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Basketball valedictory

IT seemed odd for the professional basketball playoffs to run into the hot, cap-and-gown days of summer commencements. Basketball is a winter sport, the playground variety notwithstanding. And the stretched season reflects the entertainment industry's efforts to wring every possible buck out of the finals. Still, something could be learned from this juxtaposition of sports and education - especially when the finalists were the Boston Celtics, last year's champions, and the Los Angeles Lakers, this year's wonder team.

Like a college career, sports championships are more than a one-year effort. True, the final drive - the seven-game series - requires the utmost in focus, intensity, balance, strategy, and courage. And adjustments have to be made, period to period, to find opportunities and stop the opponents' gains.

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But a team's personnel and playing style have to build over several seasons. Each season must be paced so the few outstanding players are not worn out at the end - a Celtics handicap this season. Last-second heroics on the floor do not win a championship pennant; nor do cramming for exams or turning in a one-draft thesis garner an honors diploma.

For perennial contenders like the Lakers and Celtics, achievement seems to come after cycles of effort. This year's playoffs, which went to the Lakers, were only part of an ongoing rivalry.

After so much basketball, like the book-weary student we can't say we're looking ahead to the next season. But it will come, with new lessons in organizational and individual play.

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