March 28, 2011

Revisiting the Greatest Game Ever

By - Kris Fletcher

There are moments that take place throughout the course of our lives that we'll always remember. Some good, some bad. Some felt on a personal level, and some felt at a national, or even world-wide one. Moments that are so big, we remember exactly where we were, and what we were doing when they happened.

Christian Laettner's buzzer-beater in the 1992 East Regional Final is one of those moments for me.

Photo by: Rick Stewart
The date was Saturday, March 28th. Exactly 19 years ago today. I was 14-years-old at the time, and my biggest love was basketball. My favorite team was (and still is, for that matter) the Duke Blue Devils, and my favorite player was Christian Laettner.

The Blue Devils were the defending champs, and that night, they were taking on an over-achieving Kentucky Wildcats team for the right to play in the Final Four.

The reason I can recall the exact day is because my family would always go to dinner every Saturday night at a local restaurant that my father was the manager of. Needless to say, I didn't wanna go and end up missing the game. But of course, my mother wasn't hearing it. So, I got in the car with her and my two sisters and headed to town. I did manage to slip a tape into the VCR and press record before we left, though.

Usually we would only be gone maybe an hour, hour and a half, tops. This particular evening, however, it was way longer. I remember sitting at the table thinking we were gonna be there until the next damn morning. I honestly believe my mom deliberately ate extra slow just to make me mad. Finally, after nearly two and a half hours, we loaded up the car and headed home.

The first thing I did when I walked through the door was look at the VCR to make sure it was still recording. I half-expected some freak power outage or a ghost had turned it off while we were gone. Thankfully, it was still running. I then turned on the television, hoping I may get to catch the last few minutes of the game live.

What I was about to see would be forever burned into my memory for as long as I live.

The two teams were returning to the floor following a Kentucky timeout. It was in overtime, and Duke led 102-101. The Wildcats had the ball. Senior guard Sean Wood dribbled into the lane and threw up a running hook over the outstretched arms of Laettner. It banged off the backboard, and went in. All five Blue Devil players on the court signaled for a timeout. The clock stopped with 2.1 seconds remaining. Kentucky now led, 103-102.

I felt like I was about to barf up what I'd just eaten.

I couldn't believe I had gotten home just in time to see some lucky garbage get thrown in off the glass, and now my boys were about to go down. The clock said 2.1, but to me, the game was already over. I grabbed the remote and started flipping through the stations. It was bad enough I'd witnessed the Wildcats take the lead, I wasn't about to watch them celebrate on top of it once the game was officially in the books.

Then something inside of me said, "Turn it back. Just watch it. It's not over yet." So, I did.

Grant Hill was about to inbound the ball, and I remember thinking Kentucky should put somebody on him to try and disrupt this pass.

Thankfully, they didn't.

What followed, in my opinion, was one of the most memorable broadcast calls, and single greatest plays, in the history of sports.

Verne Lundquist began his call. "There's the pass to Laettner..." Hill launched it 70 feet, Laettner snagged it. It was like time slowed down. I remember as he caught it, I looked down at the corner of the television to see the time remaining, and saw that he still had time to actually get a shot off. I looked back up, right as Laettner was at the very top of his jump, fading away and releasing the shot. "Puts in up...." The horn sounded. The capacity crowd erupted. "YESSSSSSS!!!!"

Ballgame. Duke wins. 104-103.

Photo by: Chuck Liddy
In about a two-minute span, I'd went from the lowest of the low, to the highest of the high. I'd gotten home just in time to see Duke get buried, only to watch them crawl out of their hole and proceed to throw Kentucky in it.

I went to bed with a smile on my face a mile wide.

Christian Laettner took twenty shots that night. Ten from the field, and ten from the free throw line. ALL OF THEM found nothing but the bottom of the net. That my friends, is what you call perfection. On that night, to me, Christian Laettner became a God.

The following morning, I watched the game in its entirety, remembering I had been smart enough to record it before we'd left for dinner. Watching it from start to finish was just as much fun as it had been watching the last 10 seconds live. I still have the VHS tape that I recorded it on, and I'm always gonna have it. To me, it's my own little private piece of history from that amazing basketball game.

It never fails. Every year on March 28th, I think about that particular Saturday evening in 1992. The events that transpired, and the only two shots I actually saw live. Even if the game had only been 10 seconds long, it may still be the greatest game I've ever seen.

Thanks for the unforgettable memory, Christian Laettner. I appreciate it.

7 comments:

  1. As a Kentucky fan, to this day I still hate Christian Laettner. I still enjoyed the way you told your story though. I remember that game very well also. I was heart-broken. Damn you Laettner!! Haha

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  2. Dude, this is your best blog yet, very nice.

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  3. Laettner was, and probably still is an ass, but he was a helluva player, so I guess he earned the right to be that way. I remember that game really well also. It really was a great game. Nice story.

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  4. In my opinion, Laettner was one of the best college players ever. It's only fitting that he made what is probably the greatest buzzer beater in sports history. Great story.

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  5. I actually lived in Kentucky at that time, and was attempting to get home from my in-laws to see the end of that game on tv. Instead, I ended up hearing it on the radio. The late Cawood Ledford had a great call on the radio broadcast as well. As Laettner hit the shot, his call was, "Good! And Duke wins it 104-103, that is why they're #1." I'll always hate Laettner for hitting that shot, but everything about that game was great. Very cool blog. Brought back some memories.

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  6. Thanks for reading it and sharing your thoughts everyone. I appreciate it.

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  7. GREAT article.

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