida in Spain. One in Utah.

But for a brief moment, it seemed like he may have found a role in Washington. He joined the Wizards in 2004 and though his averages were modest — 1.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game over three seasons — he was a solid defensive contributor.

In fact, during a game against the Toronto Raptors on March 30, 2007, Ruffin’s defense appeared to have sealed a win for the Wizards, who were competing for a playoff spot.

There was just one problem: Ruffin then had to play offense for three seconds.

So, uh…what happened here?

With 3.8 seconds on the clock, the Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas (who may still own multiple sharks) hit two free throws to give Washington a 109-106 lead. The Raptors, out of timeouts, tried to throw the ball down the length of the court.

But Ruffin stepped in and intercepted the pass. In an act of cruel fate, he thought hey, I’m a TERRIBLE free throw shooter, so instead of being fouled, I’ll just throw the ball up into the air to let time run out.

I completely understand what Ruffin was trying to do here. His body just didn’t cooperate with his brain. And the result is wild.

Morris Peterson played one minute in regulation. It was this minute you just saw, where he made the most memorable shot of his career.

The Raptors went on to win 123 to 118.

This clip shows enough replays that you can really appreciate everyone’s reactions. The announcing team is great, of course, but my personal favorite is the death stare from Ruffin’s teammate Antonio Daniels at 1:36.

Of course, there were 81 other games played that season. But by losing this one, the Wizards and the then-New Jersey Nets had an identical 41-41 record. That gave the Nets the 6-seed and put the Wizards in seventh in the East.

The Wizards went up against a young LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs swept the potion-making spellcasters and eventually advanced to the NBA Finals.

The Nets, meanwhile, upset the Toronto Raptors in the first round before taking the Cavs to six games.

Could the tides have been reversed if the Wizards won this game? We’ll never know for sure, but I’m glad Ruffin didn’t get more oomph on the ball. I don’t want to live in a world where this highlight doesn’t exist.

Other Reads and Watches

Marc Stein on how all these NBA teams (mostly) get away with tampering

Michael Pina chats with Becky Hammon about coaching and all things hoops and life

Mechelle Voepel on the best WNBA players at each jersey number

This goodbye video from the Spurs to Patty Mills…who’s chopping up onions?!

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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