Tonight is one of the most important nights in the 11-year history of big-league sport in the State of Washington, and for this one night, at least, basketball is more than just a game to Paul Silas and Fred Brown.
"This game is probably the most important I have ever participated in," Silas said yesterday on the eve of the seventh and final game of the National Basketball Association championship series with the Washington Bullets.
"Coming back the way we did this season and being with this group of people and accomplishing what we have will make this the highlight of my career if we win," he said.
Said Brown: "I was the champion in high school, on the playgrounds, in college, and this right here is the fulfillment of my career. It has gone beyond being just another game now."
Silas is a rarity among basketball players. His offense is practically nil, but his worth is immeasurable. His game is one of muscle and savvy. He's a blue-collar, in-the-trenches worker. Nothing about his game is pretty.
In his 14-year NBA career, he has played on six different teams and has been a world champion twice with the Boston Celtics. His style has never changed.
"I know I'm a vanishing breed," Silas said. "That's just the way the game has evolved.
"I see that most players don't concentrate on my type of game and most coaches are looking for players who score more.
"It take a special kind of coach to recognize the things I do. Most players today just don't like contact and they don't have that inward thing to work hard and not worry about being flamboyant."
The flamboyance is left to Fred (Downtown) Brown. In his nine-year professional career. Brown has played for no team other than the Sonics and, until now, has never come close to being on an NBA championship team.
Brown is a white-collar man. His game is one of finesse and flair. He is razzle-dazzle crowd-pleaser who can score in almost every conceivable manner and from virtually every conceivable distance.
Despite their dissimilarities in playing style. Silas and Brown are very much alike.
On the floor, each is doing what he does best, but, in ways an outsider cannot always see or sense, they have carried the Sonics emotionally and spiritually.
Both have reprimanded teammates when it was necessary, and both have praised them. They've also managed to keep the correct balance of work and pleasure in Sonics practices and games.
The SuperSonics are a young team. Take away Silas and Brown and the average ageis 24. The others look to Silas and Brown when in trouble, almost like a fightened child running to his big brother.
"I don't think you can plan to be a leader," said Silas. "I just evolves. It's an inward thing that just comes out of you.You try to make sense to people and you hope they listen and follow you. You have to prove what you say, though.
"On this team, everyone knows I'm out there hustling as hard as I can and it's the kind of thing that rubs off."
When the Sonics were at each other's throats and rebellion was imminent under Bob Hopkins before Lenny Wilkens took over as coach, it was Silas who kept everyone together.
"I've learned that there are a lot of intangibles in this game," said second year guard Dennis Johnson, "and Paul Silas is the master of the intangibles. He plays defense, he rebounds, he helps, he leads, he loves. And when he talks, we all listen - even Lenny."
Silas' job in this series has been his usual thankless one. He has had to defend against Elvin Hayes and rebound against Wes Unseld. Seldom, if ever, does he think about his offense. He played 42 minutes in game four of the series and took only one shot.
His repertoire of shots is limited. He has a funny little finger roll shot from inside and an awkward 10-foot hook shot.
"Scoring isn't my thing," he says.
Scoring is Brown's thing.
"Rebounders rebound, passers pass and shooters shoot. I'm primarily a shooter," Brown said.
He had 30 points in the Sonics' first victory in the series and 26 in their last.
"We all do what we can do," he said.
"There's nothing complicated about what we have to do to win this games." Sila said. "We have to keep the ball away from E, rebound and play defense. Actually, our defense has carried us. What we have to do is concentrate on our offense. We have to be more patient. We've gone one on one too much in the last two games.
"What we have to do is not be overly cautious. We have to get across to our younger players that we just have to play our normal game.
"The last game for all the marbles in all sports - basketball, football and baseball - is usually a conservative one because no one mistake that can cost a world championship. I took for a grind-it-out, down-to-the-last-basketball game.
"Maybe 'games' isn't the right word. The games ended Sunday in Landover. What happens Wednesday will be on a different level than all the others."