Duke vs Kentucky – the two Blue Bloods will meet again in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Tuesday, Nov 13. While this early season meeting won’t determine much for either school, it does evoke memories of rivalry games passed – most notably 1992. How could it not? I mean it is Duke and Kentucky, right? Kentucky, who is coming off a National Championship, promises once again to be a contender for a possible back-to-back NCAA Championships. Duke coming off a season of ups and downs and ending with a loss to lowly Lehigh (a school I can’t even remember where they’re from, nor do I care to), hopes to rebound from a season most Duke fans would love to forget like a bad dream where a scorned ex-girlfriend resurfaces wielding a machete.
This game will be more for temporary bragging rights. I mean c’mon, it is Duke and Kentucky. Okay, maybe it’s not as big as Duke vs Carolina or Kentucky vs Louisville but a rivalry nonetheless, you know, the same, except different. The fans will light up Twitter, Facebook and every other available social media outlet like the Fourth of July and that neighbor (you know who he is) who at Christmas lights his yard enough to rival Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
We all remember where we were that night in 1992 when Christian Laettner gave Aminu Timberlake a little tap with his foot, (ok maybe it was a stomp). We remember when in overtime Sean Woods hit a 13 footer to put Kentucky up 103-102, looking as if the Wildcats had sealed the deal, (quite frankly I thought it was over to, didn’t we all?). But, with 2.1 seconds left on the clock, Duke calls a timeout. Then, Coach K looked his team square in their collective eyes and said “were going to win this game.” So he draws up the play (the same play used unsuccessfully earlier that season in a loss against Wake Forest), Grant Hill makes the pass, Laettner catches the ball cleanly, fakes to his right, turns left and just as he had done all night, calmly sinks the shot as time expires. That shot sunk the Kentucky faithful like the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. In the greatest game ever played, a rivalry was born.
So many images come to mind for the fans that were fortunate enough to watch it that night: Woods’ shot in overtime, Hill’s pass, Laettner’s shot, the 2.1 seconds that hung on the clock that signified life and death as we fans knew it. But to me, the most iconic image was not of any play on the court, but of Thomas Hill on the sideline, his hands behind his head, a look of horror, relief, surprise, grief, and amazement all rolled up into one. As a fan of basketball, that image is burned into my mind forever.
As fans we should all have fun with this game – win or lose. It won’t matter or define either team’s season as both could rebound from an early season loss. We should follow some Kentucky fans on Twitter and them follow us if only for that night. The jabs will be as pointed and sharp as the razor needed to shave James Harden’s beard. But for us fans, it’s text book, it’s what we live for. Hopefully it will be another classic.