I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since Mario Chalmers made that shot in San Antonio.
Time flies when you’re having fun—and even when you’re not.
It definitely flies faster when you’re older, or so it seems, though you’ll need an Einstein expert to prove (or disprove) it.
I recall almost nothing about that trip to San Antonio, a decade ago, at the Final Four, except for THE SHOT.
Don’t remember what I wore, what I wrote, where I slept, though I'll bet your house I took a Super Saver (through Phoenix) on Southwest airlines to get there.
I don’t remember the Alamo, but I do remember the Alamodome. If there was a Steak N Shake in the San Antonio area, there’s a good chance I ate there with Mark Blaudschun (hey we should co-found a website someday) and AP basketball czar Jim O’Connell (OC).
I see where Kansas has made it back to San Antonio for the the 10-year anniversary of that Monday night in April.
That’s nice and makes me a tad emotional. If you believe in omens and karma, it’s not good news for Villanova or the winner of Loyola-Michigan.
I’m mostly a stay-at-home sportswriter dad now who doesn’t do Final Fours anymore and isn’t prone to sentimental journeys through my clip files.
The Chalmers shot is a rule exception that passes my test for drippy nostalgia visits.
So I searched Google this week for the CBS broadcast of the game and fast-forwarded to the final, dramatic seconds.
My brain tends to work like a filing cabinet that stays closed until it gets reopened, at which time certain synapses rekindle the pertinent details.
My recollection of events has been reduced to the brain-burn of Chalmers curling to the top of the key, rising into the air and sinking one of the greatest shots in NCAA history. The basket sent the game and all the momentum to overtime. Memphis never had a chance in extra time.
My work-a-day memory is that Memphis blew the greatest chance a team ever had to win a national title that would later have to be vacated upon revelation that Memphis star Derrick Rose may have had some help on his high school SAT.
And by help I mean someone else took it.
My standing line is that Memphis, up by three with 10 seconds left, should have fouled Kansas to prevent the game-tying three pointer. Don't get me started on the "controversy" on this, or Ken Pomeroy data suggesting letting the other team try to tie the game is a better play.
Anyway, via CBS footage, I found the back of me, on press row, near center court across from the team benches. I had one of the best vantage points in the world to see Chalmers make his shot. It was dead-solid-pure right out of his hand.
Ten years ago.
The back of my head on that video tape has no clue what life has in store any more than Memphis did when Chalmers was in mid air. I had cancer, melanoma, that wouldn’t be discovered until the following summer. Within weeks of Chalmers's shot my longtime racquetball partner would drop dead of a heart attack. In a year one of my best friends would also be gone. And you wonder WHY I don’t do more of these look backs….?
You just never know. Two months after Chalmers, I covered Tiger Woods' epic U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines, never fathoming it would be his last win in a major.
The Chalmers shot, though, ranks with “Flutie’s Pass” on my top-drawer shelf of closest, birds-eye looks I've had to sporting history.
But did I remember it right?
My review of the Kansas-Memphis title game tape almost squares with what I thought. Memphis blew a nine-point lead with two minutes left. The Tigers missed key free throws down the stretch that allowed Kansas to creep back.
Memphis was still up two, with 10 seconds left, and Derrick Rose shooting two free throws that could put the game away.
I didn’t remember how rudely and deviously Rose’s first free throw rattled off the rim before bouncing away. It reminded me of Duke guard Grayson Allen’s shot last weekend at the end of regulation against…Kansas. That shot, too, should have sent the Jayhawks packing.
Anyway, Rose made his second free throw to give Memphis a three-point cushion.
Looking at the tape, all these years later, I may have been too critical of Memphis Coach John Calipari for not DEMANDING that his team foul Kansas after the made free throw.
Calipari always maintains he did want his team to foul.
In fact, part of Memphis' game-plan problem was Kansas guard Sherron Collins, who took the inbound pass after Rose’s free throw.
Before mid-court, Collins nearly broke Rose’s ankles with a vicious cross-over dribble. I realize now that chasing down Collins was like trying to catch a rabbit.
Rose DID, though, have a great chance to foul Collins right at the mid-court line but almost instinctively threw his hands up in defense.
Collins blew by the Final Four logo before throwing it to Chalmers.
My game story notes Collins saying afterward: “I think I got fouled, but I ain’t complaining…”
My review of the tape also shows Calipari asking the officials why no call was made. On reflection, Rose should have been more forceful in stopping Collins, but it’s not as clear cut to me now as it was to me then.
Ok, enough reminiscing, time to put the time capsule away.
I still can't believe, though, it's been Ten Years After.
Life is funny, skies are sunny, bees make honey. I'd love to change the world, but I don't know what to do.
So I'll leave it up to you.