As it is the most spectacular stage, many dazzling records and scenes were made in the championship final. In particular, the fighting spirit shown by ‘Basketball President’ Heo Jae is still considered a famous scene among basketball fans. Where there is light, there is also shadow. There were foreign players who were investigated by the police but were not known during the series, and there were players who missed winning every time they reached the finals.
※This article was published in the May issue of Jump Ball, a basketball magazine.
‘Heo Jae, was the injury a feigned illness?’
The 1997-1998 season finals were the first series in which Game 7 was held after the launch of KBL. Daejeon Hyundai won 101-90 in the 7th game, achieving their first championship. The Busan-Kia Dynasty, which achieved 5 consecutive wins in the basketball festival during unemployment and a combined championship in the first season of KBL, came to an end, but Heo Jae’s final final as a member of Kia was more dazzling than ever. Heo Jae ㅋㅋㅋ벳 started all 7 games, and only played 36 minutes and 48 seconds in the 5th game, but played full-time in the other 6 games. He averaged 23 points, 3.6 3-pointers, 4.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 3.6 steals, and he made the modern era cool.
It was a fighting spirit that he showed with injuries all over his body. Heo Jae suffered an injury that fractured the backbone of his right hand in the quarterfinal playoff against Gyeongnam LG. The injury was so serious that Kia coach Choi In-seon envisioned a final without Heo Jae, but Heo Jae wore a bandage and went ahead. As the trade was scheduled after the series was over, it was a determination to play the last game without regret in Kia, which had spent its heyday. Heo Jae suffered injuries to his ankle and thigh as the series went on, and during the game, he was hit by Johnny McDowell’s elbow and his eyebrow area was torn.
Nevertheless, after Heo Jae finished the hemostasis, he went on the court and led the team to victory. There was even a headline in the newspaper, “Heo Jae, was your injury a feigned illness?” Although Kia finished runner-up, Heo Jae received 19 out of 37 press votes and was selected as the MVP of the playoffs. It is an unprecedented record that a player from the runner-up team wins the playoff MVP.
There were several factors that caused Kia to finish runner-up despite Heo Jae’s fighting spirit, but Justin Phoenix’s sudden sabotage was also not to be overlooked. Phoenix, which played without trouble until the semifinals, only played in 5 of the 7 finals, and even digested only 12 minutes and 5 seconds on average (at the time, the foreign player system had 2 players and 2 players played). Kia coach Choi In-seon said, “The official reason at the time was ‘calf injury’, but before the championship match, they suddenly asked for a renewal contract. He said it was a request he could not fulfill, and from then on, he slowed down and became rotten. If Phoenix had played five more minutes, it would have been a winning series.”
I was investigated and ran until dawn…
The 2001-2002 season was a season with a very monumental record in KBL history. Kim Seung-hyun, a newcomer who appeared like a comet, led Daegu Dongyang, which was at the bottom of the previous season, to a combined victory at once, causing a change in the KBL game. Kim Seung-hyun was the first case in domestic professional sports to win the rookie award and MVP at the same time, ahead of Ryu Hyun-jin (baseball) and Kim Yeon-kyung (volleyball).
On the other hand, there was a story that couldn’t be laughed at by Seoul SK, who had a bloody battle from the final to the 7th game with Dongyang. SK’s Greg Springfield, who was nominated in the foreign player draft, joined the team with an injury and was kicked out before the start of the season. SK contacted Eric Martin, who had a nomination in mind in the draft, but Martin, who was aiming to advance to the European League, replied ‘no’. In the end, Terrence Moore was recruited, but he was kicked out after 8 games due to his lack of skills.
SK asked Martin again with a feeling of concern, and Martin, who was frustrated to advance to the European League, wore the SK uniform. Martin not only relieved Seo Jang-hoon of the defensive burden, but also showed off his excellent elasticity, contributing to SK’s leap from the mid-table to the top. SK advanced to the finals by combining the performances of Martin and Seo Jang-hoon. In the 5th game against SK with 2 wins and 2 losses, Jo Sang-hyun even made a come-from-behind 3-point shot 3 seconds before the end of the game, winning 71-70 and taking the lead in the series. They lost all of their 6th and 7th games after that and missed V2 right in front of their eyes, but in fact, being the runner-up with only Martin among the foreign players was a great success. Charles Jones, who played with Martin, was the first foreign player to hear the stigma of ‘plant’.
