"Unprintable," said D.J., who had been the leading Sonic candidate for the MVP award.
Instead it was one of the other Johnsons—Charles—who was the hero, not only for hanging the collar on D.J. (with help from Kevin Grevey and Dandridge) but also for throwing in bombs from here and beyond. And down the stretch, if C.J. missed from the vicinity of Mount Rainier, Kupchak, who was in for Hayes, would pick off the offensive rebound and jam it in.
The play that defused the Sonic Boom came with 1:30 left in the game. After an 11-point Bullet lead had dwindled to four, 98-94, thanks to the scoring of Brown, who pumped in 21 points, and Webster, C.J. took his lone bad shot of the game, a 25-footer with 10 seconds left on the shot clock. The rebound sat on the floor under Webster, Silas and Sikma, until Henderson dived in and slapped it through Sikma's legs. The ball rolled right to Kupchak, who grabbed it, layed it in and picked up a foul for a three-point play.
That gave the Bullets enough of a cushion to stave off the Sonics' desperate run in the final minute. Brown hit a 10-footer, Unseld missed two free throws, Silas tipped in a Brown miss, and it was 101-99. While Motta frantically signaled for a time-out so he could yank Unseld—and thereby keep him and his .550 playoff free-throw percentage off the foul line—Silas wrapped a bear hug around Wes with 12 seconds left. Amid a din that sounded like a thousand 747s taking off, Unseld missed the first of three free throws and made the second. Motta called his time-out.
"You blew his rhythm," Dandridge screamed at Motta, while the Exiled E ran along the sideline yelling at Referee Jack Madden, "Watch the clock. Jack! Make sure the clock is set right!" After the huddle. Unseld made the third shot, and the Bullets had their elusive title.
"I remember my first game coaching the Bullets in Capital Centre last year," said Motta afterward, clad in a T shirt bearing his slogan: THE OPERA ISN'T OVER 'TIL THE FAT LADY SINGS. "I got a standing ovation. All boos."
There were no boos when a crowd of 8,000, including a singing fat lady, met the Bullet charter at Dulles airport on Thursday. The next day came the motorcade and the visit to the White House.
The East Room was packed with fans—"I wonder if they'll get this big a crowd for Morarji Desai next week?" said a press corps regular. At one point Carter referred to the NBA as the "National Basketball Administra...er, uh...Association," and said, "I am very proud of the Bullets, although I really wish they could have won without beating Atlanta."
Then Bullet owner Abe Pollin presented Carter with a Fat Lady T shirt, and Motta gave the President a basketball. Thus armed, Carter faked a chest pass to Assistant Coach Bernie Bickerstaff, took four good-looking dribbles to the middle of the East Room floor, wheeled, threw a clumsy lob pass to Charles Johnson and flew off for Camp David.
The champions had been given the Presidential seal of approval, and the basketball season was officially over, after 233 days of playing.