Introducing MEMORY LANE.
With March Madness canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, we’ll be reliving some legendary tournament moments on the days when NCAA basketball would’ve been played. Enjoy.
If I mentioned the name “Jordan Crawford” to a majority of my co-workers, I think I know what memory would come to their minds first. In the Summer of 2009, when basketball highlights were NEVER expected to be seen on a daily basis, this one camera happened to pick up footage of Crawford barely dunking on LeBron James. It took place during a Nike sponsored LBJ Skills Academy Camp and there were rumors flying about how Nike reps immediately confiscated cameras to prevent it from leaking to the public.
For me, the name “Jordan Crawford” is tied to one of my favorite March Madness moments. It was Thursday during a Spring Break spent at my family’s home in Cincinnati, Ohio (2010). Kansas State and Xavier were slated to match-up in the evening and I was ready for this game. College basketball is really at its best when you have two guards with unlimited confidence going against each other. For this game, it meant Jacob Pullen (Kansas State) versus Jordan Crawford (Xavier).
As soon as the game tipped off, I knew it was going to be special. Gus Johnson was doing the play-by-play. If you don’t understand why that’s important, search “Gus Johnson Fort Minor” on YouTube.
On Xavier’s first possession, Crawford brings the ball up the court and dribbles once between his leg before spotting up a few feet behind the three-point line. Ball goes in-and-out. Pullen grabs the rebound and takes it up the court himself. Same deal, he pulls up from deep and misses. When the two most confident guys on the court are playing no games and ready to shoot, you just know it’s going to be a fun one. As Gus would say, “rise and fire.”
The rest of the game is a battle. In typical college basketball fashion, players on both sides are in foul trouble with five minutes remaining. This could be the last game of the season for all of these guys, so it’s intriguing to see who’s aggressive and who isn’t.
With just over two minutes to go in the second half, Kansas State is up by two. Crawford catches the ball in the corner, immediately pulls up and drains a three. Gus is getting excited: “Crawford again….OH!! ANOTHER BIG TIME, J!”
A couple possessions go by of nervous basketball: a blocking foul, which leads to Pullen going one of two from the line; a turnover by Crawford as a pass goes through his hands; an early three pointer missed by Pullen; another early three by Crawford that goes in-and-out.
With 46 seconds to go, the game is tied at 67 a piece. Kansas State runs a play that folds and leaves Pullen with the ball on the left wing, nine seconds left on the shot clock. Two dribbles, pulls up with some urgency: “Pullen, stops, seven. Let’s it go…AND BURIES IT!!!”
With 9.7 seconds remaining, Xavier is down by three, 72-69. Terrell “Tu” Holloway gets the ball and dribbles to the right wing. “Here comes Holloway, with a screen, OH!!! HE’S FOULED! ON THE SHOT.” He coolly knocks down all three free throws and forces overtime.
Kansas State is trying everything in their power to push the lead, but Crawford and Holloway keep knocking down shots. With 18 seconds, Kansas State is up two at the free throw line. They go one for two, leaving Xavier with a chance.
Holloway pushes the ball up the court but is met by defenders and can’t find a good shot. He gets the ball to Crawford with eight seconds remaining. Mind you, Crawford is literally standing on the NCAA logo. He gets a screen, but just dribbles to the side as opposed to attacking the basket. I’ll leave the rest to Gus: “Crawford’s gotta hurry…ahhhh. OOOOOOOHHHHHHH!!!! HE TIED IT!!!”
I’m 28 years old and for me, when I think of March Madness, I don’t think of a specific game. I think about Gus Johnson. Kansas State ends up winning the game in double OT but I honestly don’t remember it. My memory from this game will always be Gus and how excited the game got him.
Listening to Gus, you can just tell that this is how he is when he watches games by himself. It’s the type of passion that is not only entertaining, but contagious.
Arvind Pitchai is the Head of Social Media at SLAM. Follow him on Instagram @arvindpitchai.
Photo via Getty.