Twenty years ago, 10 year old 'tHan suffered one of the biggest heartbreaks of his life. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Sitting in my grandmother and grandfather's living room feeling as if I was going to die with every made basket by Christian Laettner. Screaming at the television as he stomped the chest of Aminu Timberlake without penalty. Knowing the game was over when Jamal Mashburn fouled out. Jumping the highest I've ever jumped in my life as Sean Woods made an off-balance shot that looked to be the game winner and at the end, crying my eyes out after Grant Hill made that pass and Christian Laettner ripped the hearts out of Kentucky fans everywhere.
You've all seen that play countless times. Over the next 20 years, Laettner's shot would be replayed during almost every UK basketball game. CBS features the shot as an intro to every college game they televise. Books have been written about the game and it was the last that Cawood Ledford would ever call a Kentucky game. It is without a doubt the greatest game ever played.
That night, however, none of that mattered to 10 year old 'tHan. Had I known what was to come in the next 20 years, I don't think the game would have bothered me the way that it did. It is still one of the saddest moments in UK history, but more importantly, it was the launching pad to possibly the best era of UK basketball. It would have been impossible to predict what would happen over these next 20 years, but I would love the ability to go back and tell myself what is to come.
20 Years Later: Mike Krzyzewski will still be the coach at Duke and will have developed into the greatest basketball coach of all time. Rick Pitino will be the coach at Louisville and be on the verge of joining the Basketball Hall of Fame. His candidacy for the HOF is largely backed by his run at Kentucky.
20 Years Later: Coach K will have won two more NCAA titles at Duke. Don't worry, your beloved Wildcats will have two National Titles of their own. Believe it or not, only one of them will belong to Rick Pitino.
20 Years Later: Rick Pitino will have become a caricature of himself. The coach you idolize now will leave UK for the Boston Celtics, but will spend the rest of his career searching for the success he had at Kentucky. He will also have several public embarrassments as he struggles to keep his personal life together. You and many other Kentucky fans will feel betrayed when he comes back to college and coaches your arch rival. However, in the end Pitino is the one that saved Kentucky basketball and you'll always be grateful for that.
20 Years Later: Jamal Mashburn will be a successful business man after a solid NBA career. Christian Laettner's company will be defaulting on loans.
20 Years Later: You won't hold Richie Farmer in the same regard you do now. I know it seems like he could be elected governor today if he could run, but in 20 years his bid will be unsuccessful.
20 Years Later: Grant Hill will have drank Sprite and gone on to become the best NBA players to have played in this game.
20 Years Later: Many of the players in this game will have gone on to successful coaching careers. Sean Woods will be on the verge of coaching against Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
20 Years Later: Duke and Kentucky will again be paired in the same region of the NCAA Tournament. However, this time UK will be the one seed and Duke will be the two seed in the same region. Also, this time Kentucky will be the team with the best player in the nation.
20 Years Later: The national media will try to portray the South Region as the chance for Kentucky to exact a measure of revenge for this game. The national media is wrong. Kentucky gets their revenge on Duke en route to the 1998 National Title. Shots by Cameron Mills and Scott Padgett will be forever etched in your brain the same way the Laettner shot will be.
20 Years Later: Remember when I said only one of the National Titles belonged to Rick Pitino? Well, the 1998 team will be coached by Tubby Smith. Rick Pitino will never get his revenge on Duke. In fact, about 18 years from now Pitino will make a commercial with Laettner about how the shot still haunts him.
20 Years Later: Your grandfather will have been dead for nine years, but your grandmother will still be alive and rooting for the Cats to win so she can get extra points on her Hoops CD.
20 Years Later: This game will still make you cry when you think too much about it.
20 Years Later: This will still be the greatest game ever played and one of the most prominent memories of your childhood.