Monday, January 23, 2006


Feel free to argue, but I think this last weekend was one of the best I have seen in both NCAA and NBA basketball. I usually don't follow either sport until they begin to wind down, but I took a more vested interest in both this year and it paid major dividends on Saturday and Sunday.

For starters, I grew up in a household with two Georgetown graduates. My father is one of them and he is also the biggest Hoya hoops fan residing outside the greater Washington DC area (and even then...). He raised my brother and me root for the Hoyas before everyone else. He gave us nicknames based on former Hoyas (Jon, my brother was Alonzo and I was Dikembe. Why, I'll never know). He still has a standing deal with the two of us that the next time G'town makes it to the Final Four, we three are on the next flight there.

He also raised us to hate the Duke Blue Devils with the passion of 1000 burning suns. Now I have a healthy respect for such a great program, but I can't look at a picture of J. J. Reddick or Mike Kryadvnjzniohdofnoizhsoeihf (Coach K, for short) without it looking like I just bit into a lemon, a lime and a few bars of soap and chased it all with a double of ammonia. Put it this way, my two favorite days in college basketball are when I get to hear "One Shining Moment" and the day Duke loses their first game.

Something had to give on Saturday when the two met at the MCI Center in DC.

Needless to say, I have never seen a team get up to play like G'town did that day. They were out-passing, out-shooting, out-cutting and generally out-playing the best team in the country. My brother was in town for the game and the two of us were meandering around my house as the second half wound down. Suddenly, Duke cut it to a slim two-point margin, otherwise known as "J. J. for three, and Duke takes the lead". But that didn't happen. G'town scored again and finally went on to win in dramatic fashion without J. J. getting a touch on the final possession. I was elated. What a win for a program that has been so lackluster for so long recently. It reminds me of the days when A.I. was running the show and John Thompson was on the bench. I saw a little of that in Brandon Bowman and Ashanti Cook on Saturday. And there was a John Thompson on the bench, the legend's son, JT3. I know the Big East is incredibly deep, but G'town took a HUGE step on Saturday toward reestablishing itself on the grandest of scales.

Oh, and the other two undefeated teams in D-1 ball lost, too. Thought I'd point that out.

The NBA's weekend can be summed up in a single number: 81.

How is it possible that a weekend where upsets were the order of the day on Saturday as well as AFC/NFC Championship weekend could be topped by a regular season basketball game? Well, Kobe did it. Just weeks ago, every sports pundit was in a yelling match over why Kobe had taken himself out of a game after the third quarter with 60+ on his score sheet. Unselfish, they all screamed, but why not take history into your own hands and make a run at 70. Or 75. Or [gasp] 80 points in one game? "Bad Kobe! No soup for you!" they screamed.

Just before midnight, I turned to ESPN and saw Kobe Bryant notch point 80 and point 81 of the night.

I am not usually floored by regular season sports. When the Tribe came back from down 10 in the ninth a few years ago, I was impressed. When six Astros pitchers no-hit the Yankees a few years ago, I was satisfied. When the Columbus Blue Jackets net a tying goal with under 10 seconds to play and win in OT a few moments later, I was happy. But when I saw Kobe's line, my jaw dropped and I couldn't move. I have never been more flattened by a single performance. He lifted 48 shots from the floor, 13 from behind the arc and 20 from the line. My arms hurt just thinking about that. I have never been a huge Kobe fan, but nobody can deny his abilities. Kobe could score 100 in a game, and I think he will. Imagine if lowly Toronto had been able to keep up with him - five players against one - he could have gone into OT with the distinct possibility of netting over 100 points. My hat goes off to Kobe Bryant after the most impressive single feat I have ever seen since I have been a sports fan.

No comments: