'The Shot': 25 years gone

Today is the 25th anniversary of “The Shot” — Christian Laettner’s buzzer-beating basket against Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

Unfortunately, I did not watch the game; I was oblivious, still a month or so away from falling head over heels in love with basketball. But for some odd reason I remember the night it happened. Perhaps the memory is a collage of details from multiple, similar nights, but I get the sense that the few things that stick with me are from that night.

I remember my family ate with friends at the old Happy Joe’s in downtown Iowa City. The place was packed and noisy, and a group was huddled beneath the small TV in the corner of the room, watching the first half. (Though I don’t remember Happy Joe’s having any arcade games, it did have a jukebox and a balloon machine. The balloons were okay, but it was much cooler watching them inflate. Anyway, the balloon machine was beneath the TV so if a lot of people were around the TV, the balloon machine was inaccessible.) Later, when we were all back at our house — the adults upstairs in the kitchen and the living room, where the game was on, and the kids downstairs — I heard my dad yell, “He made that!”

That’s how memorable Laettner’s shot is — that I remember the night it happened even though I did not watch the game. Sure, the fact I have seen it many times since and become well aware of its significance probably plays a role, but for some reason that night sticks with me.

Now an avid fan of college basketball — the 1992 tournament was the last I did not watch — it’s hard for me not to recognize the historic significance of the game and Laettner’s shot. That Elite Eight tilt has been deemed the greatest college basketball game of all time, and Laettner’s clutch basket, along with Grant Hill’s perfectly placed inbound pass, is widely considered one of the greatest moments in tournament history (to the dismay of Kentucky fans, I’m sure). It’s sad that I did not care about it at the time because it would have been amazing to witness live.

Laettner’s shot is one of the moments that makes 1992 so epic for me. Bobblehead wrote earlier this year that 1992 was the year the light turned on for him, and it was for me, too. (I’ll write more about that later this year.) Though I did not see Laettner’s shot live, it definitely sweetens the pot for me.

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