The shocking news was reported after the finals. Martin and Jackie Jones, who played for Jeonju KCC at the time, were investigated by the prosecution for drug use. They denied the allegation because they tested negative in urine tests, but were fined based on the statement of a Korean who took drugs together. Unfortunately, manager Choi In-seon, who suffered from Phoenix’s sabotage, was holding the SK baton at that time as well. Director Choi In-sun said, “Even during the series, Martin was investigated until 4 am for drug use. Of course, the condition of not only Martin but also domestic players was in a mess.” Martin and Jones were permanently expelled from KBL.
15 seconds gone, a press conference of tears
Jeon Hee-chul moved to KCC prior to the 2002-2003 season, but the Kim Seung-hyeon-Marcus Hicks combination showed off its strength and reached the final, aiming for a combined championship for two consecutive seasons. In the 5th game against Wonju TG with 2 wins and 2 losses, Dongyang fought a bloody battle, exchanging turns, but lost the series 97-98.
After the match, an unexpected issue arose. It was revealed that the clock did not work for 15 seconds from 1 minute and 16 seconds before the end of the fourth quarter, when Dongyang led 76-70. For Dongyang, the game that should have already ended in victory was played 15 seconds longer. Tongyang allowed David Jackson to tie the game with a 3-point shot in the unprecedented ‘extra time’ and went into overtime, eventually losing after going through the third overtime period. There was an obvious negligence of the timekeeper in managing the game, and KBL was also criticized.
Based on this, Dongyang requested a rematch from KBL, but soon gave up the rematch because it was a ‘big win’. Dongyang general manager Jung Tae-ho shed tears at a press conference, saying that he would give up the demand for a rematch. Dongyang lost momentum in the 6th game at home, 63-67, and finished runner-up with a record of 2 wins and 4 losses in the series.
Sang-woon Moon, who served as an interpreter for Dongyang at the time, said, “I was the first to discover that time did not pass. I told manager Kim Jin right away, and the manager protested to the manager, but the game continued. KBL came up with a plan to rematch, but TG said, ‘Then let’s start again from the beginning when Heo Jae’s back injury is healed.’ That is why the tearful press conference came out.”
Recorder’s unprecedented situation
There are various reasons why professional basketball games are suspended. There have been times when a dissatisfied spectator threw a drink onto the court, and there have been times when a player who was heading to the locker room for treatment after an injury engaged in a verbal battle with the crowd. The match was stopped for a while as the referee received treatment for an ankle injury, but there was also a game where the remaining time was played with the remaining 2 referees. There have been numerous episodes, but absurd situations like April 2, 2015 can be unprecedented, and it will be difficult to come out in the future.
Wonju Sports Complex where Ulsan Mobis and Wonju Dongbu held the 3rd game of the 2014-2015 season final. Coach Yoo Jae-hak requested a player replacement at the end of the third quarter, but it was not accepted. It was because he judged, not ‘he’s dead on the ball’. The inbound pass had already been made and the game resumed, but coach Yoo Jae-hak had no choice but to think that it was because the scorer gave the signal late.
“It was the same during the regular league and the semifinal playoffs, but in the meantime, if I lost a point, I asked for an operation time. But this morning, the manager stopped me because it was not in the rules. Then, when you score a goal momentarily, you have to call time, but it really lasts less than a second. So as soon as I scored a goal, I said that I would be replaced immediately, but the person next to the supervisor (scorer) turned his face away. This isn’t home advantage, it’s the rule being broken. I obviously requested it before the ball went out (from the referee’s hand), so even if the game started, I should have (allowed the substitution), but it was not done, so I protested.” These were the words left by director Yoo Jae-hak at the time.
In fact, excited coach Yoo Jae-hak protested strongly to the scorer, saying, “What are you doing, this!?” This caused a delay of about 5 minutes. The scorer was a veteran who had been working since his days at Chiak Gym. At the time, a Dongbu official said, “I think I heard ‘last words’. In fact, he should have protested to the supervisor, but he must have been offended when he stopped talking to them.”
Of course, according to FIBA rules, the protest should have been made by the captain, not the manager, but even so, it was unprofessional for a member without a substitute to leave during the game. “What will viewers think when they see this scene?”, “How will the game be run if the scorer is away anyway?” It was a comment from the broadcaster at the time.
KBL said, “We sincerely apologize to the fans for the fact that the match was not smooth. I promise fans that we will put more effort into stable game operation in the future.”
In the 2016-2017 season, the best short-term part-time job ever,
Anyang KGC, which was aiming for a combined championship, faced bad news during the final against Seoul Samsung. Keeper Sykes, who was reborn as a swan, suffered an ankle injury after playing for only 11 minutes and 11 seconds in the first game. KGC continued to do well despite the absence of one foreign player, but continuing the series with only David Simon was risky. Instead of Sykes’ unreasonable return, KGC chose to recruit a substitute foreign player, and Michael Taylor joined the team.
Taylor entered the country with KGC facing 2 wins and 2 losses, but the paperwork procedures such as issuance of visa and transfer agreement have not been completed. KGC took a step forward again by winning Game 5 even with only one foreign player playing. In the 4 games since Sykes’ injury, Simon and Oh Se-geun had 2 wins and 2 losses against Laguna and Michael Craig, leaving one win to win the championship match. Taylor, who completed the paperwork, finally appeared in Game 6.
He couldn’t afford to fit into the team, but Taylor made a strong impression. He scored 11 points, the most in the team, in the 2nd quarter and recorded 16 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 20 minutes, contributing to the lead of KGC. KGC, which erased the uneasy factor, added Lee Jung-hyun’s dramatic winning shot to record a series record of 4 wins and 2 losses, achieving the first integrated championship since its founding. Taylor played only one game and won the championship ring, and after enjoying the championship event with Sykes, he returned to the United States.
Memories are beautiful when they remain as memories. Taylor returned to Anyang after signing with KGC in 2018, but was kicked out with less than 15 days left until the start of the 2018-2019 season. This is because he received cruciate ligament surgery after a ‘short-term part-time job’ and his physical condition was not perfect, and he could not erase concerns that durability problems could increase during the season. However, Randy Culpeper, who replaced Taylor, also suffered a hamstring injury and was forced out after 16 games. KGC suffered from foreign players throughout the season.
“Championship is foreshadowed by heaven”
Since the launch of KBL, a total of 24 players have played more than 20 games in the finals, and among them, there are only two players who have not won the championship, Park Ji-hyun and Yun Ho-young. In particular, Park Ji-hyun was a player who directly experienced the aforementioned ‘disappearing 15 seconds’ in the 2002-2003 season on the Dongyang bench. “I didn’t feel it at all because I was concentrating on the game. It was a pity that I missed the chance to win because of that. Still, (Kim) Seung-hyeon had no players to stop his brother, and the team atmosphere was so good, so I thought I would have another chance to win in Dongyang.” Correspondence to Park Ji-hyun.
Park Ji-hyun, who had to watch KCC win the finals of the 2010-2011 season as Dongbu, also stepped on the final stage in the 2011-2012 season. At that time, Dongbu was called ‘Dongbu Fortress’ because of its solid defense, winning 44 wins, the highest ever in the regular league. It was not unreasonable that there was an evaluation that it was objectively superior to KGC, which put forward the spirit. In fact, Dongbu had a 5-1 advantage over KGC in the regular league. However, Dongbu did not become the main character. Dongbu won the 3rd game and took a 2-1 lead, but then lost 3 games and stayed in the runner-up again.
In particular, Game 6, in which KGC won the championship, is a game that Park Ji-Hyun wants to forget. Dongbu ran away by 17 points in the 3rd quarter and seemed to be promising a game 7, but in the 4th quarter, the defense showed signs of cracking, providing an excuse for pursuit. To make matters worse, Park Ji-hyun was fouled out 5 minutes before the end of the game. Dongbu, which was leading by 9 points, only scored 2 points in 5 minutes after point guard Park Ji-hyeon was sent off, and eventually lost. Park Ji-hyun said, “The achievements and records we achieved in the regular league were lost overnight, and it was futile. In the regular league, I also felt that ‘the opponent can’t do anything in front of us’… . He looked back and said, “It was harder than ever to watch the championship ceremony.”
Park Ji-hyun made it to the finals again in the 2014-2015 season, but Dongbu was unable to compete with Mobis, who was aiming for the first three consecutive victories. He was swept and stayed in runner-up. Park Ji-hyun couldn’t laugh at the last final as a player, and the 2017-2018 season final, which was played through power analysis, also had to watch SK’s victory. “Victory is marked by heaven.” Park Ji-hyun realized this as she finished runner-up in all five championship matches she played as a player and staff member.
KGC and SK, who are facing each other in the 2022-2023 season finals, are playing a great game every day. When KGC took the lead in the series with the strategy of entrusting Sung-Gon Moon with Seon-Hyung Kim’s defense, SK subsequently regained the initiative with an irregular lineup and regional defense. While Oh Se-geun and Kim Seon-hyeong showed off their strong performance, the elasticity of Lens Abando added interest to the final. In addition, Oh Jae-hyun overcame the sluggishness and hit a big shot, and shed tears during a broadcast interview. Who will be the ultimate winner among the two teams heading to the end of the ‘Festival of Spring’, making a lot of stories?